The ability to expertly implement ISO 16355 QFD —correctly—in Design for Lean/Six Sigma (DFLS / DFSS) is a critical skill set for Lean Sigma Black Belts & Master Black Belts.

In a traditional relationship with customers, designers have come to expect the customer to tell them how to do their job. For example, a car manufacturer may dictate to its suppliers through specifications the required performance, dimensions, power requirements of an automotive component. Using traditional quality methods such as SPC, QC Circles, and TQM, the supplier would then produce the component to specifications.

Six Sigma has brought several important enhancements to this. These include integration of multiple tools and systems, improved process and education with competence testing, greater use of powerful statistical and analytical tools, and corporate accountability for improvements in both customer satisfaction and cost-benefits analysis, etc.

Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) and Design for Lean Sigma (DFLS) have gone further to recognize that upstream decisions made during the design phase profoundly affect the quality and cost of all subsequent activities. DFLS and DFSS thus offer strong analytics and process in the establishment of cause-and-effect transfer functions that enable systematic deployment of design parameters to downstream, with cost-benefit analysis and capability studies in early design phases.

A weakness of many design teams, however, is that they have no tools to go beyond the stated customer requirements even though numerous studies have shown that it is only a starting point for design (read about "Bonehead Spec Syndrome"). "Take something like the MP3 player. Our traditional customers won't tell us anything about the potential usage characteristics of this device," says an executive at Seagate, a manufacturer of hard-disk drives. This is where Comprehensive QFD brings power to DFLS/DFSS in understanding the customer, going beyond the stated Voice of the Customer to discover latent needs.

Unfortunately, many in the DFLS/DFSS field still equate QFD to only the House of Quality (see this common error). Despite the fact that QFD is positioned in the first subheading of the Six Sigma Black Belt Certification Body of Knowledge by the American Society for Quality, most books and seminars focus only on the transfer function of QFD with little attention paid to the steps that have the greatest impact on understanding the Voice of the Customer. This weak link could inadvertently skew the outcome of otherwise good DFLS/DFSS intentions. ("Why some companies fail in QFD")

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