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Anticipating Future Market and Needs with Modern QFD Tools

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Email 1:  "We want to train our engineers on how to convert customer needs into engineering specifications. We have been thinking about the House of Quality method 4-phase QFD, but it can be quite cumbersome and time consuming. It seems like you guys at the QFD Institute have figured this out already and have some new approach. We would like to know more about this..."

Email 2:  "I have been wanting to attend the QFD Green Belt course. But my boss is hesitant, saying we haves to conserve in this economy; that we've just laid off many workers so we need to keep the activity level low, etc. How can I persuade him that incorporating the Modern QFD approach into our new product development process will be a great plus to our company's bottom line?"

Why do businesses need Modern QFD more than ever?
Here are some important points to consider.

1. Efficiency

(this is what HoQ looks like)Too often, QFD is mistakenly thought as synonymous with the House of Quality matrix (illustration on the right).

We credit the sender of the first email for recognizing the need for a modernized approach and awareness there are smarter ways to do QFD today. House of Quality (HOQ) is a powerful tool when it is used correctly for the right purpose.

However, it requires considerable skill and resources. Itis not uncommon to see mis-executions even in the hands of veteran practitioners and Six Sigma Black Belts. Some waste hundreds of engineer man-hours to complete a sizable HOQ matrix only to learn little more information than they had already known (example of HOQ mis-execution).

Increasingly, companies are faced with the challenge of getting things done with fewer resources. As the workforce gets trimmed for a variety of reasons, workers are expected to take up heavier workloads with less support and time. Modern QFD does not require a matrix and takes less time and resource than traditional QFD, while allowing you to complete the same or in many cases deeper analyses without the time-consuming House of Quality matrix.

2. Power

Even though the traditional QFD (comprised of a HOQ matrix plus three additional matrices and also known as "four-phase QFD") takes more time, it is actually a truncated implementation approach which was developed for 1980s auto parts suppliers. It did not reflect a comprehensive approach back then, and it is not efficient or sound approach for most businesses today.

Modern QFD is custom tailored, optimized for your existing processes and business goals, and has a very strong Voice of Customer analytic tool set, several new tools, and improved math functions. It is significantly different than the traditional QFD taught in most QFD books and six sigma programs.

The strong VOC tools of Modern QFD actually enable you to dig deeper and smarter in the fuzzy front end of product development, the area that precedes traditional QFD, Six Sigma, DFSS and other quality analytic methods, leading to deeper understanding of your customers and future market potentials.

3. Sustainability

Because Modern QFD takes less time and resource, the companies that incorporate the custom tailored process are able to apply it in multiple NPD and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) projects simultaneously and on an ongoing basis.

Unlike the traditional QFD where typically one or two staff act as experts, Modern QFD training is geared toward developing as many internal QFD experts as your company needs who can grow to lead your future development projects.

Any business that is going through downsizing similar to the case of the second email sender should seriously consider incorporating a custom-tailored Modern QFD process to make their NPD most efficient, optimized, and sustainable even with fewer staff. The business savings from efficiency and sustainability, let alone the success of the resultant new products, will far surpass the investment made in the Modern QFD training and customization.

4. Prepare for Future Market

(photo - Preparing for future market with modern QFD tools)Economic downturn is a good time to plan for the next upswing. There is a natural tendency for organizations to seek cutbacks in a poor economy. But prudent companies know this is actually a good time to invest in training and R&D. They know to take advantage of a slowdown to train workers and strengthen their NPD so that they will be poised to become a market leader when the economy recovers.

Today's automotive market is a good example. With sky-rocketing oil prices and environmental concerns, customers' taste changed very quickly from the big SUVs and trucks a year ago to the cars that offer more sensible fuel economy and cleaner emissions. The automakers who kept investing in hybrid and alternative fuel technologies over the years, when such markets were not yet viable, are seeing rewards today for their efforts. This turns our attention to the creative use of QFD, in the next point.

5. Anticipate Future Needs

Some companies are using Modern QFD tools for predicting market changes and anticipating future customer needs. Often, changes in the marketplace are not completely unknown to us. Rather, we have a mental inertia that keeps us from seeing new opportunities. The tools of Modern QFD can help you identify the elements of impending change and what must be done to overcome them.

One innovative company has recently done just that. They have used Modern QFD tools to:

They have used Modern QFD tools to understand the future-state of their industry, identify future market segments and customer needs, formulate new solutions, and more. Two such case studies were presented at the 20th Symposium on QFD in 2008.

As global competition heats up, your future edge will be no longer simply knowing QFD, Six Sigma, or other quality design methods, but how smart you apply them.

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