In a past issue, We looked at an early QFD example by an auto manufacturer, presented in 1992 at the 2nd Symposium on QFD in Novi, Michigan, USA. Ten years after that, a case study of more modern QFD application was presented at the 12th Symposium on QFD (2002) in San Diego, this time by an automotive supplier.
Unlike the earlier example which followed a simpler four-phase QFD model, this one exploited the Comprehensive QFD, the more advanced model of QFD developed by Dr. Yoji Akao, founder of QFD.
The company in this example is a specialist in disc brake applications for various mobile and stationary equipment, including recreational, construction, agricultural and military vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles. It has over 300 OEM customers. In 1999, the company obtained ISO 9001 certification.
This commitment to quality led to an initiative to apply Comprehensive QFD for their future products. The aim was to capture the "voice of the customer" and to build that into the new design and development process.
Comprehensive QFD is a complex but very powerful product and process development method. It addresses not only the design and quality of the new product being developed, but also the company's product development process as well as business operation, bringing about a competitive focus to all activities in the company - as the project team in this example marveled:
"Little did we appreciate at the start that Comprehensive QFD would allow us to evaluate the functional, performance, reliability, and cost parameters of our products."
The company began by training their sales engineers, R&D engineers, and quality engineers from all product sectors in the QFD Green Belt® Course. Some of these members were subsequently trained in QFD Black Belt® Course.
The project goals were elucidated by the QFD team members in conjunction with management, and were organized using the standard Management and Planning tools in QFD and Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The goals included:
It is important to capture the "voice of customers" that can directly and indirectly lead to project success. As a component supplier, the QFD forced the team to look not only at the OEM engineers, but also at the end consumer who uses the company's installed brake system and the dealer mechanic who must maintain the performance of the brake system.
Using the Relations Diagram of the Management and Planning Tools and the AHP, the team identified the purchasing decision process and key end users.
QFD offers a series of tools useful for extensive voice of customer analysis. Using these tools, the team converted the customer verbatim in the context of actual or possible scenarios of use into additional unspoken data.
This analysis helped the team expand their understanding of customer needs beyond the obvious into areas where hidden needs may emerge in the future. For example, the team discovered that the spoken concern about a 'soft lever' may indicate other concerns such as shorter stops, quicker stops, etc. Going beyond the stated needs has proven to be useful for development of new products.
The voice of the customer was then translated into the voice of the engineer and measurable design elements, using the House of Quality matrix.
It is not uncommon for the QFD team to prioritize reliability and safety studies based on the threat they pose to customer satisfaction. Failure modes extracted from field complaints and other sources were constructed into a hierarchy. In this case, this information was then juxtaposed into other QFD matrices such as demanded quality table, functions table, etc., to show failure to satisfy, failure to perform, and so forth. High priority failures were then identified as candidates for reliability engineering studies.
Identifying technology gaps can be done by identifying the company's core technologies and examining whether they were sufficient or not to meet the performance, function and reliability requirements established in the project.
Based on the technology gap identified, new design concepts were proposed and prioritized for selection. An analysis was conducted of the required parts for the selected concepts, by identifying required functions at the component level and then calculating part priorities using the relationship matrix of quality characteristics and establishing a part/function relationship.
VA (Value Analysis) was developed by Larry Miles of General Electric during World War II to lower the cost of manufactured products. Miles' approach was to examine the function of the product, so that designers could develop alternative solutions to perform the same functions at a lower cost.
Value mismatches are identified where the criticality of the function and the cost of the parts that perform that function are examined. Where cost exceeds the value of the function, cheaper alternative to those parts are sought.
Cost is always an important factor in product development. Part cost is generally left out in the House of Quality and other matrices, due to its ability to skew and overshadow the importance of other characteristics. VA and VE allowed the team to look at cost from an end users' perspective or from an engineering point of view. This helped identify potential part reductions and possibly combine part functions to keep cost in line.
QFD helped the company determine the importance of various functions of a new braking system, its performance levels to users, and subsequently to design two separate systems for a customer proposal: a lower-cost alternative system and a high performance model based on the QFD study.
The team believed that the extent they took in identifying the customer's needs and by quantifying any additional cost as added value, the QFD system would win out. They also reported:
"It (QFD) gave us a tremendous increase in our knowledge-base of the competition, the end users perception of our place in the market, and a model to follow into the future so that we can be leaders in our industry."
© Source: "Quality Infrastructure Improvement: Using QFD to Manage Project Priorities and Project Management Resources," Transactions from the 15th Symposium on QFD / ISQFD'03-Orlando. Copyright © QFD Institute, James LePrevost, & Glenn Mazur.
© QFD Institute