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Chrysler LH Powertrain: An Early Automotive QFD Example

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Some 30 years ago, the American engineers and managers at then Chrysler Corporation were among the first to embrace QFD in North America, along with the rest of the automotive industry.

Chrysler's first major QFD project took place in 1988. The LH powertrain project utilized QFD beginning at the total vehicle design level and then to the manufacturing process. The major benefits of QFD not only came from the time spent on upfront planning, but in the execution of those critical design requirements that were related to the most important customer needs for a powertrain system.

By incorporating the critical design requirements that related to the customers' needs, the LH project team was able to ensure that the Voice of the Customer was properly deployed into the product development cycle. The success of the project led Chrysler to more product developments using QFD, some of which were subsequently reported in the annual Symposia on QFD.
In this issue, we take a brief look at this early QFD example, which was presented at the 1992 Symposium on QFD.

Identifying Key Customer Attributes for Mid-size Sedan

The LH powertrain project was one of five strategically identified areas requiring detail analysis to ensure overall customer satisfaction. Chrysler formed a cross functional team representing Brand Management, Design Office, Program Management, Engineering, Process Engineering and Finance, to identify the key customer attributes for a mid-size sedan. Marketing research data were used for this, mainly from customer interviews, dealership visits, and review of marketing data and automotive literature.

Being able to properly determine the Voice of the Customer is one of the most important steps in QFD and was the cornerstone of the project. Using affinity diagram technique, actual verbatim of the customers were sorted into attribute groups representing their underlying needs for the LH vehicle.

The team then focused on the most important customer requirements and established an overall priority with consideration of these elements:

  1. Customer Weighting
  2. Things-Gone-Wrong
  3. Sales Points
  4. Customer Competitive Benchmarking

QFD Matrix (PDF file)

Articulating Customer Needs in Engineering Language

The preceding study enabled the team to identify four critical subsystems of the LH powertrain as important study areas. The challenge to the engineers was to understand what these powertrain attributes meant to the customers. The LH Powertrain Excellence team was formed to identify the customers' desires for a powertrain system in more details and how the engineering community should meet those requirements.

A major marketing research was conducted for the second time, using a corporate vehicle and five competitive target vehicles for the Ride and Drive evaluation. The information gained was used to establish design requirements which more realistically correlated to how customers truly evaluate a vehicle's powertrain performance characteristics. Some of the major findings from this evaluation indicated:

Driving the VOC throughout Product Development Process

In this design deployment phase of QFD, the goal was to further drive the Voice of the Customer (VOC) throughout the product development process by determining the critical part characteristics relating to the important customer derived design requirements. Design Development Teams were formed for each of four critical subsystems.

Design requirements were selected from the House of Quality matrix. Critical part characteristics were identified by completing the Design Deployment matrix. The relationships of these part characteristics were identified and target values were selected. The values of the critical characteristics were also identified on detailed part drawings so that they could be the input for the next process of Process Planning which involved determining the manufacturing operations most critical to creating the desired part characteristics.

Positive comments and favorable ratings of these vehicles during executive and media evaluations strongly indicated that the QFD process was indeed working. In addition, upper level management support and a dedicated cross-functional team further guaranteed the success of the LH program.

This case study was first presented in 1992 (The 4th Symposium on QFD) by G. W. Czupinski and D. H. Kerska, Chrysler Corporation.

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