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Classical or Modern QFD — What's the Difference?

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We received these questions from QFD followers. These are good questions.

Classical QFD / Traditional QFD

Classical QFD refers to the 4-Phase model or using only the House of Quality matrix, the truncated QFD approach which was adopted by the U.S. automobile supply industry in the early 1980s.

Classical Strategy PlanningAt that time, their goal was to get on-board with Japanese quality methods as quickly as possible so that part suppliers could improve U.S. car quality, export parts to Japanese auto makers, and ward off Japanese suppliers who were courting their customers and even building factories in the U.S.

Japanese QFD users never limited their analyses this way, however. In fact, one of the first QFD projects that we studied had 16 charts just to address a rust problem. Of the some 30+ charts in the full Comprehensive QFD system developed by Dr. Akao and his associates, the American auto industry selected four for their inaugural attempt, and for the 1980s' build-to-print business model, this truncated QFD approach was successful. Companies in other industries also copied this model widely with varying degrees of success.

Over time, however, the size of the charts and the effort to complete them in a lean environment led to frustration and abandonment. "QFD is a great approach, but who has the time," was an often repeated lament. Occasionally, we even heard "I hate QFD!" from companies that were among the early adopters.

Modern QFD

Modern QFD was created by senior QFD researchers in the U.S. in response to these cries, as well as demands from the software industry for something more scalable that would work in an agile environment. Their concern was not "how" to solve a problem, but rather which problems get addressed first.

The House of Quality matrix came too late in the QFD process to address this. It became obvious that new tools were needed up front.

Modern QFD has pushed upstream towards business analysts, marketeers, and strategists and created new tools to link their work to design and development. A recent newsletter listed some of these new tools in the syllabus of the QFD Green Belt® training course, where these new tools are taught with provided MS Excel™templates.

To summarize the difference between Classical and Modern QFD, here is a page from the QFD Green Belt® book.

Classical QFD

  • Canned QFD process
  • House of Quality only
  • 4 Phase model
  • Math optimized for an abacus
  • Few big, laborious tools (mostly matrices)
  • Focus on "comprehensiveness"
  • Lip service to Voice of Customer concept

Modern QFD

  • Tailored QFD process based on the Voice of the Business
  • Math that is correct and valid on a computer
  • Many small focused tools (rarely matrices)
  • Focused on speed and efficiency
  • Voice of Customer as central concept

The good news is that Modern QFD can precede Classical QFD to create a powerful, sustainable new product quality system. The critical few customer needs, solutions, and commercialization requirements that are identified in Modern QFD carry directly into the Classical QFD matrices, with no wasted effort. So, start with Modern QFD for speed and solid pre-matrix voice of customer analysis, and then deploy to Classical QFD when necessary — the best of both worlds!

Join us in the next public course to learn these new tools. Bring your own project to work on with the provided MS Excel™ templates.

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