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Defect-centric or Value-centric?

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Recently, a questions was posed on a LinkedIn forum: "Should the idea of Quality Improvement be defect-centric or value-centric?"

QFD (Quality Function Deployment) addressed this conundrum some 40 years ago.

Negative Quality vs. Positive Quality

Defect reduction (reliability), variability reduction (6 sigma), and waste reduction (lean) are in the domain of negative quality. Addressing negative quality aims to reduce cost by analyzing product and processes based on statistical analysis of quantitative data. This can only be done on existing products and processes.

Drs. Yoji Akao and Shigeru Mizuno (founders of QFD) realized that positive quality was possible when creating new products (and later service and software) with the aim of growing revenue. This can only be done where existing processes do not yet exist and statistical analysis of quantitative data cannot yet be done. This shifts the analysis to qualitative data based on the voice of the customer (VOC) who alone can define desired outcomes.

Tools for Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis

Accordingly, the quantitative tool set (commonly referred to as the 7 QC tools in Japan) was augmented with a new set of qualitative tools (commonly referred to as the New 7 QC tools in Japan and the 7 Management and Planning tools or 7MP in the West). These new tools are used to acquire and analyze verbal and language-based information in both Classical QFD (House of Quality) and Modern QFD (Blitz QFD®). They are now drafted into the new ISO 16355 for QFD.

Solution to the Invisible

These days, we say "Nothing Wrong ≠ Anything Right."  For fans of Noriaki Kano's work, we might call the absence of defects "expected quality" and positive benefits "exciting quality."

The problem is that defects are only visible after an existing product fails, and benefits are only visible after your (or a competitor's) product brings them to market. Both cases are too late for product developers, who must proactively eliminate defects and design in customer benefits. This creates the conundrum: How to find this invisible information during design?

QFD presents the solution of DEPLOYING the responsibility for QUALITY across all of the business FUNCTIONS (this is the definition of QFD), including marketing, sales, R&D, engineering, manufacturing, production, testing, quality, purchasing, packaging, software, service, support, and any other function that makes decisions that can affect customer satisfaction.

Sales and Marketing lead the team to capture the unspoken voice of customer through semantic and situational analysis of the customer's life or work process, and the other functions lead the downstream analysis of the solution to customer unsolved problems and unmet opportunities, with a focus on what matters most to the customer.

The methods and tools discussed here have been used successfully in various industries, both for tangible and non-tangible products. To learn more, consider the public QFD course or please contact the QFD Intitute.

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