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QFD Questions from India

A group of university students from India contacted the QFD Institute with a series of questions about QFD and TQM.

Their letter reflects a common concern among those attempting to master QFD from literature and software alone: They unwittingly become trapped in the outdated canned approaches and misconceptions about QFD, because there is no one to point them otherwise.

When they try to transplant their misinterpretation into action, they encounter implementation bottlenecks, incomprehensible data analysis, deployment missteps, and other problems — any one of which could lead to a failed project or invalid research results.

We are sharing a part of the correspondence because it has several important points that others too may find useful. It also gives a glimpse of the state of QFD education in other part of the world.
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Understand that House of Quality (HoQ) is only a tool, not a goal

[Students] We are a group of university students in India doing a research implementation of a modified form of Total QFD along with our professors. We have found QFD to be a complicated process . It also does not incorporate the opinions and preferences of all levels of employees in a company.

[QFD Institute] Yes, QFD is a powerful method that aims to assure customer satisfaction through the efficient delivery of value throughout the development process of a product and process as well as throughout the organization toward that effort; it is a method that can be applied to a simple apparatus to business process re-engineering to a very large, highly complex system such as an aerospace project. You would expect some complexity form a such powerful method, wouldn't you?

The aim of QFD is to satisfy customers, not employees. The input to QFD comes from customers, not employees. Perhaps you are confusing Quality Function Deployment with Policy Deployment (Hoshin Kanri) or TQM (Total Quality Management)?

Policy Deployment uses the same tool set as QFD and does incorporate input from all areas in an organization in order to plan the accomplishment of the organizational strategy. Even then, and also in TQM, the essential part of strategy or improvement is often to satisfy those customers whom the organization exists to serve (thus the role for QFD in TQM).

[Students] Decomposing house of quality to separate tables is problematic...

[QFDI] We do not understand what problem you are referring to. "House of Quality" matrix is simply one of many matrices used in QFD as well as in other Quality initiatives. When the use of this matrix is appropriate, it can be easily assembled from several components, as we show how to in our two-day QFD Green Belt® Course.

[Students] Interpretation of the symbols used in QFD is difficult for those who are not familiar with QFD.

[QFDI] The current recommended international symbol set for QFD is the International symbol set from meteorology for cloud cover. This is very intuitive, and internationally accepted. But any use of symbols should be explained with an accompanying legend. Understand the "chain of customers" to understand why QFD is good for you.

[Students] We think QFD is biased towards design improvement. Therefore when QFD is applied in TQM environment, only the quality improvement in product design is prone to improve.

[QFDI] What "improves" when you do QFD is what your tailored QFD process aims to improve. There are many companies that use QFD to improve product design, while many that use it to improve technology, process, usability, interoperability, software, service, etc. And currently in North America, the dominant approach for organizational improvement is not TQM (as was the case in the 1980's) but Six Sigma. QFD is a key part of Design for Six Sigma (DFSS).

[Students] Other functions, namely production process, procurement, R & D, service, marketing and so on, may not get the benefit of applying QFD in the company...

[QFDI] QFD aims to benefit customers directly, not employees. We apply QFD in order to benefit the customer, and to do so better than any competitor. Thus we assure the jobs of everyone in our organization. That is the ultimate benefit to employees, isn't it?

QFD puts customers on the top priority. Why? Because the customer is the only one who puts money in the "chain of systems". Everyone else (employees, sales, marketers, distributors, retailers, suppliers, vendors, etc.) is simply passing the token up and down in the chain. If the customer stops putting money in the chain (stops purchasing your product or service), nothing matters because pretty soon there will be no money and no reason for the company to keep those functions (employees) on the payroll.

By the way, if employee satisfaction is the goal of your project, there is a published case study titled "QFD for Quality of Work Life" by a Canadian company called TELUS, in the 1995 volume of the Symposium Proceedings. In this study, QFD was applied to improve employees' job satisfaction and quality of work life so that the company could continue attracting and retaining high quality employees who were needed for the increasingly competitive telecom market following the government deregulation.

[Students] We feel that the personnel associated with those functions tend to lose interest on QFD implementation and thereby the efforts to achieve continuous quality improvement will be affected.

[QFDI] We have to point out two issues:

  1. "Whether people "lose interest" or not is a result of the "implementation," not the method. Implementation of QFD should be carefully planned, and a tailored approach should be implemented. If you simply copy some implementation that you read about in some books, you are forcing someone else's development project and process model on to your unique product development; the team members naturally lose interest because the methods and tools you are following are irrelevant to your project.
  2. QFD has deployments (subsystems) for any issue that is important to customers such as schedule, cost, delivery, reliability, etc., for example. So it is possible for every function to participate in a QFD project -- if what those functions do is important to customers.

Extracting high-quality data from low-quality inputs

[Students] The literatures on QFD are not clear over the method of receiving and gathering customers' reactions. Those reactions generally assume two forms, namely "complaints" and "vague remarks"... There is no provision in QFD to extract these two forms, which may originate from both internal and external customers through various communication channels.

[QFDI] As QFD has been dealing with vague inputs for 40 years, a variety of methods have been developed to extract high-quality customer needs from such low-quality inputs. One of such methods, for example, is Voice of Customer Analysis. There exists extensive literature on Voice of Customer analysis, especially in the QFD Symposium Transactions. This entire field grew out of initial work in QFD in North America in the mid-1980s. In this area you will find a rich and comprehensive set of techniques for dealing with stated, unstated, and implied customer needs, and how to translate such needs from verbatim and observations.

We don't know what literatures you are relying on, but it is quite possible that they are outdated. Many English-language books on QFD that we see in the market appear to teach old schools of QFD. They are based on the truncated, oversimplified versions of QFD which were taught in some countries and industries over 30 years ago. You can tell when you see these terms such as "4-phase model" and "Hows and Whats" for the House of Quality. They also give you an impression that a House of Quality matrix (HoQ) is all you need to know to do a QFD.

The real QFD is far from what those books and many book-learned consultants illustrate. Additionally, QFD has gone through numerous advancements since its inception in 1960s and it continues to advance, merging with new concepts and sharpening tools. The state-of-art QFD today is called Modern QFD.

Expand your QFD knowledge to expand your vision

[Students] QFD is predominantly used for evolving the new product...

[QFDI] In North America, most QFD use is for product development. In Japan, QFD is most often used for process improvement. QFD does both. (Thus, Comprehensive QFD). Each organization has its unique goals, so you must tailor QFD to your needs. You cannot refer to 'QFD' as if it were some monolithic method or a canned approach. QFD can be referred only as implemented by a specific organization or project.

Come attend the Symposium or better yet, QFD Green Belt® Course, and you will find out each implementation uses different parts of QFD in different ways, and why. None follows the same deployment sequence, tools, or the number of matrices; many do not use the House of Quality matrix; some use no matrix at all.

Once you develop sufficient understanding of the methodology, you will understand why one QFD implementation that fits a project may not be a right QFD for another at all. The Symposium is an excellent place to see this in action.

[Students] There are many contradiction and doubts regarding the totality of QFD.

[QFDI] Are these contradictions inherent in the method, or are they a characteristic of how the method was explained to you? When you encounter similar contradictions in physics, for example, do you question the entire field of physics or your understanding of it because of the way it was taught to you?

Of all quality systems including TQM, TQC, DFSS/DFLS, Taguchi, etc., we know QFD is the only comprehensive quality system that can address both quality product design and the organizational process for delivering it. In academic terms, the former is referred as Broadly Defined QFD, the latter as Narrowly Defined QFD. Comprehensive QFD is a model that encompasses both.

Comprehensive QFD does so by identifying both spoken and unspoken customer needs from the voice of customer analysis, translating them into engineering and business requirements, and aligning the organizational resources and activities to delivering the target customer value.

Suggestions for studying QFD

[Students] We look forward from you with better suggestions.

[QFDI] May we suggest:

  1. Attend a future Symposium on QFD. The QFD Institute's annual Symposium is the oldest continuing conference dedicated to QFD applications and state-of-art QFD training. It started as a forum for people to exchange ideas and learn about QFD, better way to design and do business, and relevant quality and design methodologies. It continues to provide a supportive environment for industry professionals and academics alike to present and learn from each other. Much advancement made in recent years was born from this conference. The forum engages audience and speakers in candid questions & answers in a supportive environment, whether you are new to QFD or experienced. The student attendees of the Symposium may request for a complimentary QFD Student Pack.

    There is also an International QFD Symposium, which hosting rotates among member nations. Please visit the International Council for QFD for the latest schedule. Both conferences welcome attendees from all over the world.

  2. Study some of the Symposium Proceedings. So that you can see what the current best practice in QFD actually is. There are abundant literature and case studies published since 1989. These papers tell you not only actual implementations but also what challenges companies faced and how they were resolved, what to do and what not to do, how the organization changed because of the QFD implementation, what was learned, how organizational functions can communicate better, etc. For example, at the 2003 International Symposium in Mexico, it was reported that companies like Toshiba has hundreds of QFD projects that are ongoing.
  3. Attend the introductory QFD Green Belt® Certificate Course. Attending this course is the most efficient way to learn the state-of-art QFD methods and best practices. Dr. Akao, founder of QFD, personally recommended this course to his students. The course attendees receive the professional level Modern QFD Templates, including AHP, Maximum Value Table, modernized House of Quality matrix with new math, etc., as well as case studies.

    It has workshop components, so you can bring a part of your project and have hands-on practice in the class. For upcoming dates and locations, please see Calendar. This course can be also scheduled as an in-house training.

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