Sovema Group to Embrace QFD. What the Heck is That?

Keywords: Quality Function Deployment, House of Quality, Voice Of the Customer, Innovation, Product Development

Quality Function Deployment is the English translation of six Japanese ideograms introduced in the late 60’s by Yoji Akao while working for Mitsubishi’s shipyard. It was then adopted by other Japanese companies, including Toyota, and, in the course of the 80’s, by US automotive and electronics companies. QFD has become widely known and used worldwide ever since.

The meaning of the three words in the English translation can be loosely rendered as “involvement of all the departments or functions, within a corporate structure, with the aim to fulfill Customers’ needs (quality).” QFD is a methodology and, at the same time, a set of analytical tools used to effectively capture and define Customers’ requirements; these are then converted into detailed engineering specifications and plans to build products or deliver services that fulfill those requirements.

The idea to ask Customers what their needs are before starting the development of a product or service may seem rather intuitive and straightforward and it is very likely that many companies already follow a similar approach without even knowing that this approach has been given a name and has been systematized with a large body of knowledge and case studies.

The QFD methodology can be rather elaborate, depending on the implementation one decides to follow, and consists of several steps where matrices and other analytical tools are adopted. However, the best known among these tools is perhaps the so-called House of Quality (HoQ), a term which many may be familiar with and which represents the central element of the QFD approach. The House of Quality is a matrix where Customers’ requirements, also known and the Voice Of the Customer (VOC), are crossed with the engineering characteristics of a given product along with their importance and influence on the Customers’ requirements, their targets and difficulty to achieve them.

Image courtesy of Davide Maritan, Practical Manual of Quality Function Deployment, Springer, 2015.

Customers are polled in two distinct QFD phases. In a first round, some Customers are selected for in-person interviews where they are required to provide an honest feedback and openly talk about a product or service performance, pluses, minuses, shortcomings, suggested improvements, etc., possibly in comparison with alternative offerings. In a second round, a structured questionnaire is built based on the previous interviews and sent out to all the Customers using that specific product or service. The statistical results of this questionnaire are then used to weigh the relative importance of the Customers’ requirements in the HoQ.

If properly collected, this is information is extremely valuable to truly understand Customers’ needs and to be able to improve their satisfaction levels by designing and delivering products and services that they really want because of their superior quality.

Sovema Group’s Marketing department has been visiting some Customers for the first round of interviews. Customers willing to be included in this phase are encouraged to contact us at marketing@sovemagroup.com to arrange future visits.