Business Research Paper

Question:

Explain Quality Function Deployment. What role will customers play? What tools support QFD? Provide examples

Answer:

Quality function deployment (QFD) is a product development method that requires customers to provide input and insight to manufacturers and engineers. In QFD, customers are expected to play this role throughout the process of producing a particular product (Akao, 2004). Customers are called upon to provide input and insight during the design stage. They do not stop doing so until the final product has been manufactured.

The core objective in QFD is to establish a link between the needs of customers and the functions of designing, engineering, developing, and manufacturing the product (Akao, 2004). The rationale for using QFD is that if customers are empowered and given a voice in every step during the product development process, they will be satisfied with the final product and this will lead to an increase in revenues. Moreover, proponents of QFD argue that it increases efficiency in the production process since virtually all problems are resolved before the final product is manufactured.

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Quality function deployment has been used for many years in various industries. In Japan, this method was being used as early as during the 1960s. Since then, a trend has emerged where quality control research groups are formed with the aim of contributing to QFD. This has made QFD increasingly popular in today’s world. Proponents of this theory argue that it provides an efficient system of quality checks throughout the development process (Akao, 2004). In efforts to improve on this concept, engineers and designers are compelled to enquire on what customers really want and why they consider valuable to them. Those who are involved in the product development process are made to understand that what they think is of great value may not necessarily be what customers are looking for.

For many companies of today, QFD is a crucial planning tool. This is because when properly used, it provides manufacturers and engineers with information on where they need to focus their technical expertise. Such companies use different methods for getting views from customers. According to Bouchereau (2000), these companies focus on both the spoken and unspoken requirements of customers. Moreover, they carry out in-depth analyses of consumers’ trends as far as purchases are concerned to determine what their needs really are. In some instances, focus shifts to identifiable gaps in the market with the aim of getting a better understanding of consumers’ needs.

Researchers with immense interest in this quality management approach have developed several tools that support QFD. Most of them take the form of commercial software applications and packages that guide engineers and designers throughout the process of product development. An example of these commercial software packages is QFDcapture, which was developed in 1988 (Hauser, 2010). QFDcapture enables manufacturers to succeed in competitive product positioning, technology planning, timely progress communication, and product portfolio management. It also greatly helps designers and engineers make data-driven decisions in addition to facilitating the traceability of intent and decisions.

Other popular tools that support QFD include SnapSheets XL and Edraw Max (Hauser, 2010). These tools offer critical assistance to the technical teams involved in the product development process, particularly the work of gathering, analyzing, and managing qualitative data. This analysis enables them understand the competition space, constraints imposed through regulation, and customer expectations. These tools also assist the developers in coming up with a prioritized list of customers expectations as far as products, services, and strategies are concerned. Most importantly, the QFD tools enable the product development experts translate the expectations of various customers into specifications that designers can readily work on to come up with competitive products and services.

 

References

Akao, Y. (2004). Quality function deployment: Integrating customer requirements into product design. London: Routledge.

Bouchereau, V. (2000). Methods and techniques to help quality function deployment (QFD). Benchmarking: An International Journal, 7(1), 8 – 20

Hauser, J. (2010). Quality Function Deployment (QFD). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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