Returning to the quality tools theme, QFD (Quality Function Deployment) is a technique and tool developed in Japan that is, in my opinion, much under-utilised in the West. Sometimes referred to as the House of Quality (HOQ) from the shape of the oft-used diagram.
The tool is designed to provide a technical focus on customer requirements, prioritising those features that will give the greatest benefit. At its simplest (and, in order to apply QFD effectively, a lot more understanding is needed):
A: Establish the customer needs and benefits. Sometimes called the Voice of the Customer (VOC) this section shouldn’t be influenced by any in-house pre-conceptions – find out what the customer’s needs and expectations are, and assign each a level of importance (say, a ranking from 1 to 5).
B: Identify the product (or service) features in the organisation’s own technical terms.
C: Complete a matrix showing how strongly each technical feature impacts on the customer needs (say, a ranking from 1 to 9, though it’s often sufficient to simplify and just use 1, 5 and 9).
D: The “roof space” is where the relationships between the technical features are mapped (say positive, negative or none).
E: This part is where the feature impacts are multiplied by the customer feature rankings and totalled for each feature. Thus, each technical feature receives an importance value; these can be further totalled and converted to percentage rankings if needed. The result is that there is now a basis for where to focus design, engineering and manufacturing efforts.
F: This wing of the house is used to identify where market competitors stand with respect to the customer needs.
As with many good ideas, whole industries can form around them and, whilst the QFD industry is relatively small, it exists and there are many good books, courses and websites around to find out more. It’s not a tool that can stand alone as there are numerous other tools and techniques needed to make it work. Even more importantly, it needs commitment from many parts of an organisation, a commitment to participate and a commitment to actually use the outputs. However, if used properly, it means that new products and services entering the market stand a much better chance of customer uptake as they will more closely address actual customer needs. A tool worth studying to add to your toolbox.