What Is Quality Function Deployment? (Plus How to Use It)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 October 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During the production process, many companies choose to implement methodologies to guide the planning, design and development stages. The quality function deployment (QFD) methodology focuses on identifying customers' needs and creating processes centred on those requirements. Knowing how to develop and implement the QFD methodology can help you lead teams to deliver high-quality products to meet customers' expectations. In this article, we define QFD, explain how it works, outline its advantages and describe how to implement the QFD methodology to ensure customer satisfaction.

What is quality function deployment?

Quality function deployment is a set of processes to define customer needs and develop products to meet those requirements. The concept originated in Japan in the 1960s and has since become a popular methodology in other regions across the world. Many industries use the QFD methodology, including the automobile, aerospace and technology sectors.

The QFD methodology guides the product development process, from the initial planning stages to the design, production and quality assurance phases. It emphasises listening to customers' feedback and responding to their wants, needs, challenges or expectations. By addressing those factors, the QFD methodology can help companies develop and release products to satisfy their customers.

How QFD works

Organisations using the QFD methodology strive to understand customers' needs or requirements, known as the voice of the customer. Teams or departments can define the voice of the customer by using several methods, including interviews, surveys, focus groups or observation. Typically, they collect quantifiable data from a wide range of customers to ensure they're getting accurate feedback.

Once teams gather this data, they summarise customer requirements using a production matrix, known as the house of quality. The left side of the matrix contains the customer requirements, also known as the what's. On the other side of the matrix, teams identify the engineering specifications or technical requirements, also known as the how's, to achieve the customer requirements. Throughout the product development and deployment stages, teams refer to the house of quality matrix to ensure they're satisfying customer needs.

Benefits of QFD

Using a QFD methodology helps teams determine customer requirements before planning the production phases. This proactive process can lead to higher quality products that ensure customer satisfaction. Specifically, some of the key benefits of QFD include:

  • Better decision-making: Teams using a QFD methodology consider customer requirements during every stage of the production process, which can lead to better decision-making focused on customers' wants, needs, challenges or goals.

  • Streamlined production: The QFD methodology can help to streamline production by identifying customers' needs and proceeding only with product development processes to meet those requirements.

  • Resource allocation: When teams or organisations understand customer requirements, they can allocate resources more effectively to achieve customer-focused outcomes.

  • Focus on teamwork: Different teams work together to develop and implement the QFD processes, which helps to encourage cross-functional collaboration and emphasise teamwork throughout an organisation.

  • Continuous improvement: Teams using a QFD methodology use customer feedback to ensure continuous improvement throughout the production process, which leads to increased customer satisfaction.

Related: What Is Continuous Improvement? (Plus 12 Key Metrics)

Drawbacks of QFD

Although there are many advantages to using the QFD methodology, it can also have some drawbacks for teams or organisations. QFD processes can be difficult to implement in companies already focused on other goals, such as profitability or reduced costs. For these companies, it can be helpful to implement the QFD methodology in phases while changing the primary goal to become customer satisfaction.

Another drawback to the QFD methodology is changing customer needs. In some industries, such as technology, customer requirements for a product may change quickly. For this reason, it's helpful to encourage flexibility by adjusting QFD processes throughout production if changes occur, such as the release of new technology.

How to implement QFD

Follow these steps to implement the QFD methodology for your team or organisation:

1. Define customer requirements

Begin by collecting data to define customer requirements. Organise a team to gather, review and analyse customer data. Typically, this team involves the marketing department and other managers, such as product managers. With the team, determine how you plan to perform market research to gather customer data. You may use one or several methods, such as organising focus groups and sending surveys. Ask customers insightful questions to determine their wants, needs, goals or challenges. Some questions you may ask to define customer requirements include:

  • What's your reason for using this product?

  • What are your goals related to this area?

  • What are the biggest challenges you experience in achieving your goals?

  • What features are important to you in a product?

  • What factors make you decide to purchase a product?

Related: What Is Market Research? Definition, Types and Examples

2. Organise customer needs

Once the team has analysed the data, organise customer needs into the house of quality matrix. It can be helpful to organise customer requirements by grouping them into categories, such as wants and challenges. You may also rank customer priorities to help guide the production planning process. For example, you may rank each customer requirement on a scale of one to five, with five being a high-priority requirement.

3. Specify design requirements

In the next phase, share customer requirements with designers, engineers or other members of the product design team. Working with those team members, specify design requirements to meet customer needs. Identify product characteristics, assembly components or technical specifications for the product. Make sure each design requirement relates to the customer needs you've identified. Choose actionable and measurable design requirements to provide clear direction to the product development team. List these requirements on the house of quality matrix.

Related: What Does a Product Engineer Do? Role, Skills and Salary

4. Determine the process development plan

After identifying the design requirements for a product, work with product developers to determine the process development plan. This plan describes the process to achieve the design requirements specified in the house of quality matrix. It may be helpful to develop a flowchart to outline the plan, including parts, assemblies or sub-systems to create the product. Collaborate with the team to ensure the process development plan is logical and realistic while still adhering to the customer needs and design requirements outlined in the matrix.

Related: What Does a Product Developer Do? (Definitions and Examples)

5. Identify key performance indicators

Before production begins, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure the product development team follows the requirements and processes in the house of the quality matrix. These KPIs may include cost, throughput or production attainment, which measures how well the production achieves targets. Make sure each KPI has a clear, quantifiable goal so you can measure the team's progress during the production stage.

Related: What Are Key Performance Indicators? Types and Samples

6. Monitor production

As the product development team implements the process development plan, monitor production to ensure team members are following the requirements and processes to achieve customer needs. Establish quality assurance processes to measure and evaluate the KPIs you've identified. If necessary, adjust the house of quality matrix to account for challenges in the production process. Continuing to improve the matrix ensures the QFD methodology can help teams create and deliver products to meet customers' expectations and requirements.

Related: Product Launch Tips (With Key Steps)

Tips for implementing QFD

Here are some tips to help you implement the QFD methodology for your team or company:

  • Collect sufficient data. Make sure you collect sufficient data from customers to ensure you fully understand their requirements and expectations for a product. Gather information from existing and potential customers to help you identify and develop strategies to achieve customer satisfaction.

  • Encourage teamwork. The QFD methodology involves several teams or departments, including marketing, design and engineering or manufacturing. Allow these teams to work together by emphasising shared goals and encouraging teamwork and collaboration during all stages of product development.

  • Share analytics. Using the key performance indicators you identify, share analytics with the product development team about the results of the QFD processes. This data can help teams feel motivated to continue working hard to achieve customer satisfaction goals.

  • Consider a quality management system. There are many quality management system (QMS) software programmes available to teams using the QFD methodology. Research different QMS software to determine whether this tool can help you design and implement processes centred on customer requirements.

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