Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Quality Function Deployment, or QFD, is a model for product development and production popularized in Japan in the 1960’s.
Quality Function Deployment (QFD) has a 50-year track record as a method for putting customer needs first throughout the entire product development process. Focusing consistently on customer desires, QFD ensures these are consistently considered during both the design process and various quality assurance milestones throughout the entire product lifecycle.
The Quality Function Deployment process begins with collecting input from customers (or potential customers), typically through surveys. The sample size for these surveys should be fairly significant because quantifiable data will carry more weight and avoid letting any outlier comments drive product strategy in the wrong direction.
After completing the surveys and aggregating the data (along with competitive analysis when applicable), it’s boiled down into the Voice of the Customer. These customer requirements, requests, demands, and preferences are framed as specific items and ideally ranked in terms of importance. These are then listed on the left-hand side of the House of Quality matrix and represent what customers want the product to do.
Since collecting customer inputs and applying them throughout the product development process is such a cross-functional activity, it can also increase teamwork and ensure the entire organization is aligned around the same goal of customer satisfaction instead of competing with other internal priorities.
As soon as there is a well understood customer and their challenges and desires have been quantifiably captured, QFD can be incorporated into the product development process. It is most effective when it is used throughout the entire product lifecycle, as its main purpose is to ensure a constant focus on the voice of the customer. You can’t “check it off” as completed since it is an ever-present ingredient every step of the way.