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Deploying Six Sigma QFD

Mar 10, 2008
Six Sigma helps because it utilizes time-tested tools such as QFD (Quality Function Deployment) that enables companies to translate seemingly vague customer inputs and feedbacks into key business deliverables.

For better understanding, we'll discuss the basic characteristics of QFD, its functionalities and its deployment process in detail.

How QFD Is Different?

QFD is different because unlike most of the other quality management tools that primarily focus on eliminating features or components that customers do not like, it concentrates more on adding new features and components in line with customer needs and expectations.

In effect, QFD basically aims at delighting customers, rather than just focusing on satisfying their most basic needs and expectations.

How Is QFD Deployed?

In most companies, QFD deployment is usually a four-step process. In the first step, the main aim is to convert ambiguous customer inputs and feedbacks into measurable terms. Since accuracy is vital, QFD relies only on data collected with the help of Six Sigma tools such as VOC (Voice of the Customer). In this same step, the other important objective is to identify key features or components as stated by the majority of customers, which can be incorporated in the existing or a completely new product or service.

However, since it is often not feasible to cater to each and every demand, companies usually select only those features or components that can be incorporated without causing an unnecessary drain on the company's resources such as finances, materials, infrastructure, technology, and manpower. In effect, the aim is to select only those deliverables that contribute the most to customer satisfaction levels.

The second and third steps in the QFD deployment process are normally carried out in a synchronized manner because what follows from the second step usually determines what happens in the third step and vice-versa. Taken as one, both the steps basically represent a trail and error process, wherein different alternatives or options are suggested and tested simultaneously.

The main objective is to select only those changes or modifications that hold the most potential in terms of their ability to satisfy customers. This step is often considered to be the most important because it determines the shape, design, and other associated features of the final offering. As such, companies need to be extra cautious during the second and third phase of the QFD deployment process.

The Final Step

The fourth and final step is basically the control phase, where automated as well as manual control systems are put in place to measure the effectiveness of the implemented changes and modifications. Quality deployments that pass the control phase are generally made available for mass production whereas deployments that fail the test are referred back to the first step. This process is continued until the desired Six Sigma efficiencies are achieved.

It is recommended that companies to go through all the four steps, but if certain practicalities are to be considered, then they are free to tweak the QFD deployment process. The only thing they should not do is lose their focus on the main objective (i.e., delighting their customers).
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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