Quality function deployment, also known as QFD, is a method of product development in which consumers give insight and input to engineers and manufacturers about the design and manufacturing process of a particular product from its conception to its final manufacture. Basically, it links the customer’s needs with the design, engineering, development, and manufacturing functions of a product. The theory is that if the customers have a voice in each step of the production of the product, the final product will satisfy the needs of the customer and bring in greater revenue. In addition, quality function deployment may make the production process more efficient since many issues can be resolved before final manufacturing.
Japanese researchers Yoju Akao and Dr. Shingeru Mizuno conceptualized and developed quality function deployment in 1966. By 1979, a quality control research group specializing in the quality function deployment method was formed in Japan. Since that time, it has become increasingly popular in many areas of the world.
One of the theories behind quality function deployment is that it provides a quality check for the development process. In order for the method to work, designers and engineers must understand what the customer wants and what is considered to be of value from the customer's perspective. For example, what an engineer wants in a product and what an engineer thinks provides value to a product may be different than what a general consumer wants and values.
Many companies consider quality function deployment to be an important planning tool as well. If it is used properly, it can identify key areas where engineers and manufacturers should focus their technical skills. By directing the focus of those involved in the process, it is believed the development method can help the company develop a better product that is aligned with the consumer’s wishes.
Sometimes a company using quality function deployment will listen to the spoken needs of customers. Other times, it will listen to unspoken requirements. An analysis of prior consumer purchases or an identifiable gap in the market place may also be used to determine the needs and wants of the consumer.
Quality function deployment can be used for tangible items and for non-tangible products. Non-tangible products that use the method include services, software products, government initiatives, environmental programs, and healthcare plans. When used for services, it identifies competitive strategies. It may also documents competitive tactics. The goal is to set a new standard for services, and other non-tangible products, that focuses on the satisfaction of the consumer.