Whatever Happened to QFD? It’s Hiding in the Toolkits of Six Sigma Practitioners!

Back in the late 1980s and 1990s QFD – Quality Function Deployment – a.k.a. House of Quality – was one of those tools/techniques hailed as central to high quality achievement. I can’t remember the last time I saw it referenced in a business headline or header. Is it deader in the press than in real world applications? Or am I just not getting emails from folks associated with QFD?

I’ll have to go back and look more closely at the ASQ emails from the past year.

QFD made a lot of sense from a lot of data.

It, QFD, was used in several ISD – Instructional Systems Designs efforts back in the 1980s and 1990s that I led. In that we designed instruction that taught others how to use it AND learn team leadership skills through practice “rounds” in a hands-on, high fidelity series of team meetings to use the tool that is QFD…or, is The House of Quality as it is known to many.

To deal with data and not just opinions. Sometimes you don’t always have all of the data needed. And then you go with instinct. Which doesn’t always represent consensus.

According to the International Council for Quality Function Deployment:

QFD is a quality approach to new product design, development, and implementation driven by customer needs and values. QFD has been successfully used by many world class organizations in automobiles, ship building, electronics, aerospace, utilities, leisure and entertainment, financial, software, and other industries.

And from iSixSigma:

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) is one of those tools that looks so nifty that many think “there just has to be a place to use this.” Experience shows, care must be taken to ensure that QFD is applied in places and in ways that it really fits. From David L. Hallowell.

And from CM//Crossroads:

Using Quality Function Deployment (QFD) for Process Improvement Program
Written by O.S. Balaji Tuesday, 21 August 2007
The basic tenets of an effective Quality management System as defined generally are – People, Process and Technology.

And from Wikipedia (today):

Quality function deployment or “QFD” is a flexible and comprehensive group decision making technique used in product or service development, brand marketing, and product management.
QFD can strongly help an organization focus on the critical characteristics of a new or existing product or service from the separate viewpoints of the customer market segments, company, or technology-development needs. The results of the technique yield transparent and visible graphs and matrices that can be reused for future product/service developments.

From QFD Capture:

Quality Function Deployment (QFD) translates decision criteria or Critical-To-Quality issues into a prioritized set of targets, choices, or improvement opportunities – helping you to produce better products, processes, services, or strategies.

Again, from iSixSigma:

In the late 1990s, the Bank of the Southwest (BSW), a regional financial institution located in the southwestern United States, decided it was not getting its fair share of the equity loan business.

A consultant suggested the bank use quality function deployment (QFD), a powerful method for translating customer needs into design requirements. Though historically applied to product design work, QFD can work just as well for designing services and processes.

An analysis of the current process for producing equity loans showed that the average loan was taking more than 24 days, compared to the expectation of five days or less. In addition, there was tremendous variability from loan to loan. The quickest were done in 15 days, but many took more than twice as long. What was the reaction to these facts? Management felt that it was unrealistic to expect incremental improvement efforts to reduce the processing time from 24 days to five.

So they turned once again to their consultant, who suggested the bank change the focus of its QFD effort. Rather than aim at getting the right loan package, he said, they should use QFD to design a new, much faster process.


QFD seems alive – online anyway! The latest “search finds” a great amount of the dialogue on “what software should one use?”

Which means someone is generating and analyzing a lot of detailed data. Which is a good thing!

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3 comments on “Whatever Happened to QFD? It’s Hiding in the Toolkits of Six Sigma Practitioners!

  1. You’ll be pleased to know that QFD is very much alive and well, both inside and outside the DfSS and DfLS communities. ISO 16355 is the new standard for QFD and Part 1 is approved for publication in 2015. See qfdi.org for more details, or contact me directly glenn@mazur.net


  2. QFD remains as powerful as ever, but industry is trying to cost cut its way to prosperity, and can't do it. Short-term thinking leadership has climbed the ranks. A finance guy led GM into bankruptcy. Magic bean counters who can hide truth are rewarded. QFD advocates who actually find, study and prioritize an action plan, based upon the facts don't do well in today's large corporations, because they are too much about truth.


    • I disagree with ideacore, the issue related to QFD or any other methodology related to controlling manufacturing is centered around the abuse by legal firms seeking product liability claims. The more structured a manufacturer becomes toward achieving its customers needs, the easier it becomes for product liability attorneys to to dig for anything they can use as a part of discovery. Since QFD is part of the product design process, it became an easy target as did Design FMEA’s. Many companies simply dropped the automotive quality system terminology and kept some of the functionality under a different naming convention. (usually understood and not stated). This rings true for those businesses who are not automotive related, but had adopted automotive type controls within their QMS. I am not sure what occurred within the automotive sector as I am no longer associated with that business. I assume those who can have moved away from specific terminology, especially tier 2 and 3 suppliers. The move away from specific QMS terminology is based upon the risk of litigation by the vast sea of liability attorneys, who are attempting to devour a much smaller pie in the US.
      example: Read this remark which defines the increase from 1974 to 1985;
      “the number of product liability cases filed in federal court alone increased from 1,579 in 1974 to 13,554 in 1985 – a 758% increase” The largest litigation awards in history were awarded in 2009. Businesses are getting savvy and smart when it comes to liability litigation and Quality Management, they have scaled back to the bear minimum, and shifted naming conventions in order to reduce the companies exposure to the possibility of liability risk,


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