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Quality function deployment is a customer-driven methodology that works to identify, prioritize and incorporate the customer’s needs into product manufacturing processes. Because it links the needs of the end user into every aspect of product design and development, QFD is also a tool for making decisions about features and product performance. However, despite its usefulness, QFD has several disadvantages that make it inappropriate for some businesses.
QFD Requires the Right Organizational Environment
According to Fiorenzo Franceschini, author of “Advanced Quality Function Deployment,” QFD doesn’t work well with the divisional or departmental organizational structures and environments seen in many large businesses. This is because an effective QFD environment requires innovation, initiative, teamwork and information sharing. Organizational structures that don’t provide this environment often perceive QFD processes as additional work rather than a way to produce products that suit target customer’s needs. To get the right environment, a business might need to first undergo a complete reorganization.
Effective QFD requires accurate data analysis. Although surveys, focus groups and polls are ways to get information directly from customers, they don’t always reflect your customer’s true feelings. This can make it difficult to create a true relationship between customer needs and a product’s features and characteristics. In addition, incorrect analysis can result in acquiring too much information, which in turn makes for excessively long decision tables that make prioritizing customer requirements much more difficult.
Less Adaptable to Changing Demand
A QFD system and way of thinking can make adapting to changing customer needs more costly, difficult and complex. The process of capturing, documenting and incorporating customer needs into products is time-consuming, and once production starts, it isn’t easy to change. However, because customer needs can change quickly and with little warning, QFD has the potential to leave a business with products that don’t meet these new requirements and that it can’t sell.
QFD focuses solely on what a business needs to do to satisfy its customers. A major disadvantage is that it ignores other factors such as cost, the length of the product life cycle, long-term strategy and growth objectives and available resources. Relying too heavily on QFD at the expense of these other factors can potentially lead to negative financial and operational consequences that could put the business at risk.
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.