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A Practical History of Environmental Quality Function Deployment (QFD) and Engineering

Small figures building a house over blueprints


If we were building houses, we would need the right tools and materials. In turn, having the right tools depends on the task that we would perform. We wouldn’t use a finish nail gun to rough in the studs used for a new wall nor would we use a framing nail gun to shoot #16 box nails into nicely stained and varnished trim. The studs would fall apart when even slightly touched and the #16 box nails would blow large holes through the expensive trim. While both types of nail guns can speed work and add efficiencies, neither works well for something that the designers did not intend.

While this brief description of tool use seems simple, the basic principles apply to product design. If we focus solely on customer requirements, we may or may not address factors that impact quality. That is, a perceived customer and stakeholder desire for the lowest price may lead to the rejection of any quality initiatives. 

A twin focus on customer voice and product design may emphasize improvement and customer voice while forgetting—or ignoring—any impact on the environment. Building a coherent strategy that includes the sometimes-divergent views about quality, customer needs, and the environment may require a different set of tools or variations of tools that we already use when attempting to use an emphasis on quality to respond to customer needs.

The Quality Goes In Before the Name Goes On

During the late 1920’s, the Zenith Radio Corporation recognized that consumers understood and wanted quality. This recognition became part of a trademark and a marketing campaign that withstood the test of time. The emergence of Quality Function Deployment (QFD) as a concept in 1966 again recognized and confirmed that customers requirements go beyond operations and functionality. 

Whether used in the electronics industry, manufacturing, or other industries, QFD fills the gap between producers and consumers by integrating concerns about quality into product design, development, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and service. 

The QFD process organizes and analyzes all relevant information in priority order and pushes teams to focus on areas that require immediate attention. All this has the primary objective of building and enhancing customer satisfaction. The definition of customer satisfaction considers products and services in the context of availability, cost, durability, reliability, and delivery time. QFD prioritizes those elements and then translates everything into customer, design, and technical requirements along with engineering characteristics and relationships.

Different tools assist with achieving QFD. Those include life cycle assessments (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC), performance indicators taken from the Six Sigma process improvement methodology, and systems thinking. With this approach, the quality target integrates the Voice of the Customer (VOC) with a process controls and performance monitoring. Business functions throughout all phases of the design/production/distribution process point towards the singular goal of achieving customer satisfaction. 

The psychology of QFD seeks to identify customer requirements, define value, and to understand the motivation for making a purchase from the perspective of the customer. Product designers, manufacturers, and supply chains can use this information to determine which features to include in a product and the level of performance that will meet expectations. Using these and other benchmarks, cross-functional teams work together to optimize processes, decrease resource use, and improve value.

Zenith’s marketing pitch about quality resonated with consumers for years. Even if Zenith products did not meet “best of brand” standards, marketing—in the name of quality—generated a loyal customer following. QFD uses a variety of intelligent tools to forge a stronger link between customer needs, the earliest stages of product design, and a wide range of manufacturing and industrial sectors. 

Let’s Try Something Different

Qualify Function Deployment seeks to build a House of Quality (HOQ) that includes rooms dedicated to customer requirements or the “what” of a project, engineering characteristics or the “how” of a project, planning, and relationships between engineering and target values, and relationships between different engineering characteristics. Quality Function Development for Environment (QFDE) paints the House of Quality green. 


A sample house of quality for QFDE


The greening of QFD occurs through the use of life cycle assessments and analytical tools to evaluate the impact of environmental requirements on customer satisfaction and quality objectives. Environmental performance then translates into a set of key performance indicators and design specifications. 

Those indicators define an environmentally friendly product in terms of energy consumption, material use and reuse, reduced waste and emissions, and ease-of-disposal. The application of those indicators also recognizes that customer satisfaction with a product may coincide with customer environmental requirements (CER) that combine separate customer and environment requirements into one value. A green life cycle analysis builds the entire scope of requirements into every aspect of product design, development, marketing, engineering, distribution, and disposal.

As a result, the technical requirements and the engineering characteristics become part of a prioritization matrix for product design and improvement. In terms of the House of Quality, the responses to consumer surveys help build out a prioritized list of environmental requirements. As an example, a list of environmental requirements may include:

1. Reduced energy consumption

2. Reduced use of material resources

3. Safe to dispose in landfill

4. Harmless to environment


Another matrix cross-references the environmental requirements with technical attributes that consider engineering characteristics. The technical attributes may include:


1. Amount of energy consumption

2. Number of components and parts

3. Type of materials

4. Toxicity of materials


Potential matrix cross references for QFDE


After identifying the environment requirements and technical attributes, teams assign weighted values to each of the environmental requirements and establish a relationship planning matrix between the two areas. The matrix may weigh how the features of a product or its complexity rank against the service life and reliability of the product or its quality. 

The same matrix may weigh the materials selected and the costs for those materials for the product case against the amount of energy consumed by the product. As we work across lifecycle analysis, the matrix may show the amount of disposable materials in the product combined with the labor required to follow the proper environmental methods for disposal.

The key factor involved with establishing the planning matrix is the voice of the customer. Planning within the matrix cannot begin until the project teams understand and meet the customer requests or requirements. Those requirements become data that combines with technical requirement data to feed into priorities. 

Design and development teams apply these priorities across the entire product lifecycle and choose processes and materials that align with the environmental priorities. In addition, the same teams can use the same matrix to compare products and to find the product that provides the optimal life cycle cost and highest environmental value.

Working through quality function deployment for environments is not typically a workflow for the design engineer, however, knowledge of the QFDE process can help in predicting some return-cases of the design. Using Cadence’s layout and analysis tools can speed up the turnaround time for production and OrCAD PCB Designer can allows for DRCs to manage potential design pitfalls. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.