27 November 2012

QFD at Holiday Time

The holiday season is a great time to sharpen our QFD skills. Here are some techniques that might make the celebrations and shopping a little easier.
photo - holiday gift shopping
  • Gift shopping for someone? Instead of asking them what your should buy (a solution), try asking for what they need (what difficulties do they have at work or home, what opportunities do they wish for, how would they like others to see them)? This helps us practice the Customer Voice table where we translate VOC into true needs.
  • Hard to choose among several options for a gift, a restaurant, or a party to attend? Practice your alternative selection technique.
  1. First list your options.
  2. Write down what is attractive about each option, and what is unattractive about each option. Convert unattractive statements into positive ones. For example, this restaurant is "too far away" becomes "nearby." These are your judgment criteria.
  3. Prioritize the judgment criteria. For emotional decisions, AHP's pairwise decision making is a great way to work through them.
  4. The highest priority judgment criteria will drive your decision. Look at which option best fulfills them. Feel comfortable that you made the best choice possible given all the wonderful options.
photo - holiday party options
  1. Define your dilemma using the Engineering Parameters in Table 2 in the above link. For example, I am invited to two parties at the same time – my best friend and my in-laws. One contradiction is improve EP 26 Amount of Substance (I want to improve my pleasure for the afternoon) without the undesired result of EP 13 Stability of Object (I don't want my marriage to become unstable).
  2. Look up the pair in the Table of Contradictions to find Inventive Principles 15, 2, 17, 40. Let's see what solutions we can invent.

    IP 15. Dynamicity.
  1. Make an object or its environment automatically adjust for optimal performance at each stage of operation. Have the meal at your in-laws (so you can compliment her cooking) and dessert at your friends (so you can stay late).
  2. Divide an object into elements which can change position relative to each other. Same as above, but decide that day where to go first.
  3. If an object is immovable, make it movable or interchangeable. E-mail your suggestions to qfdi@qfdi.org

    IP 2. Extraction.
  1. Extract (remove or separate) a "disturbing" part or property from an object.
  2. Extract only the necessary part or property. Exchange gifts, have a drink at the in-laws and then see your friends.

    IP 17. Move to a new dimension.
  1. Remove problems with moving an object in a line by two-dimensional movement (i.e. along a plane). Invite in-laws and friends to your house, instead. Have one party upstairs and the other downstairs.
  2. Use a multi-layered assembly of objects instead of a single layer. Add pleasure to visiting your in-laws by inviting your friends to come with you. Or, have lunch with in-laws and dinner with friends.
  3. Incline the object or turn it on its side. E-mail your suggestions to qfdi@qfdi.org

IP 40. Composite materials.
  • Replace a homogeneous material with a composite one. Take two cars, and divide the family up so each can stay as long as they want at either party.


16 November 2012

Young business travelers' technology needs

Over 15 years ago, the Delta Hotel chain in Canada sought to attract business travelers by being one of the first major hotel chains to offer business-oriented office suites. Notably, at the time, these suites included a computer which could allow business travelers to work on the road, instead of being “stranded” from the office in an era when laptops were costly and scarce.

Unfortunately, the designers of these rooms didn’t entirely understand the needs of their targeted customers or what being productive entailed to them (read details in "Close Encounter of the QFD Kind", a white paper PDF).  While the offices were fully furnished, the computers were not — they did not come with commonly used software packages, meaning the guest not only had to bring their own software disks with them but would also have to waste time installing the programs themselves, in order to get any use out of the computer besides Solitaire.

a young business woman using a laptop in the hotel guest room
Today, we consider an office space, complete with Microsoft Office® or Open Office® as well as access to a printer, to be standard in any hotel chain, but do these actually make us more productive?  Technologically speaking, these accommodations are obviously better than what Delta offered years ago, however they represent an even more grievous misunderstanding of customers’ needs than was found on the blank computers back then.

From a QFD perspective, these computers are seen as a feature, and although they’ve been tweaked and upgraded over the years (their performance level is higher than ever), they address needs that have already been met by much better alternatives, and fail to address newer needs that have been enabled by changing technology.

Widespread usage of laptops and tablets have made office suite computers unneeded, the prevalence of proprietary software and custom remote login systems have made them unusable, and the nature of the internet and shared computer usage have made them unsafe. Furthermore, the original underlying need for productivity has been joined by the needs for entertainment and communication, and in that regard there is very little opportunity for hotel offices to compete with gaming laptops, Facetime® or Skype®.

Rather than trying to meet these needs by offering competing features, hotels should be trying to facilitate the features customers already have that meet their needs.  Simply put, this means replicating (or besting) the connectivity customers have on their laptops, tablets and phones that they travel with.

For example, many hotels advertise access to broadband. Often these connections, however, perform quite poorly on technical benchmarks (bandwidth tests) and outright fail on customer benchmarks (ability to watch Youtube videos, play games or video chat and so forth).  This can be exacerbated by poor cell phone coverage, which may force a customer to leave the hotel in order to be reachable at all.  If there’s any doubt that failing to meet travelers’ needs of connectivity can affect repeat business, one survey found that nearly 60% of travelers aged 35–54 would consider a different hotel option if they had poor cell phone reception during their previous stay.

Kano diagram by QFD Institute
This actually falls into the 'reverse quality' category in the Kano model of expected quality vs. exciting quality. What is exciting quality for older generations of hotel guests (such as having free internet and computer access) has not only become expected quality for younger hotel guests, but also the poor fulfillment of hotel room TV and internet may even be reverse quality — that is, their existence dissatisfies!

Any hotel that’s serious about catering to business travelers must understand these needs, as well as other needs such as internet security, in a modern and changing context, rather than continuing to refresh old features.
Ken Mazur

Related Read...

Microsoft Office® is a registered mark of Microsoft, Open Office® Apache Software; FaceTime® Apple Inc.; Skype® Skype.


07 November 2012

People of the 2012 QFD Symposium

Once again new case studies were shared and emerging ideas were brought to the public last Friday at the 24th Symposium on QFD in sunny St. Augustine, Florida USA.This year’s presentation topics were as unique and diverse as the presenters, whose hard work and dedication was greatly appreciated.

Even in today’s trend toward everything virtual, face-to-face interactions produce much deeper impact and networking bonds, we’ve found. Let us introduce some of the wonderful individuals we met at this year’s symposium:
Carey Hepler presented the first of its kind QFD application on the timeliest topic – politics. His project involved the election campaign in which his wife was a candidate for a local judiciary seat. He applied the Modern QFD tools to listen to the constituents’ voice, identify target segments, their needs and priorities, and finally develop the campaign strategy and deploy it in the most respectful way that we voters wish every candidate would.
photo - Carey Hepler presenting "QFD and Politics"
By the time Carey completed his presentation, there was an outpouring sense of support and respect for Team Hepler from the symposium audience. We were captivated by this unique application of QFD and also appreciated the level of challenge that even the most qualified candidate can face solely because of the nature of politics.

Carey Hepler is a Certified QFD Black Belt® and 2010 Akao Prize® recipient. He has presented several QFD papers, including: “Finding Customer Delights” (2006 International QFD Symposium); “The Analytic Hierarchy Process: Methodologies and Application with Customers and Management” (2007 International QFD Symposium); “Getting Personal: How Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida used Customized Communications to Reach its Members” (Journal of Healthcare Communications – 2008); “Predicting Future Health Insurance Scenarios Using QFD and Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP)” (2008 American Society of Quality).
Carey currently works for Solantic Urgent Care, where he leads the operations of their walk-in urgent care centers and the development of an expansion blueprint. Prior to that, Carey was with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, AT&T Universal Card, and Citibank.

Jack B. ReVelle, Ph.D., presented his unique experience in consulting Tangshan Railway Vehicle Company in China and the challenges of introducing quality methods in a country where the government believes it speaks for everyone.
photo - Jack ReVelle at 2012 symposium on QFD
After the catastrophic accident of the nation’s first generation bullet train that resulted in dozens of fatalities, the Chinese engineers self-studied the QFD Capture® software and a House of Quality matrix in hope of addressing the quality and safety issues that manifested in the 2011 accident.  Jack was invited to consult the Chinese team on some of the QFD techniques and analytic methods such as gemba study, how to convert the VOC data to specifications, thematic content analysis, MS Excel® sorting, affinity and Pareto analysis.
Unfortunately, the project became mired in multiple interests competing for authority including the Chinese Ministry of Railways, and basic communication became difficult and the line of decision making and progress unclear. It was a telling moment when one member of the symposium audience asked Jack, “Will you ride this new bullet train in China?” We do hope the Chinese heed his advice.

Jack ReVelle is a consulting statistician and the principal of ReVelle Solutions, LLC. He has received many honors throughout his career, including the 1999 Akao Prize®. We’ve known Jack from the old days of QFD but during the St. Augustine meet, we discovered that he was the commander of the U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team that was involved with the “Broken Arrows” incident in Goldsboro, the 1961 nuclear weapons mishap where a strategic bomber B-52 disintegrated in mid-air in North Carolina and Jack’s team was dispatched to take care of the two atomic bombs that fell out of the aircraft. We hear a new movie is being considered based on this and look forward to Jack’s heroic history being told in movie theaters.

Karthik Jeganathan presented the "Change Fix Model” for IT projects where volatility of customer needs and design requirements is always a big challenge.
The model aims at improving agility of the change risk estimation by using lean and QFD tools. It measures the impact of a change by using a regression model, enabling assessment of the impact from a change through the entire software lifecycle, starting with a regression model for establishing the relationship between impact of change and additional effort for implementing the change. This provides a mechanism to measure the volatility and score the quality of the requirements with respect to the importance of prioritizing and baseline requirement changes in agile as well as a non-agile environments.
Karthik presented a case of a major communications company and the evaluation of the method which showed near 80% estimation accuracy. The tools used for the Change Fix Model include: a) CTQ drill down tree; b) Effort benefit matrix; c) Regression model; d) RCA and Pareto; and e) Likert scale scoring using percentiles and box plots.
Karthik works as a Senior Six Sigma and Transformation consultant at Cognizant Business Consulting Team, both in India and the USA. He has 10 years of industry experience working in Management and Transformation Consulting, is a MBB, CISA, and Certified ITIL V3 Foundation Professional.

photo - Tasneem Alfalah presenting her research at 2012 QFD symposium
Tasneem Alfalah aims to develop a conceptual model that integrates the SERVQUAL Gap model and QFD for Jordanian mobile telecommunications industry that has become a viable force to the nation’s economy. This study is currently in the first stage where a questionnaire based on the SERVQUAL framework is being designed, administered and analyzed. The study population will comprise all Jordanian mobile telecommunication companies located in Amman, the nation’s capital.
The QFD model will be useful for evaluating the customer satisfaction vs. actual experience of service level, identifying the quality shortfalls and weak attributes, and finally presenting the areas of immediate improvement as well as attractive attributes that would help their business continues to grow in the future. 

Tasneem Alfalah received an MSc in Quality Management from the University of Jordan in 2010. She next worked as a lecturer and research assistant for one year before being granted a scholarship from her undergraduate alma mater Applied Science University to continue her Ph.D. studies in Glasgow Caledonian University in U.K. where she is currently in her second year.
We congratulate Tasneem for having completed the QFD Green Belt® Course in St. Augustine, receiving a provisional certificate. Next year she plans to attend the QFD Black Belt® Certificate Course. We look forward to finding out how she would incorporate the new knowledge of Modern QFD tools in her research approach.

photo - Philipp Tursch presenting "Repertory Grid Technique" at 2012 QFD symposium
Dipl.-Ing. Philipp Tursch, a Ph.D. candidate at the Chair of Quality Management, Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus, Germany, presented the Repertory Grid Technique and its potential use in QFD. The Repertory Grid Technique was developed in 1955, initially as a clinical methodology for interviewing patients for psychological diagnoses. It has since evolved to a set of general guidelines used in a wide variety of domains including environmental studies, education, healthcare, business and quality management where it is tried as a way to determine the unconscious, individual and elusive dimensions of customer perception.

Philipp’s research focuses on potential integration of this method in product development and QFD, namely in identifying customer preference concerning a new product. He showed how it works by using an example of German smart phones where a range of physical characteristics were shown to potential consumers and their preference for physical attributes of the mock phones were tabulated.

This was Philipp’s first presentation of his research in the U.S. The methodology has a similar feel to Kansei Engineering, except Kansei abstracts up to a high level brand concept, by encompassing both physical and emotional attractiveness, and using a series of regression and multivariate math. We look forward to future progress in Philipp’s research.

photo - Ken Mazur, presenter of a Blitz QFD case study for an elementary school, 2012 Symposium on QFD
Ken Mazur presented a Modern Blitz QFD® case in a non-traditional model – a school (K-8). He shared several unique insights that often go unnoticed:
  1. In schools, the end-user / primary customer (students) typically have the least influence over educational decisions even though they are most affected by them; 
  2. the secondary customer (parents who pay the tuition) have a greater role in decision-making for their children’s education even though their educational expectations reflect more on their own past experience, not necessarily future needs; 
  3. often organizations act on a situation without fully determining the true needs of the stakeholders, jumping on reactive solutions that address problems inadequately or sometimes even exacerbate it and waste resources; 
  4. functional isolation resulting from departmental divides hinders organizations from seeing a large picture when day-to-day problems are reported by individual departments, and their impact on the whole organizational performance is underestimated unless a systematic method like QFD is used and the analytic results can be documented in a way that is visible to everyone.
In his debut QFD case, Ken managed to deploy Modern QFD fully, from the initial Gemba study to VOC analysis that revealed unexpected findings, AHP evaluation of priorities, and suggestions for systematic deployment of solutions on the most important needs, taking into consideration school resources and ease of implementation.

Ken hopes to conduct the second phase of QFD with this school, eventually training the school staff so they would be able to utilize QFD tools and thinking on their own in the future. Ken’s primary interest is working with non-profits and NGOs that would benefit from using QFD to better serve their communities.

Next year, the QFD Institute will host the 19th International Symposium on QFD in Santa Fe, New Mexico on September 6-7, 2013. Everyone is welcome to participate, whether you are new to QFD,  studied it many years ago, currently actively using it, or plan to try it in a future project.

Call For Papers is now in effect for those who wish to present at the 2013 symposium. We expect many QFD experts from overseas, including Dr. Yoji Akao, founder of QFD methodology. So please plan to join us next year!