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John F. Early

Quality Insider

Quality by Design, Part 1

Preventing quality failures at their source

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 17:41

If you are a proficient Six Sigma Master Black Belt or Black Belt, you are almost guaranteed lifetime employment. Most enterprises continue to create new quality problems that somebody will need to fix. Or as Joseph M. Juran characterized it, almost every product development process is a hatchery for new quality problems.

Juran adopted the term “quality by design” to describe the comprehensive discipline required to shut down the quality problem hatchery in his book Juran on Quality by Design: The New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services (Free Press, 1992). We will adopt Juran’s terms and structure for this article.

The business problem

Quality failures arise because of three successive gaps in the new product introduction (NPI) process. (See figure 1.) Quality by design is a systematic approach, supported by a wide variety of statistical, economic, planning, psychological, and other tools, to close these gaps and shut down the hatchery of failures.

Figure 1: Gaps in new product introduction

Understanding gap. Our knowledge of customers and their true needs is usually too limited, and sometimes just plain wrong. Even when organizations exert effort to discover customer needs, they frequently fail to capture the real benefit the customer is seeking.

Design gap. Because designs are prepared by professional designers (e.g., electrical engineers, software engineers, financial analysts, physicians, chefs), the customers’ needs are filtered by the experts to reflect what they believe is good design. These expert designers are without peer when it comes to the technological questions of how to achieve a particular technical result, but their understanding of that intended result is not always the same as the paying customers’ expectations.

Execution gap. The final product—goods, service, or information—does not conform to the design. Most quality improvement (whether Six Sigma or otherwise) usually addresses this gap, and we are very familiar with making those improvements. But the expectation still persists that the first instances of a new product will “naturally have more problems until we get the bugs out of them.” That is a clear symptom of an attitude that permits, even encourages, this gap.

Marketing gaps. Because the other three gaps exist, marketing and sales professionals face a number of challenges in communicating with customers. They have multiple views of reality to reconcile, which will inevitably create multiple gaps between the message and the different realities.

These fundamental gaps hatch many problems for the enterprise:
• Costs of poor quality rise.
• Release dates and revenue targets for new products are missed.
• The costs of new product introduction exceed budget.
• Dissatisfied, or merely disappointed, customers leave.
• Market share goes to competitors that are faster to market with better products.

The architecture of the solution

The overall strategy for closing these gaps and shutting down the hatchery for new problems requires an architecture consisting of the following primary features:
• Integrated planning
• Customer-focused optimization
• Dominance over variability

This entire architecture and its principal components are necessary to close the gaps. Some practitioners become so enamored with one part of the architecture or of specific tools within it that they miss the larger purpose and limit their effectiveness.

These architectural features apply throughout a project that observes the principles of quality by design. The primary phases of a quality by design project and the steps that comprise each phase are displayed in figure 2.

Figure 2: Phases and steps of a project applying the quality by design approach. (Click here for larger image.)

Some managers have the reaction that this structured approach looks like a lot of work, especially when they “know” what needs to be done. Any new product introduction will address all the points listed in figure 2, in one way or another. However, will each point be addressed adequately based on appropriate data and a valid understanding of that data? As Juran used to say about the continuing stream of quality issues that bedevil our goods and services: “They were planned that way.”

Integrated planning

Integrated planning requires a team with a leader whose sole accountability is for the total success of the new product from defining the opportunity through customer purchase, use, service, and recommendation to others. This team leader reports directly to a senior executive, or the team leader can be a senior executive. Each team member’s job is to ensure the success of the new product.

In addition to organizational integration, a successful team must begin with clearly articulated common goals for the product that are measurable and authorized by the enterprise. These goals must, at a minimum, cover such elements as:
• The customers or customer segments to be served by the new product
• The relative and absolute quality goals
• The volume of sales or revenue to be generated in an initial time period and for the long run
• Market share, penetration, or sales relative to key competitors
• The release date

The team will follow a structured process such as the one laid out in the quality by design approach in figure 2. The structure is the common framework for all participants in launching the new product and helps ensure success. The fundamental framework is supported by an integrated set of planning spreadsheets. These provide clear documentation and measurement of all the key elements for success and allow for rigorous prioritization for all elements of design, development, delivery, and control. These modern planning spreadsheets had their origins in the quality function deployment (QFD) tools but are more up to date, using modern computing capability that provides greater ease of application while delivering stronger analytical and planning power.

Each of the planning spreadsheets has four elements (as seen in figure 3, below): what, how, how much, and effect.

What is defined and planned for at the beginning of the process. In figure 3, a customer-needs spreadsheet is used to document the needs that must be satisfied in order to delight the customers—in this case, the parent and student. This partial spreadsheet example shows some of the needs the parent and student might have with respect to a college-student credit card.

How will satisfy the “what.” For the customer needs spreadsheet, the “how” comprises the needs that must be met to delight the customer: i.e., easy to change credit limit, accepted on campus, and accepted off campus.

How much is the specific measureable goal for each of the "how’s” needs—in this case, the quantitative critical-to-quality (CTQ) metric for each customer’s needs.

The fourth element is the effect that each “how” and “how much” will have on each “what.”  For the customer needs spreadsheet, the effect is the relative importance that each need has for each customer.

Figure 3: Elements of a quality by design planning spreadsheet

Planning spreadsheets form a solid, auditable, actionable, and quantitative chain (as seen in figure 4) that joins:
• The customers
• Customer needs
• Product functions (what the product does for the customer)
• Product features (the characteristics of the product that make the functions possible)
• Process features (the ways in which the product features are created)
• Control features (the ways we ensure that the process features and product features work as designed)

Figure 4: Backbone of interlocking planning spreadsheets

Planning spreadsheets are mostly the summarized results of multiple activities using dozens of different tools. The vast majority of the project work is involved in collecting and analyzing the data needed to make the decisions contained in these spreadsheets. However, the spreadsheets are more than passive documentation because they:
• Ensure that all the product work is clearly and concisely summarized.
• Ensure that none of the results are lost or ignored. Some results may have lower priority, but any decisions to drop or modify an element is clearly documented and quantified, not just ignored.
• Integrate a common understanding of the full product dimensions for all the team and upper management.
• Compute rigorous prioritization that incorporates the customers and their needs, and is subsequently enriched with the creativity and technical understanding of the product and process design.

In part two we will explore the remaining two elements of the quality by design architecture: customer-focused optimization and dominance over variability.


About The Author

John F. Early’s picture

John F. Early

John F. Early is the executive vice president of Juran International directing work in offices outside of North America. He also leads major client engagements as an executive coach. Early’s 30+ years of consulting and leadership experience spans the health insurance, financial, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, electronics, and consumer goods industries for strategic quality, marketing, customer service, product development, process improvement, R&D, and service and manufacturing operations.


Design Quality

In the past years, we were used to such terms as "design for assembling", "design for functionality", "design for safety", and so on: design was input to functional output. But nowadays it has become "design for design". I don't mean that there's nothing more that can be invented, therefore designed, but when I get e-mailed for buying a tea or coffee mug heater via my laptop USB, I can't keep asking myself "isn't it "design for appearance"? The manufacturing industry laments that in their engineering department there are far more "drafters" than "designers"; and that their design skills are far from being what the term means. True, the wheel cannot be invented every day; but there's all evidence that the present design approaches consider everything but "the lessons to be learned". And here is the Design lost war. Thank you.