QFD and Kansei Engineering: Can they be integrated?

Posted on 24 Nov 2008 by The Manufacturer

Following a question from one of our readers Rob Thompson explores the compatibility of QFD and Kansei Engineering...

In Japan, Kansei Engineering is often considered as an independent product development philosophy, which typically is carried out in concurrent engineering processes. However, since the methodology is little known in European industry, is it possible to pinpoint possible entry points for Kansei Engineering into a company’s product development processes?

In practice this means may entail a way of identifying product development methods such as QFD etc., which are suitable for transferring Kansei Engineering results into conventional product development.

Integrating Kansei Engineering Data in QFD

Many companies use standardised methods for the translation of customer wants and needs into product and process properties. One of the most common methods is QFD.

Flickr: Japanese Girl

Kansei Engineering data can be used to identify customer needs and determine their importance, facilitating the setting of target values for technical data and perform benchmarking between different products and brands and quantify the relationships in the relationship matrix in a more exact way:

Kansei Engineering with QFD

In the relationship matrix the customer’s needs are linked to the technical responses. The strength of the relationships is determined by more or less qualified guesses of experts distinguishing between strong, medium and weak relationships. Further refinement of the scale complicates the decision process and as a consequence increases the evaluation time.

However, in some cases more detailed information is desirable. Kansei Engineering can quantify those relationships by building mathematical models of the customer’s Kansei. Moreover, statistics allow examination of whether different customer group have different opinions which in turn and lead to the development of alternative product concepts.

In QFD the customer needs are collected using focus group interviews, activity analysis etc. The data gathered is evaluated and interpreted by i.e. Voice of customer tables, etc. Those tools try to grasp even implicit needs and wants and link them to product parameters.

However, interpreting the customers’ statements is very difficult and requires much experience. Kansei Engineering is designed for valuating the unconscious wants and needs, and delivers statistical mathematical values for the connection between a need and its technical response. Regarding furniture the customer may describe her home as ‘elegant’.

Flickr: Flowers

One way is to treat this statement with VOCT, and feed it into the ‘House of Quality’. An alternative way is to make a Kansei Engineering evaluation and get an exact translation into product properties with only minor influence from the researcher. In the following step within the QFD procedure, customer needs are ranked after their importance. QFD offers a number of different tools, based on (subjective) expert knowledge. Kansei Engineering offers the opportunity to collect the customer’s attitude about the particular importance of the different product properties.

Kansei Engineering can be used in the QFD process is the setting of the target values for the product properties. For every customer need, a number of product properties can be identified. Collecting additional information about what the ideal product should feel like, gives a clear indication about in which direction the Kansei Score of the certain Kansei Word has to be adjusted to suit the customers’ needs in a better way. Since it is known how and in which way the product properties are connected to the certain word, it becomes clear how the Kansei can e adjusted. As a result Kansei Engineering can help to set target values for the technical specifications.

Flickr: Japanese house on a lake

Success in international markets does not only require a customer-focused design, but also knowledge about the competition situation in the specific market segment. QFD provides a product comparison where different products within the same segment are compared regarding the degree of fulfilment of a specific customer need. By comparing the results of Kansei Engineering studies made for different competing products, a benchmarking profile can be developed and integrated into the ‘House of Quality’. Such a combination of the House of Quality’ and Kansei Engineering allows a special profiling of the products expressed Kansei.

By Rob Thompson of learnsigma.com

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