Corning’s Story Uplifting
Thank you for publishing such an in-depth and uplifting article on Corning (“You Can Go Home Again,” Susan E. Daniels, January 2007, p. 30). It is nice to see that Corning, the name synonymous with quality, rediscovered itself under Jamie Houghton’s leadership.
The article answers many questions any quality pro might have about how to turn around a company and institute a quality culture. I liked the recommendation that top management publicly support quality and employee engagement. I find top management insisting on including quality related measurable objectives in the annual business plan is also very helpful.
Old QFD vs. Modern QFD
The January 2007 article “Hospital Reduces Medication Errors Using DMAIC and QFD” (Yani Beni-tez, Leslie Forrester, Carolyn Hurst and Debra Turpin, p. 38) cites me in the bibliography, so I feel it necessary to express my views on this hospital’s use of quality function deployment (QFD). The team’s traditional QFD effort contains many errors that could have been avoided with modern QFD.
The project goal was to design a standardized medication order pro-cess to reduce errors. The QFD team identified the nurse as the customer of this process. In modern QFD, a customer segments table would have identified the pharmacist and attending physician as additional customers of the medication order process.
The team gained the voices of the nurses through interviews and prioritized voices according to the percentages of nurses who said the issues were important. In modern QFD, we would augment interviews by observing the nurses in action and capturing real-time data concerning their issues, not limiting the nurses to what they can recall in after-the-fact interviews.
Then, we would use a customer voice table (CVT) to translate the raw voices into true customer needs. For example, “process must provide a history of patient medications” describes a functional requirement of the new process, not a customer need. The CVT would translate this into: “I can track changes to the medication” and “I can see if any medications might have interactions.” These true customer needs tell us not just what the customers want but why they want it.
In modern QFD, the nurses would organize these needs with an affinity diagram and use the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to derive precise importance weights. Arbitrarily assigning percentages is an ordinal scale process and should not be used in QFD matrices, as this team did. In fact, the importance weights add up to 135 in the case study.
Also, the QFD team converted the verbatims into success measures to use as design requirements for the new process. The authors don’t detail the conversion process, but they do mention faxing, printing and defect rates. In modern QFD, we develop technology-independent functional requirements—not success measures or failures. Functional requirements should describe performance capabilities the new process must achieve, not how it will be done.
The QFD team then combined the verbatims and success measures into a matrix, assigned relationship weights and calculated technical importance, again improperly using ordinal scale numbers. Only ratio scale numbers can be added and multiplied. In modern QFD, we would have used the AHP to establish accurate ratio scale values.
More importantly, we would have realized the matrix was a waste of time. Quickly reading the top two verbatims and success measures in Figure 1 yields the same results as completing the entire matrix. A maximum value table (MVT) would have given us the same answer with less time and effort.
Finally, the QFD team developed and prioritized technology concepts using a Pugh matrix. I’m not an expert in the medication process, but it seems the proposed concepts have little to do with the top two success measures or the top customer need. In the Pugh chart, they use the verbatims (not the success measures) to evaluate the concepts, but for the top verbatim, all the concepts are evaluated as being the same as the current process.
They do all that work to come up with no improvement to the customer verbatim that captures 50% of their importance. Further, all the concepts exceed the current process for the No. 2 verbatim, so we still don’t know which concept is to be selected.
In modern QFD, we would indicate alternative concepts in the MVT, which is limited to the top few customer needs. That way, we ensure the concepts address the most important needs. Also, we would use an AHP to select the best alternative because it would show us the relative importance of each customer need and functional requirement and allow us to evaluate each alternative’s performance on a meaningful scale. Such a scale could be time, instead of the “same, plus or minus” scale in the Pugh matrix.
The QFD team improved the medication process, and so I commend them. But their use of QFD probably took more time than necessary and might not have led to the best solution. As in many companies, the QFD effort might have proved useful, but few will be willing to do it again be-cause of the time and effort required.
Ann Arbor, MI
Our team disagrees with the opinion that our application of QFD was wasteful. QFD empowered nurses to take ownership of the project by providing a structured, easy-to-follow roadmap for selecting a solution that fit their needs. Could we have found the same solution without QFD? Maybe, but not with the same level of buy-in from our customers.
The team had an instructor/consultant review and approve the method at key times throughout the process. He did make concessions like some of the ones Mr. Mazur mentions, in order to make it work within the timeframe, resources, hospital policies and other constraints without impacting the usefulness of the tool.
It was this flexibility—while still holding true to the principles of QFD—that made this a very successful exercise. In fact, senior leadership now asks for QFD as a deliverable for every transformation initiative launched.
‘Stats Roundtable’ Right on Target
Congratulations to Lynne Hare for his January 2007 “Statistics Roundtable” column, “The Ubiqui-tous Cpk.”
He is right on target—organizations talk about continuous improvement but fail to reach this goal by using only Cpk. I used the same type of diagram as shown in his Figure 1 in a class I taught, “Statistical Process Control and Its Interrelationship With the Total Quality Improvement Process,” for more than two decades before retiring in 2002.
If we could get organizations to take the time to do it right, we could make tremendous quality improvements and serve customers with distinction.
DONALD S. ERMER
University of Wisconsin
Author Responds To 30,000-Foot Issue
The January 2007 “QP Mailbag” (p. 7) included a QP discussion board excerpt. The excerpt, from a post by Tim Folkerts, critcized my November 2006 column, “Control Charting at the 30,000-Foot Level.”
My response to this post can be read in full on the discussion board.
If there is interest, I am willing to set up a web meeting to discuss the use and benefits of 30,000-foot-level control charting and process capability/performance assessments. Interested readers can contact me directly.