How Puritan-Bennett Used the House of Quality

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In 1988, Don Clausing and I wrote an article on the “House of Quality,” a product development technique that had long been used in Japan and that was gaining popularity in the United States.1 Since then, over a hundred U.S. firms have adopted the technique for part or all of their product development activities. The House of Quality method, which is a part of Quality Function Deployment (QFD), has evolved through use. The formal charting techniques have given way to sophisticated market measurement, and firms have modified QFD to work within their corporate cultures.

The following case study illustrates how one company successfully used the House of Quality and QFD to enhance sales and profit while satisfying customers and reducing the cycle time of new product development. This case is rare because the company has agreed to share all the details of the application and the business implications.

The paper begins with a brief overview of the House of Quality concept. Then I describe the case study, and, to help readers understand the application of the method to a wide variety of markets, I close the paper with eight brief examples of other applications.

The House of Quality

Mitsubishi’s Kobe shipyard developed quality function deployment in 1972. Ford and Xerox brought it to the United States in 1986, and, in the last five years, it has been adopted widely by Japanese, U.S., and European firms. In some applications, it has reduced design time by 40 percent and design costs by 60 percent while maintaining and enhancing design quality.2 QFD helps an interfunctional team of people from marketing, research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and sales work together to focus on product development. It provides procedures and processes to enhance communication by focusing on the language of the customer.3

QFD uses four “houses” to integrate informational needs. Applications begin with the House of Quality (HOQ), which is shown conceptually in Figure 1. The team uses the HOQ to understand the voice of the customer and to translate it into the voice of the engineer. Subsequent houses continue to deploy the voice of the customer through to parts characteristics, key process operations, and production requirements.

The Voice of the Customer

Identifying Customer Needs.


1. J.R. Hauser and D.P. Clausing, “The House of Quality,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 1988, pp. 63–73.

2. Ibid.

3. For a head-to-head comparison of communications patterns in an HOQ process with those in a traditional phase review process, see:

A. Griffin and J.R. Hauser, “Patterns of Communication among Marketing, Engineering, and Manufacturing — A Comparison between Two New Product Teams,” Management Science 38 (1992): 360–371.

For a scientific examination of different methods to identify the voice of the customer, see:

J.R. Hauser and A. Griffin, “The Voice of the Customer,” Marketing Science 12 (1993): 1–25.

4. For a comparison of methods, see:

Griffin and Hauser (1993), ibid.

5. The customer incurs no out-of-pocket cost. PB dispatches a new unit the same day and pays all shipping costs to and from the customer. The customer need only place the old unit in the box in which the new unit was shipped, affix an enclosed label, and call. PB arranges for pickup. In other words, the customer service programs were also based on the identified customer needs.

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