Global competitiveness requires vigilant information processing that goes beyond basic concurrent engineering. A complex product requires millions of decisions to carry it into production and into the marketplace. The development program starts with broad goals, which are then focused by customer needs. Decision making in total quality development has five improvements over the traditional process:
• Team decisions (utilize collective experience, and develop commitment)
• Visual, connective methods, usually employing large displays on paper (focus team, and reveal interrelationships in data)
• Customer focus
• Optimization of critical decisions
• Problem prevention
There is a hierarchy of decisions. Individuals make most product development decisions, on the basis of experience—their own and others'. For decision makers, the body of available experience includes analyses, the most concise records of experience. It also includes handbooks, computerized records, and other repositories of experience. In developing a complex product, there may be 10 million decisions; most of them are within the grasp of individuals equipped with these tools.
Although individuals can make most decisions, the most critical decisions (roughly 1000 to 10,000 for large, complex products) require more attention, and most of them do not lie entirely within the experience or group of any individual. However, collective experience properly concentrated is sufficient. The right multifunctional team using a disciplined approach can make good decisions. The primary approach for these decisions is quality function deployment (QFD; Hauser and Clausing, 1988), now expanded into enhanced QFD (EQFD; Clausing and Pugh, 1991).
Still fewer decisions, typically several hundred for a large, complex product, are truly critical and cannot be made successfully on the basis of even the collective team experience. These decisions must be arrived at by systematic optimization. The process that has been found most broadly useful in total development work is Dr. Genichi Taguchi's system of quality engineering using robust design (Taguchi and Clausing, 1990; Phadke, 1989). This process also often uses teams, and EQFD can be effectively used to lead into Taguchi's optimization system.