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J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

DOI 10.1007/s10845-013-0776-4

QCs-linkage model based quality problem processing framework:

a Chinese experience in complex product development
Gui-jiang Duan · Yang Wang

Received: 3 December 2012 / Accepted: 17 April 2013 / Published online: 28 April 2013
© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Abstract A quality characteristics linkage (QCs-linkage) Introduction

model based quality problem processing framework is pro-
posed on the basis of complex product development in “Quality” is defined as the degree to which a set of inherent
Chinese industry practice. To describe the relationships characteristics fulfils requirements (ISO 9001 2008). Qual-
among quality characteristics, a concept named “linkage” ity characteristics (QCs) can identify the measures of product
is defined and the QCs-linkage model is introduced includ- quality, by which whether or not customer needs and expec-
ing linkage network and linkage matrix. Based on the tations have been satisfied is determined. Complex prod-
QCs-linkage model, a quality problem processing frame- ucts are referred as the products with complex customer
work is put forward, in which the quality problem is requirements, complex technological architectures and com-
analyzed and handled in the granularity of components plex development processes and systems, such as aerospace
and characteristics. The component function flow matrix vehicles, airplanes, missiles, railway vehicles and turbines
is adopted to describe component relationships, based on etc. (Li et al. 2002; Wu et al. 2012). During the complex
which the abnormal component and quality problem analysis product development process, there would be various unex-
space are determined. A variation cost oriented key quality pected situations, such as variations, deficiencies, defects or
characteristic identification algorithm is given and the QCs- mistakes etc., which would cause the deviations of quality
linkage model is constructed. Then the quality problem is characteristics and lead to poor quality. These are gener-
handled with source-targeted and non-source-targeted strate- ally referred as “quality problem”. Any tiny quality problem
gies. The following part discusses methods of quality prob- in the complex product development may trigger a series
lem prevention based on the component linkage degree and of bad chain reactions or even vital disasters. How to ana-
similarity degree. Finally a case of a single-cylinder recip- lyze and resolve these quality problems effectively and effi-
rocating engine study presented in this paper indicates that ciently has become the common focus of both academe and
the framework can provide support for the quality problem industry.
analysis. A great number of working frameworks and concepts in
quality management area are closely related with quality
Keywords Quality characteristic relationships · problem analysis and prevention. Among of them, PDCA,
QCs-linkage model · Component function flow · DMAIC and FRACAS etc. are focused on quality problem
Variation propagation · Component clustering management with standard processing procedures; FMEA
and FTA analyzes the occurrence mechanisms of quality
problems with the failure mode and effect analysis; Zero
defect insists on the idea of “Do the things right for the first
G. Duan · Y. Wang (B)
time under strict process control” by continuous improve-
School of Mechanical Engineering and Automation,
Beihang University, Beijing, China ment in quality system driven by quality problems. In addi-
e-mail: buaawangyang@gmail.com tion, studies on quality problem prevention in the perspective
G. Duan of design method have been engaged recently, such as Poka-
e-mail: gjduan@buaa.edu.cn Yoke, Design for Quality, etc.

240 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

Fig. 1 Technology problem closed loop and management problem closed loop in QPCL

In recent years a quality problem processing framework

named “Quality Problem Closed Loop” has arisen in China Five principles in TPCL Five principles in MPCL
aerospace industry and attracted wide attention from acad-
1. Exact location 1. Clear process
eme. Quality Problem Closed Loop, QPCL for short, was first
2. Clear mechanism 2. Distinct responsibility
put forward in 1990s and was defined as: The quality prob-
lems arising in periods of design, production, experiment and 3. Problem repetition 3. Action fulfillment
service should be analyzed and corrected in both technologi- 4. Effective action 4. Deal with seriously
cal aspect and management aspects, and preventive measures 5. Learn by analogy 5. Consummate rules
should be taken to avoid the repetitions of potential problems
with similar context (QJ3183-2003 2003). The term “closed Fig. 3 “Double 5 principles” for QPCL implementation process
loop” in QPCL has two meanings: 1. to solve the current
quality problems completely and avoid their repetition by 2. QPCL implementation process requirements are defined
source analysis and correction; 2. to prevent potential qual- clearly for the technology problem closed loop and man-
ity problems in similar contexts by validation and prevention agement problem closed loop, which can be concluded
measures. QPCL aims at the final solution and no repeti- as “Double five principles”, as shown in Fig. 3.
tion of similar quality problems. The whole framework con- 3. Not only the source diagnosis of current quality problems
sists of two working processes: technology problem closed but also the prevention of potential quality problems is
loop (TPCL) and management problem closed loop (MPCL), emphasized in QPCL. This is also the essence of “closed
which are illustrated in Fig. 1. loop”.
In essence QPCL, which can be considered as one appli-
cation in complex product development in China, is similar QPCL has been playing an important role in quality prob-
to other quality problem analysis and handling frameworks lem management in Chinese aerospace industry and now
such as PDCA, DMAIC and FRACAS etc. Nevertheless it has evolved into a general framework for quality prob-
has some unique characteristics: lem analysis in complex product development. The recent
decades have witnessed the development of QPCL in China.
1. Management factors are considered and treated seriously Yao (2003) extended the scope of QPCL into conscious-
with technology factors in QPCL. It is common that qual- ness, management, technology and resource dimensions to
ity problems are caused by both technology and manage- improve the closed loop capability. Tang et al. (2007) pro-
ment factors and these factors are coupled and combined posed a three-dimensional quality information integration
together to form a DNA helix like structure, as can be seen model and developed an integrated quality information sys-
in Fig. 2. This increases the complexity and difficulty of tem. Duan (2008) advanced a multi-level, multi-connection
analyzing and dealing with quality problems. and closed network to improve the capability and collabora-
tion of QPCL.
With the development of QPCL in industrial practice, it
Quality is realized that it is necessary to integrate QPCL framework
with other quality problem analysis methods to improve the
Complex product development effect and efficiency of quality problem analysis and han-
Variation factors in technology dimension dling. The former provides a standard processing procedure,
Variation factors in management dimension
while the latter provides support for quality problem diagno-
sis and solution. Shirwaiker and Okudan (2008) reviewed
Fig. 2 The DNA helix like structure coupled with technology and the applications of Triz and axiomatic design in solving
management dimension factors industrial problems related to manufacturing and designing;

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 241

Sahebjamnia et al. (2010) designed a new model of distrib- network and matrix are constructed and based on which, qual-
uted quality control for sub-assemble products based on the ity problem is analyzed and handled. Additionally methods
intelligent web information system. Quality characteristic of potential quality problem prevention are also discussed.
reflects product quality, and focusing on which, a large num-
ber of studies have been conducted. A fuzzy AHP approach
was adopted to determine the importance weights of qual- Quality characteristic relationship modelling in
ity characteristics in quality function deployment (Kwong complex product development
and Bai 2002). To support statistical quality control, exist-
ing quality control expert systems were reviewed and qual- How to model quality characteristic relationships is the basis
ity engineering techniques needed by future quality control of quality problem analysis and handling. Quality character-
were recommended (Kuo and Mital 1993). Thornton (2004) istic indentifies the measures of quality, by which whether
proposed the theory of variation risk management based on or not our needs and expectations have been satisfied is
key quality characteristics variation flow-down. Zhang et al. determined (ISO 9001 2008). Any feature or characteris-
(2011) advanced a model of immune prevention and control tic of a product that is needed to satisfy customer needs or
for key quality characteristics in the manufacturing process archive fitness for use can be treated as a quality characteris-
based on the biological immune principle. tic. According to the definition above, quality characteristic
The effects of quality characteristics coupling and varia- reflects product quality and product development process can
tion propagation increase the complexity and difficulty of be also understood in the perspective of quality characteris-
the quality problem analysis (Suh 1990; Clarkson et al. tic evolution. In the development process from immateriality
2004). Simon (1996) defined the complexity of a product to materiality, from qualitative analysis to quantitative cal-
in terms of the connections between its parts and claimed culations, quality characteristics are also evaluated from the
that connections between parts of a product can never be product level to the part level, forming a complex QCs rela-
fully avoided in engineering products. To decrease the cou- tionship network (Wang and Duan 2011).
pling degree of product, Suh (2001) proposed the principles QCs relationship is categorized into two types: parame-
of function independence axion and information minimum ter relationship and constraint relationship (Yang and Duan
axion. Zhong (2007) discussed coupling mechanisms and 2012). Parameter relationship, which is the fundamental one,
decoupling design in complex electromechanical products. is formed in the actions of QCs mapping, transformation,
Cheng and Chu (2012) developed a network-based assess- deployment, patterning and derivation; constraint relation-
ment approach for change impacts on complex product to ship emphasizes the purpose of part assembly, interface
support product design and redesign management. Yang and matching, performance guarantee or function combination
Duan (2012) established a quality characteristic linkage net- etc. To describe both parameter relationship and constraint
work and studied the variation propagation caused by the relationship in one general structure, a variation propagation
quality characteristic change in product design. oriented concept of linkage is proposed in this paper. “Link-
Quality problem, which causes the failure of product func- age” is introduced as the basic unit of QCs relationships, in
tion or performance not satisfying customers’ requirements which the target and design quality characteristics are repre-
and leads to a poor quality, can be considered as the deviations sented by circles, the relationship principle between them is
of quality characteristics out of their thresholds in essence. represented by a rectangle and the connection between the
An analysis on quality problems in the characteristic per- quality characteristics and the principle is represented with a
spective is helpful for the mechanism analysis, final solution directed arrow. With the linkage, a constraint linkage could
and effective prevention of quality problems. However there be turned into a parameter linkage by deriving a new target
are various relationships among quality characteristics, and quality characteristic, as illustrated in Fig. 4.
the mechanisms of variation occurrence and variation prop- Linkage can also be represented with a formula: y = f(x1 ,
agation are extremely complex, which raises the difficulty x2 , . . . , xn ), where y is the target characteristic, x1 ,x2 , . . . ,xn
of quality problem analysis and handling. In this paper a are the design characteristics and f() is the linkage principle
QCs-linkage model is constructed to describe quality char- between the target characteristic and the design character-
acteristic relationships and based on which, a quality problem istics. Generally the linkage principle can be qualitative or
processing framework is proposed. In this framework, qual- quantitative, explicit or implicit depending on the designer’s
ity problem is analyzed and handled in the granularities of knowledge.
components and characteristics. In component granularity, In product development, quality characteristics in differ-
function component flow matrix is constructed and based on ent structure levels and different development phases would
which, the abnormal function flow is identified and quality be coupled and nested together and form a complex multitier
problem analysis space is determined. In characteristic gran- network, which is called the “quality characteristics linkage
ularity, key quality characteristics are identified and linkage network”, QCs-linkage network for short, as shown in Fig. 5.

242 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

Fig. 4 The graphic description

of parameter linkage and
constraint linkage

(a) (b) y3
(c) y3 y5
link3 link3 link5
y3=f(y1,x3) y3=f(y1,x3) y5=f(y4,x9,x10)

y1 y2 x5 y1 x5 y1 y2 x9 y4 x10 y6
link1 link2 link1 link1 link2 link4 link6
y1=f(x1,x2) y2=f(x2,x4,x5) y1=f(x1,x2) y1=f(x1,x2) y2=f(x2,x4,x5) y4=f(x4,x6,x7,x8) y4=f(x8,x11,x12,x13)

x1 x2 x3 x4 x1 x2 x1 x2 x3 x4 x6 x7 x8 x11 x12 x13

Fig. 5 Quality characteristic linkage network by linkage coupling and nesting. a link1 and link2 are coupled together, b link1 and link3 are nested
together, c QCs-linkage network by linkage coupling and nesting

Fig. 6 QCs-linkage matrix.

cost linkage variation cost, λ
linkage variation sensitiveness,
contri characteristic
contribution to linkage

The QCs-linkage network is a graphic description on The QCs-linkage matrix contains more information on
the quality characteristic relationship which needs to be quality characteristic variation analysis, such as linkage vari-
translated into a structured matrix, which is called the ation impact, variation mitigation cost, variation sensitivity
“quality characteristic linkage matrix” for the subsequent etc, which are necessary for quality problem analysis and
analysis. The quality characteristic linkage matrix, QCs- handling. Observed in the row direction, the entire descrip-
linkage matrix for short, is a two-level compound matrix, tion of the linkage can be obtained. While observed in the
among which the row elements are the linkage, Level 1 col- column direction, all the linkages joined by the column char-
umn elements the components, Level 2 column elements acteristic can be obtained.
the quality characteristics, and the cross joints the con-
tributions of the column characteristics to the row link- Linkage variation cost
ages. The QCs-linkage matrix can describe quality char-
acteristic relationships in a structured way, as shown in For a linkage in an unstable state, the cost for bringing it back
Fig. 6. to the stable state is defined as linkage variation mitigation

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 243

cost. Generally the costs in different correction measures are old for a step further. To provide support for quality problem
different and the variation cost in this paper is defined as the analysis in the complex product development, a QCs-linkage
minimum cost of all correction measures. The value range is model based framework is proposed.
from 0 to 10 and can be determined with the expert evaluation The QCs-linkage model based quality problem processing
method. framework analyzes and handle with quality problems in the
granularities of component and characteristic and consists of
Linkage variation sensitivity the following five steps: 1. Build the component function flow
matrix based on the product function structure; 2. Recog-
Different linkages have different capacity of variation prop- nize the abnormal component function flow causing quality
agation and this attribute is defined as the linkage variation problems and determine the analysis space; 3. Identify key
sensitivity and is represented by λ. The value range is from quality characteristics and build the QCs-linkage model; 4.
0 to 1 and can be determined with expert evaluation method. Analyze and deal with quality problems on the basis of the
QCs-linkage model; and 5. Prevent potential quality prob-
Characteristic contribution to linkage lems in similar contexts based on the component clustering.
The framework is shown in Fig. 7.
For a linkage in an unstable state, the strengths of variation
propagation along different characteristics are different. In Build the component function flow matrix based
this paper, the characteristic contribution to the linkage is on product function structure
defined to describe this attribute and represented as contri.
The value range is from 0 to 1 and it can be calculated by par- The product function structure describes the product function
tial differential contri = ∂ y/∂ xor determined by the expert with a network consisting of function components, indicat-
evaluation method. It is supposed that the contribution of ing a large amount of information for the quality problem
target characteristic to the linkage is 1. analysis and handling. In this framework an initial analysis
is executed based on the function structure to determine the
quality problem analysis space.
Quality problem processing framework based on Function decomposition is the first step of the function
QCs-linkage model structure model, which could be approached by the Func-
tion Analysis System Technique (Kaufman and Woodhead
It is common in product development to be faced with various 2006) or the Subtract and Operate Procedure (Lefever and
disturbances from technology and management dimensions Wood 1996). Arrange all the function components accord-
and quality characteristic variations are inevitable. The varia- ing to their sequences with the block diagram and obtain the
tion of quality characteristic will have an influence on product function structure. An example of the function structure of
quality and even result in a quality problem. Therefore it is a tensile testing machine is illustrated in Fig. 8 (Pahl et al.
useful to study the quality problem in the perspective of qual- 2003).
ity characteristics, in which a quality problem is considered The product function structure will get more and more
as the deviation of a quality characteristic out of its thresh- complicated with the increase of product complexity. To give

Fig. 7 Quality problem processing framework based on QCs-linkage model

244 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254


SF target Compare target Amplify

S I target
with actual values measurements

Measure force SF

Adjust energy flow

Eload Change energy into S I
S force & movement
Specimen Hold specimen Load specimen Specimendeformed

Material flow Energy flow Information flow

Fig. 8 An example of the function structure model (a tensile testing machine)

Fig. 9 Component function

flow matrix: CFFM

a better support for the quality problem analysis, it is advised component in the row function flow. Observed in the row
to be translated into a structured matrix—component func- direction, the components with a number represent the ones
tion flow matrix (CFFM), as shown in Fig. 9. joining the row function flow. While observed in the column
CFFM is similar to the characteristic linkage matrix and direction, the function flows with a number represent the ones
can be obtained by the reconstruction of the function structure joined by the column function component.
model. The construction process of CFFM is described in the
following steps: Recognize the abnormal component function flow and
determine quality problem analysis space
1. Extract all the function components and arrange them on
the column headers of CFFM; Quality problems will be encountered in the condition of
2. Extract all the function flows, including material, energy function failures or when the function performances do not
and information flows, and intercept them into shorter satisfy customer requirements. In other words, quality prob-
flows at a proper granularity. The proper length of the lems can be represented with function flows in abnormal
function flow is necessary for the quality problem analy- state. How to recognize the abnormal function flows from
sis, and a too long or too short function flow is not advised the current quality problems is not discussed in this paper,
in this framework. and the details on which can be referred to Tanaka and Kishi-
3. Arrange all the intercepted function flows on the row nami (2006) and Huang and Chuang (2008).
heads of CFFM; To analyze and handle with the quality problems in a
4. Determine the number value in the cross joint of CFFM broader view, all the involved function flows and compo-
according to the sequence of the column function com- nents should be extracted, which is called the quality prob-
ponent participating in the row function flows; lem analysis space. Take Fig. 9 as an example, the process
5. Then a CFFM has been built. of extracting the quality problem analysis space can be
described in the following steps (Fig. 10):
CFFM is a structured model which contains much use- 1. Recognize the abnormal function flow causing the cur-
ful information on the components relationship. The num- rent quality problem. It is supposed that the abnormal
ber in the cross joint represents the sequence of the column function flow is diagnosed as FunFlow_2;

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 245

Fig. 10 Determine quality problem analysis space by searching all related function flows and functions

Fig. 11 Quality characteristic linkage model by key quality characteristic identification

2. Search the CFFM in the row direction of the abnor- short, is considered as one effective approach to reduce the
mal function flow and extract all the components complexity and workload of the QCs-linkage model con-
involved. The components involved with FunFlow_2 are struction and analysis.
{Comp_6, Comp_2, Comp_4, Comp_5}; A variation cost oriented algorithm for the key quality
3. Search the CFFM in the column directions of involved characteristic identification is introduced. The variation cost
components {Comp_6, Comp_2, Comp_4, Comp_5} of the characteristic is calculated with formula (1):
and extract the function flows involved. Here the func-

tion flows involved are {FunFlow_1, FunFlow_2, Fun- cos tC = cos t L × contri C,L (1)
Flow_3}; i=1
4. Search the CFFM again in the row direction of involved
function flows (FunFlow_1, FunFlow_2, FunFlow_3). where cos tC is the variation cost of the characteristic;
Here the components involved are {Comp_1, Comp_2, contriC,L is the contribution of characteristic C to linkage L;
Comp_3, Comp_4, Comp_5, Comp_6, Comp_10, n is the number of linkages involved with characteristic C.
Comp_11, Comp_13, Comp_14}; For example, the variation cost of Cha_4 in Fig. 11 is
5. Build the CFFM with all involved quality problems and calculated with:
function flows and then the quality problem analysis 
space is determined (the right of Fig. 10). cos tCha_4 = cos t L × contri C,L
= 2 × 0.5 + 6 × 0.2 + 8 × 0.2 = 3.7
Identify key quality characteristics and build
QCs-linkage matrix Then the key quality characteristics can be identified
according to the variation cost value. Afterward, additional
Key characteristic (KC) is defined as “a feature of a mater- information such as linkage variation impact, linkage varia-
ial, process, or part/assembly whose variation has a signif- tion sensitiveness and characteristic contribution to the link-
icant influence on product fit, performance, service life, or age is added and the QCs-linkage matrix is constructed, as
manufacturability” (AS 9103 2001). Normally there are num- shown in Fig. 11.
berless quality characteristics in the complex product devel- QCs-linkage matrix can be considered as the detail of
opment, and it is neither possible nor necessary to model CFFM in the granularity of characteristics. For example,
all these characteristics. Key quality characteristic, KQC for the FunFlow_2 in Fig. 9 is detailed into {Link_4, Link_5,

246 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

Fig. 12 Quality problem

processing strategies:
a source-targeted and
b non-source-targeted strategy

(a) (b)

(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 13 Variation propagation analysis caused by QCs adjustment in “source-targeted strategy”. a Initial propagation network, b propagation
network, c final propagation network

y link x y link1 x characteristic directly and avoid the derived variation of new
characteristics at the same time. The latter is to deal with other
link2 characteristics to eliminate the impact of variation source
(a) (b) characteristics.
Two conditions are worth consideration in the “source-
Fig. 14 QCs variation propagation probability calculation in different targeted” strategy. If the quality problem is caused by the
linkage connections. a QCs related with one linkage, b QCs related with
parallel linkages excessive variation of some characteristics, it can be cor-
rected by adjusting the value back to the tolerance region.
If the quality problem is caused by design methods such as
Link_6} in Fig. 11. With the QCs-linkage matrix the inadequacy nominal value or unsuitable material etc, which
abnormal linkage is recognized as Link_4 and the abnormal is common in product development, an engineering change
characteristic is recognized as Cha_12. It is noted that: the is needed. Whatever is the condition, the key is to reduce
contribution of the target quality characteristic to the linkage or avoid the variation propagations in the QCs linkage net-
is 1.0, and 0 contribution is represented with null. work caused by the source characteristic correction. Thus
it is important to search all the possible propagation paths
and validate the characteristic in the propagation paths. The
Analyze and deal with quality problem based on
algorithm for searching the propagation paths is described as
QCs-linkage model
The linkages and characteristics causing quality problems
have been recognized and the next step is to correct these 1. Determine the maximum length of propagation, and
abnormal characteristics to solve the quality problems. Gen- generate the initial abnormal characteristic propagation
erally there are two typical strategies for characteristic cor- network (see Fig. 13a);
rection. They are denoted as the “source-targeted” strategy 2. Identify and mark the source characteristics;
and “non-source-targeted” strategy respectively in this paper 3. Recognize all the linkages between Column 1 and Col-
(shown in Fig. 12). The former is to deal with the abnormal umn 2, Column 2 and Column 3 step by step, and mark

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 247

Step 1: Remove the characteristics in the propagation

network which do not participate in any function flow;

Step 2: Recognize and pick up simple paths. If a prop-
agation path covers every characteristic only once, it
Cha_1 0.4 0.5 is called a simple path, such as A → B → C →
Cha_2 0.4 D → E. If a propagation path covers a characteris-
Cha_3 0.3 tic more than once, it is called a recycled path, such
Cha_4 0.5 as A → B → C → D → E → A → B. In the
practical process of dealing with quality problems, on
the one hand the expert will reduce the propagation
Cha_6 0.4 actively, and on the other hand, the propagation also
Cha_7 0.3 attenuates along the propagation path itself. According
Cha_8 0.2 to Cohen, the impact will get attenuation at a coefficient
Cha_9 0.4 0.4 of 0.9 even through a strong characteristics linkage
(Cohen et al. 2000). Only simple paths are consid-
Cha_10 0.2
ered and the recycled path is intercepted to a simple
Cha_11 path by removing the latter characteristics from the first
Cha_12 0.4 repeated characteristic. For example, the recycled path
A → B → C → D → E → A → B can be intercepted
to a simple path A → B → C → D → E.
Fig. 15 Characteristic DSM extended from the QCs-linkage matrix

5. Append additional linkage information in the propaga-

them with a directed arrow on the propagation network tion network and obtain the final propagation network
(Fig. 13b); as shown in Fig. 13c, where ω of the directed arrow rep-
4. Simplify the propagation network with the following resents the variation propagation probability among the
steps: related characteristics.

Fig. 16 Quality problem

prevention by component
clustering based on component
linkage degree and similarity

(a) (b)

Fig. 17 The a initial and b clustered component DSM

248 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

(a) (b)

Fig. 18 Relationship matrix between function flow and component, quality problem and component. a Relationship matrix between function flow
and component MFC , b relationship matrix between quality problem and component MPC

(a) (b)
Fig. 19 Different component clustering plans by fuzzy C-means clustering: C = 2 and C = 3. a Clustering based on similarity degree in joining
function flow, b clustering based on similarity degree in causing quality problem

The variation propagation probability ωij between qual-

ity characteristic Chai and Chaj can be calculated based on
linkage variation sensitiveness λ.
If Chai and Chaj are related with only one linkage (Fig.
14a), then
ωi j = λ, (2)
where λ is the linkage variation sensitiveness.
If Chai and Chaj are related with more than one linkage
in a parallel connection (Fig. 14b), then
λ1 + λ2
ωi j = , (3)
λ1 · λ2
where λ1 is the sensitivity of Link 1 , and λ2 is the sensitivity Fig. 20 The sketch of a single-cylinder reciprocating engine
of Link 2 .
characteristic. An algorithm based on the improved mouse
The “non-source-targeted” strategy is a complex one and
maze algorithm is introduced in this paper to find all the
is usually adopted in the following situations: 1. The variation
possible paths.
source characteristic is frozen or cannot be corrected; 2. The
cost of the source characteristic correction is high; 3. It is 1. Extend the characteristic linkage model to get charac-
difficult to predict the impact of the source characteristic teristic DSM (Fig. 15). The value in the cross joint is the
correction etc. The core of dealing with quality problems in propagation probability of the row characteristic and the
the “non-source-targeted” strategy is to find all the possible column characteristic and can be calculated by formulas
paths propagating from other characteristics to the source (2) and (3);

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 249

(a) (b)

Fig. 21 The simplified function structure model and component function flow matrix (CFFM) of the engine. a The simplified structure of single-
cylinder reciprocating engine, b component function flow matrix of the engine: CFFM

to the generated direction sequence. Go on with this

process until a path is obtained.
6. Recall the “Improved Mouse maze algorithm” to gener-
ate other paths until all the paths calculated in Step (4)
are obtained.

Firstly calculate the total number of propagation paths

based on matrix calculations, and then recognize the detailed
propagation paths based on the improved “Mouse maze algo-
rithm” (Tang 2005). The entire process is described in the
following steps:

Fig. 22 The analysis space of quality problem Prevent potential quality problems based on component

2. Calculate the adjacency matrix of the characteris- Besides the final solution of current quality problems, the
tic DSM, and standardize it to a Boolean one with prevention and filtration of similar quality problems are also
−λinterception; emphasized in QPCL with the term “closed loop”. To guar-
3. Calculate ML (i = 1, 2, 3, …, n, representing the total antee and improve the capacity of the “closed loop”, qual-
number of characteristic) with set calculation; ity problem preventions by component clustering based on
4. Calculate the transitive closure matrix MR with formula component linkage degree and similarity degree, as shown in
(1) (2) (n−1)
MR = ML + ML + · · · + ML , where MR repre- Fig. 16.
sents the propagation probability of the two character-
istics. Quality problem prevention based on linkage degree

The “mouse maze algorithm” is described as follows: Component linkage degree is defined as the amount of func-
Starting from the entrance of the maze, and walk in a ran- tion flows joined by both components. It is considered that
dom direction. If it succeeds, then walk on; if not, return the bigger the value, the higher the linkage degree.
along the initial path and walk in another direction until all The process of quality problem prevention based on the
the directions are tested. linkage degree is described as follows:

5. On the basis of the “mouse maze algorithm”, a random 1. Extend the component function flow matrix (CFFM) to
direction sequence N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, WN (north, obtain the component DSM;
north east, east, source east, south, south west, west, 2. Cluster the component DSM;
west north) is generated. When the current direction 3. Choose the cluster with the abnormal component as the
does not succeed, walk in the next direction according suspicious cluster;

250 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254



Fig. 23 The quality linkage model of the engine (local view). a Quality characteristic linkage network of engine (local view), b quality characteristic
linkage matrix of engine (local view)

4. Validate all the components in the suspicious cluster and considered here: the similarity in the joining function flows
ensure that no similar quality problems will occur. and the similarity in causing quality problems.
Suppose the quality problems set is P = {p1 , p2 , . . . , pr },
in which r is the total number of quality problems.
The target of the DSM clustering is to arrange the com- Suppose the function flows set is F = {f1 , f2 , . . . , fs }, in
ponents connected with each other tightly. There are several which s is the total number of the function flows.
approaches to achieve this goal, such as the matrix algorithm, Suppose the components set is C = {c1 , c2 , . . . , ct }, in
the objective programming and the genetic algorithm etc. The which t is the total number of the components.
matrix algorithm is a simple and low-efficiency method, and The relationship matrix between the function flow and
is adopted in the clustering of small size DSMs. If the size of the component is defined firstly. Set the relationship matrix
the component DSM is huge, a genetic algorithm is suggested between the function flow and the component as MFC =
to be adopted (Tang et al. 2008). {ωij }s×t , in which ωij represents whether or not the compo-
Take Fig. 9 for example, a component DSM is obtained nent j participates in the function flow i. The construction of
by extending the component function flow matrix (CFFM) ωij is shown as follows:
and is clustered with the matrix algorithm. The initial and 
clustered component DSMs are seen in Fig. 17. 1 component j joining the function flow i
ωi j =
There are three clusters in the clustered matrix: Clus- 0 component j not joining the function flow i
ter 1 {Comp_1, Comp _3, Comp _2}, Cluster 2 {Comp_3,  
Set S FC = M FC T ×M
FC = si j t×t , in which sij represents
Comp_2, Comp_5, Comp_4, Comp_6}, Cluster 3 {Comp_6, the number of function flows participated by both component
Comp_7, Comp_8, Comp_9, Comp_10}. If Comp_1 is i and component j. Then the component similarity degree
recognized as the abnormal component, then all the other matrix in the joining function flow is calculated with:
parts in the same cluster with Comp_1 (Comp_3 and    
Comp_2) are suspicious and should be validated carefully. S  FC = s  i j t×t = si j /sii t×t
in which s ij represents the similarity degree of component i
Quality problem prevention based on similarity degree and component j in the joining function flow.
In the following part the component similarity in caus-
Component similarity degree is the indicator of how similar ing quality problems is defined. Set the relationship matrix
the components are with each other. Two aspects should be between the quality problem and the component as

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 251

Fig. 24 Variation propagation

network by adjusting cylinder
diameter D

MCP = {λij }t × r, in which λij represents whether or plans can be obtained by selecting different cluster_n;
not the quality problem j is caused by the component i. Center: The cluster center matrix with cluster_n rows and
MCP = {λij }t×r is constructed as follows: m columns;
 U: The final cluster result matrix;
1 quality problem j caused by component i
ωi j = obj_fcn: The ending condition of the calculation
0 quality problem j not caused by component i
Set SC P = MC P × MCT P = si j t×t , in which sij
represents the number of quality problems caused by both Take Fig. 9 for example, the matrix MFC and MCP could
component i and component j. Then the component similar- be calculated according to the definitions above, as shown in
ity degree matrix in causing quality problems is calculated Fig. 18.
with Then S FC and S CP are calculated as follows:
S  C P = s  i j t×t = si j /sii t×t ⎡ ⎤
1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
in which s ij represents the similarity degree of component i ⎢0 1 0.5 0.5 0 0.5 0 0 0 0 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
⎢ 0.33 0.33 1 0.33 0.33 0 0 0 0 0 ⎥
and component j in causing quality problems. ⎢ ⎥
⎢0 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0 ⎥
Next, the component clustering based on the component ⎢ ⎥
⎢0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 ⎥
similarity can be completed with the fuzzy C-means clus- S  FC = ⎢

⎢ 0.5 0 0.5 0 1 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 ⎥

tering. Fuzzy C-means clustering is very popular in fuzzy ⎢0 0 0 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
clustering analysis, by which the entire clustering space can ⎢0 0 0 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
be grouped into C clusters. Every sample in the cluster ⎣0 0 0 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎦
belongs to the cluster with an affiliation value (Liang and 0 0 0 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1
Cao 2007). ⎡ ⎤
1 0 1 0 0 0 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5
The program of the fuzzy C-means clustering has been ⎢0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
developed in Matlab toolkit and can be recalled directly with ⎢ 0.4 0 1 0.6 0.6 0 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
⎢0 0.25 0.75 1 0.75 0.25 0 0 0 0 ⎥
the following format: ⎢ ⎥
⎢0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 ⎥
[center, U, ojb_fcn] = fcm(data, cluster_n), where 
S CP = ⎢ ⎢0

⎢ 0.33 0 0.33 0 1 0.67 0.67 0.67 0.67 ⎥

⎢ 0.25 0 0.25 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
data: Clustering space matrix R = [rij ]n×m ; ⎢ 0.25 0 0.25 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎥
⎢ ⎥
cluster_n: The number of clusters and the entire space ⎣ 0.25 0 0.25 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1 ⎦
are grouped into cluster_n clusters. Different clustering 0.25 0 0.25 0 0 0.5 1 1 1 1

252 J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254

(a) (b)

Fig. 25 Engine component DSM clustering. a The initial component DSM of engine, b the clustered component DSM of engine

S FC represents the component similarity degree in the Then the function structure model of the engine is con-
joining function flows. Two different clustering plans are structed, as shown in Fig. 21a. On the basis of the func-
obtained with the fuzzy C-means clustering in the condi- tion structure model, six function flows are intercepted and
tions of C=2 and C=3, as shown in Fig. 18. If Comp_1 is extracted and the component function flow matrix (CFFM) is
the abnormal component, then Comp_1, Comp_2, Comp_3, constructed with these 13 components and 6 function flows,
Comp_4 and Comp_5 should be validated according to Clus- as can be seen in Fig. 21b.
ter Plan 1; and Comp_1, Comp_3, Comp_5 should be vali- In the engine development a quality problem was encoun-
dated according to Cluster Plan 2. tered: the factual effective power of the engine was 90 kW
S CP represents the component similarity degree in caus- and could not satisfy the customer requirement (100 kW).
ing quality problems. Two different clustering plans are On the base of the quality problem database, the FunFlow_3
obtained with the fuzzy C-means clustering in the condi- and {Cylinder, Piston, Connection rod, Cylinder crankshaft}
tions of C = 2 and C = 3, as shown in Fig. 19. If Comp_1 is were identified as an abnormal function flow and an abnor-
the abnormal component, then {Comp_1, Comp_6, Comp_7, mal component. According to the steps in “3.2 Recognize
Comp_8, Comp_9, Comp_10} should be validated accord- abnormal component function flows causing quality prob-
ing to Cluster Plan 1 and Cluster Plan 2. lems”, the quality problem analysis space was determined as
illustrated in Fig. 22.
The key quality characteristics of the engine component
A case study in the analysis space were identified and the QCs-linkage
model including the QCs-linkage network and QCs-linkage
In this section, an internal combustion engine development is matrix, were constructed, as shown in Fig. 23.
introduced to demonstrate the application of the QCs-linkage A quality problem solution of adjusting the cylinder diam-
model based quality problem processing framework. The eter D was determined based on the QCs-linkage model.
engine is one of the important assemblies of a vehicle, which Cylinder diameter D was related with many other characteris-
translates the chemical energy to mechanical energy by air tics and a correction on D would cause variation of other char-
input, compression, power and output strokes and provides acteristics. To identify which characteristics were impacted
the power to drive the vehicle (Heywood 1988; Zhaocheng and how the impact was propagated, a propagation net-
2011). work was obtained with the “non-source-targeted” strategy in
Take a single-cylinder reciprocating engine for example. Fig. 24.
It is decomposed into cylinder head, cylinder block, piston, To prevent potential quality problems in similar contexts,
connecting rod, crankshaft, exhaust valve and intake valve etc the component clustering based on the linkage degree was
by Function Analysis System Technique, as shown in Fig. 20. adopted here. On the basis of the component function flow

J Intell Manuf (2015) 26:239–254 253

matrix (CFFM), a component DSM was built. By the matrix and computer aided tools integrated with QPCL should
algorithm the clustered component DSM was obtained in also be studied;
Fig. 25. According to the analysis result above, “Cylinder” 3. It is assumed in this paper that the relationship among
is diagnosed as the abnormal component causing the quality quality problems and the function flow is represented by a
problem. Thus it was suggested that all the components in matrix. How to recognize abnormal function flows will be
Cluster 1 {Piston, Connection rod, Cylinder crankshaft, Fly- further studied based on the quality problem case database
wheel, Cylinder} and Cluster 2 {Cylinder, Cylinder house, or the expert system
Cylinder header} be suspicious and validated carefully to
prevent potential problems. The QCs-linkage based quality problem processing frame-
work is creative in integrating QPCL with the quality problem
analysis method based on linkage network and matrix. QPCL
Conclusions provides a standard quality problem processing procedure
and the analysis method provides support for quality problem
Quality problem closed loop (QPCL) is a practical method diagnosis and handling, which make QPCL more effective
for quality problem analysis and handling raised in China and practical in practice. Additionally methods of potential
aerospace industry. To promote its application in practice, quality problems prevention based on linkage degree and
a QCs-linkage based framework is proposed in this paper. similarity degree are discussed, and by which, the “closed
The framework consists of five steps of component func- loop” capacity of QPCL is further strengthened. QCs-linkage
tion flow matrix construction, abnormal component function framework is helpful in improving the effect and efficiency
flows causing the quality problems identification, key qual- of QPCL in quality problem analysis and promoting its appli-
ity characteristics identification and QCs-linkage model con- cation in industrial practice.
struction, quality problem handling based on the QCs-linkage
model and quality problem prevention in similar contexts.. To Acknowledgments This research is funded by Natural Science Foun-
dation of China (No. 51175025) and National High-Tech. R&D
provide support for QCs relationships modelling, a concept
Program of China (No. 2009AA04Z165).
of “linkage” is introduced and based on which, a QCs-linkage
network and matrix are constructed. Additionally, some other
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