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Product Process Matrix

March 16, 2022 Edwin Kooistra

Introduced in 1979 in two articles published in the Harvard Business Review, the product-process matrix is a tool that analyzes the relationship between the technology lifecycle and the product lifecycle. Today we shall explore the different stages of the product-process matrix and its use in the practical industry.

What is the Product Process Matrix (Definition)?

What-is-the-Product-Process-Matrix-Definition

The product-process matrix combines the product lifecycle, which includes all steps of the product development process from the initial idea to its development or decline, with the technological or process lifecycle. This visualizes the progression towards a more practical and valuable production framework.

The product process spectrum or the product-process matrix is a visual representation to recognize and develop the connection between process steps and the product. This can have applications as a forerunner to a value stream analysis, bottleneck identification, and even a root cause analysis. This tool is also known as the Product Family Grid.

What Does the Product Process Matrix Tell us?

A product process matrix establishes the relationship between different products and services and the steps involved in their manufacturing or delivery.

Businesses and strategic managers can use this relationship tool to analyze whether the process approach that a company is using is suitable for its life cycle or not. This tool helps understand how specific production processes are better suited to different production volumes than others.

This, of course, translates as a more straightforward method or summary to identify the proper production process that you should employ, whether in the service or product industry. But the appropriate production process means the one that is more appropriate to the volume being delivered in the form of service or a manufacturing item and how well the firm can withhold the integrity of the process stage.

4 Stages of Product Process Matrix

  1. Job shop
  2. Batch
  3. Assembly line
  4. Continuous

The image above displays that a product-process matrix has four distinct stages. To develop a comprehensive understanding of this matrix and its applications, let’s understand each of these stages.

1. Job Shop

A job shop is where products that are unique and usually designed as per strict customer specifications are made. The products made here require high levels of skills and precision, and therefore, manufacturers, as well as service providers following this model, ask for higher compensation.

Usually, in a business that follows a job shop model, specified individuals are placed on the product, and efficiency is not prioritized. The reason for this is that different products require different times and scales, and therefore the gap between two other products or deliverables is not exact or constant.

2. Batch

Then comes the batch stage. The material flow in batch production is in line, but it is disconnected due to specific differentiation in different batches. Businesses that follow this product process structure are involved in making similar products that require low volumes.

Since the quantity of the products going through the batch process is higher, process owners can align specific strategies with repetition. Within the process, they can achieve a certain degree of efficiency.

3. Assembly Line

When the demand for a specific standardized product or service is high enough, firms can move towards an assembly line setup. The streamlined line setup follows a connected line flow that produces large volumes of standardized products as per customer demand.

Due to the standardization factor and streamlined process flow, efficiency can not only be achieved but it is also measured as a key performance indicator in assembly line setups. Business and service providers operating using the assembly line set up usually depend heavily on technology and automation of different processes.

4. Continuous

And lastly, we have the continuous form of product process alignment. A constant flow process structure is deployed by efficient manufacturing concerns where a commodity product is produced in a very high volume.

The product or service delivered through this process is standardized but is only feasible when the manufacturing concern has achieved a certain level of skill and expertise in its production. The successive stage of evolution in this product process framework is the ultimate level of sophistication for automation and efficiency.

Example of a Product Process Matrix in Action

We shall now look at different examples of products and services and how they fall in the product-process matrix.

Law and medical clinics services are the best examples of job shops. The service provided is not only customized but also requires excellent attention to detail, along with only specific individuals being skilled enough to handle it. No two deliverables are alike, and the human factor plays a significant role.

ERP solution providers are another relevant example of job shop placement in the product-process matrix. They build customized solutions for different businesses and firms according to their needs. Within the SaaS (Software as a Service) industry, some projects might be completed in a matter of weeks, while others sometimes take up to a year.

Moving on to an example of batch production, it can be understood with the standard of a print shop where different cards and envelopes are produced with customizations in smaller batches. When talking about assembly lines, car production, and manufacturing or even fast-food chain restaurants, are the best examples of where the product is standardized and produced in high volumes.

As an example of the continuous stage in the product process framework, we can look at the petroleum or the gas industry. Where stopping the process costs an enormous amount of financial loss, not only that the process is fully automated with very little to no human intervention. Labor is only used in a supervisory role to monitor the process.

Once you have your product developed you can move to the next stages:

  1. Product launch
  2. Go to market strategy
  3. Hire a product marketing agency

A product-process matrix is a visual tool that helps manufacturers and even service concerns alike to help determine the right product process match for their operations.

At times academia and industry experts argue on the current application of this framework. Still, we need to realize that this is the fundamental relationship between product and process. And with the evolution of product/service delivery and advancement in technology and needs, we can take on specific derivations from this matrix for practical applications.

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Edwin Kooistra - Product Marketer & Founder

Technology can be a huge differentiator but leveraging emerging technologies can be challenging. After my degree in Business Information Technology I decided to work on the provider side of Technology, because I believe Technology providers play an important role in guiding enterprises on their digital journey. Besides helping tech businesses to optimize their growth and go-to-market strategies, I also like to write about the topic. I hope you find it useful!

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