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About Product Process Matrix

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Essay title: About Product Process Matrix


The product-process matrix is a tool for analyzing the relationship between the product life cycle and the technological life cycle. It was introduced by Robert H. Hayes and Steven C. Wheelwright in two classic management articles published in Harvard Business Review in 1979, entitled "Link Manufacturing Process and Product Life Cycles" and "The Dynamics of Process-Product Life Cycles." The authors used this matrix to examine market-manufacturing congruence issues and to facilitate the understanding of the strategic options available to a company. The matrix itself consists of two dimensions, product structure/product life cycle and process structure/process life cycle. The production process used to manufacture a product moves through a series of stages, much like the stages of products and markets, which begins with a highly flexible, high-cost process and progresses toward increasing standardization, mechanization, and automation, culminating in an inflexible but cost-effective process. The process structure/process life cycle dimension describes the process choice (job shop, batch, assembly line, and continuous flow) and process structure (jumbled flow, disconnected line flow, connected line flow and continuous flow) while the product structure/product life cycle describes the four stages of the product life cycle (low volume to high volume) and product structure (low to high standardization). Later writers on the subject sometimes insert an additional stage in the extreme upper-left corner of the matrix: the project.

A company can be characterized as occupying a particular region on the matrix (see accompanying Figure). This region is determined by the firm's stage in the product life cycle and the firm's choice of production process. At the upper left extreme, firms are characterized as process oriented or focused while the lower right extreme holds firms that are said to be product focused. The decision of where a firm locates on the matrix is determined by whether the production system is organized by grouping resources around the process or the product. Note from the figure that the vertices of the matrix result in four distinct types of operations (described by the appropriate process choice) located on the diagonal of the matrix.



Projects are briefly included in the discussion since they are sometimes found at the extreme upper-left corner of the matrix (depending on the author). These include large-scale, one-time, unique products such as civil-engineering contracts, aerospace programs, construction, etc. They are also customer-specific and often too large to be moved, which practically dictates that project is the process of choice.


If a manufacturer had broken a large cog on an outdated (i.e., replacement parts are no longer available) but still useful machine, she would take the

Product-Process Matrix

Process structure Process life cycle stage

↓ Product structure Product life cycle stage

в†’ Low volume Unique (one of a kind) Low volume Multiple Products Higher volume Standardized product Very high volume Commodity product


Jumbled flow (job shop) Job shop

Disconnected line flow (batch) Batch

Connected line flow (assembly line) Assembly line

Continuous flow (continuous) Continuous

broken cog to a machine shop where they would manufacture a new one from scratch. This machine shop (along with tool and die manufacturers) is probably the primary example of manufacturing job shops. A job shop is the producer of unique products; usually this product is of an individual nature and requires that the job shop interpret the customer's design and specifications, which requires a relatively high level of skill and experience. Once the design is specified, one or a small number of skilled employees are assigned to the task and are frequently responsible for deciding how best to carry it out. Generally, resources for processing have limited availability with temporary in-process storage capability needed while jobs wait for subsequent processing. If the product is not a one-time requirement, it is at least characterized by irregular demand with long periods of time between orders. Efficiency is difficult since every output must be treated differently.

In a job shop, the outputs differ significantly in form, structure, materials

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