Product-Process Matrix

The product-process matrix was introduced in two articles published in the Harvard Business Review in 1979. Developed by Robert H. Hayes and Steven C. Wheelwright, the matrix assesses the relationship between:

  • The stages of the product life cycle (from ideation to growth or decline), and
  • The stages of the process (technological) life cycle.
Product-Process MatrixDescriptionAnalysisImplicationsExamples
Project LayoutLow volume, high variety: Unique, custom-made products.Each product is individually crafted, resulting in high customization and variety.High flexibility, longer production times, and skilled labor are necessary.Custom-built luxury yachts, one-of-a-kind art pieces.
Workcenter LayoutLow volume, low variety: Low volume of standardized products.Products are made in batches, but each batch consists of similar items.Moderate flexibility, efficient for small-scale production.Bakery producing various types of bread, small machine shops.
Manufacturing CellMedium volume, low variety: Moderate volume of similar products.Products are made in batches, but each batch consists of similar items.Balanced flexibility and efficiency, suitable for medium-scale production.Car assembly line producing various car models, apparel factories.
Assembly Line LayoutHigh volume, low variety: High volume of standardized products.Mass production with high volume and minimal customization.High efficiency, low unit costs, limited flexibility.Fast-food chain producing a standard menu, automotive plants.
Continuous ProcessHigh volume, very low variety: Continuous production of identical products.Ongoing, uninterrupted production of a single, standardized product.Maximum efficiency, lowest unit costs, minimal flexibility.Oil refineries, chemical plants, paper mills.

Understanding the product-process matrix

The product-process matrix (PPM) is a tool for assessing the relationship between the product and process lifecycle. 

Businesses use the product-process matrix to understand better various strategic options related to their manufacturing operations.

By incorporating knowledge of the interaction between the product and process life cycle into strategic planning, the business can think creatively to improve organizational competence and establish a competitive advantage.

The PPM matrix can also involve manufacturing staff in opportunities, decisions, and continuous improvement initiatives where they would otherwise not be consulted.

To that end, the matrix can serve as a precursor to a root cause analysis and can also be used to identify process bottlenecks. 

The structure of the product-process matrix

The product-process matrix contains sixteen cells with two dimensions:

  • Product structure/product life cycle – which occupies the four columns of the matrix, and
  • Process structure/process life cycle – occupies the matrix’s four rows. 

Product development process columns

Each of the four columns denotes a product as it moves across different manufacturing phases:

  1. Low volume, one-of-a-kind (unique) products with low standardization. 
  2. Low volume, multiple products that are not one-of-a-kind.
  3. Higher volume standardized products, and
  4. Very high volume commodity products.

Process lifecycle rows

Each of the four rows, on the other hand, describes various processes:

  1. Jumbled flow.
  2. Disconnected line flow.
  3. Connected line flow, and
  4. Continuous flow.

The four distinct stages of the product-process matrix

The region a business occupies in the matrix is determined by its stage in the product life cycle and its choice of the production process.

Imagine that a diagonal line is drawn from the top left cell to the bottom right cell of the PPM.

According to Hayes and Wheelwright, this line is where most organizations reside since product and process choices naturally align.

Four stages fall along the diagonal line, and each has a set of unique characteristics.

In the first stage at the top left of the matrix, production is not standardized and is thus more expensive.

By the fourth stage of the matrix, however, production has become standardized, mechanized, automated, and thus more cost-effective.

To better understand this evolution, we will describe each of the four stages below.

1 – Job shop 

In the first stage, organizations manufacture different products in small quantities.

The unique nature of products necessitates customization, direct interaction with the customer, and skilled expertise or craftsmanship.

This production process favors creativity and flexibility over repetition and efficiency.

It may also be time-consuming if certain raw materials or skills are unavailable.

Medical practices, mechanics, and artisanal producers are good examples of job shops since the product is customized and frequently requires different operations.

2 – Batch

Batch processes can produce more products than a job shop, but the volume per product has not quite reached a level that justifies the purchase of dedicated equipment. 

Products that are batch produced are sometimes accumulated until a sizeable amount can be processed simultaneously.

The flow of work also tends to be smoother since many processes can be repeated as often as necessary.

However, the work-in-process still moves around the facility in a somewhat jumbled fashion known as disconnected or intermittent flow.

Examples include offices that process orders in batches and some operations within hospitals.

3 – Assembly line

The assembly line stage caters to high product demand and, along with the fourth stage below, is a form of mass production.

Workers perform the same operations for each production run, and all outputs are mostly the same. 

The assembly line may be characterized by automation, specialized or robotic equipment, and conveyor belts connecting the various plant infrastructure pieces.

With fixed inputs and outputs, constant throughput time, and a relatively continuous flow of work, managers have a wider span of control since fewer workers are required.

While standardization increases process efficiency and makes it easier to manage, there is almost zero variety or flexibility in the goods produced.

4 – Continuous

The continuous stage is characterized by a very high volume of commodity products and high standardization, which can be a competitive advantage.

Items tend to move from one part of the process to the next with little human intervention.

Since continuous processes are capital intensive, product demand must be matched.

Starting or stopping the process can also be expensive – sometimes prohibitively so.

To spread out the cost of operations and benefit from economies of scale, most businesses run operations 24/7.

Examples of industries utilizing this process include chemicals, electricity, petroleum, paper, and timber.

Continuous processes are also prevalent in commoditized food products such as milk, wheat, flour, and sugar.

Key takeaways

  • The product-process matrix (PPM) is a tool for assessing the relationship between the product and process lifecycle. 
  • The product-process matrix contains sixteen cells, with manufacturing phases of the product lifecycle occupying the four columns and various processes in the process lifecycle occupying the four rows.
  • Most organizations reside on a diagonal line in the PPM matrix since product and process choices tend to align with one another. Along this line are four stages which explain how a production process evolves to become more automated, more standardised, and less flexible.

Key Highlights

  • Purpose of the Matrix: The Product-Process Matrix helps organizations better understand their manufacturing operations’ strategic options by considering the alignment between the product and process life cycles.
  • Strategic Planning and Competitive Advantage: Incorporating knowledge of how product and process life cycles interact can lead to improved organizational competence and the establishment of a competitive advantage.
  • Involvement of Manufacturing Staff: The matrix can involve manufacturing staff in decision-making and continuous improvement initiatives that they might not otherwise be part of.
  • Root Cause Analysis and Bottleneck Identification: The matrix can serve as a precursor to root cause analysis and help identify process bottlenecks.
  • Matrix Structure: The matrix consists of sixteen cells categorized into four columns representing the stages of the product life cycle and four rows representing the stages of the process life cycle.
  • Product Development Process Columns: The columns represent different manufacturing phases, from low volume, one-of-a-kind products to very high volume commodity products.
  • Process Lifecycle Rows: The rows describe different types of processes, including jumbled flow, disconnected line flow, connected line flow, and continuous flow.
  • Four Stages of the Matrix: There are four stages that fall along the diagonal line drawn across the matrix, each with its unique characteristics:
    • Job Shop: Customized, low-volume products requiring craftsmanship and customer interaction.
    • Batch: Batch-produced products with somewhat smoother flow compared to job shops.
    • Assembly Line: High product demand with standardized, automated processes and less variety in products.
    • Continuous: Very high volume, highly standardized products with continuous, automated processes.
  • Evolution of Production Processes: As businesses progress along the diagonal line of the matrix, their production processes become more automated, standardized, and efficient.

Related Business Matrices

SFA Matrix

The SFA matrix is a framework that helps businesses evaluate strategic options. Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes created the SFA matrix to help businesses evaluate their strategic options before committing. Evaluation of strategic opportunities is performed by considering three criteria that make up the SFA acronym: suitability, feasibility, and acceptability.

Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix

The Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix is a strategy deployment tool that helps businesses achieve goals over the short and long term. Hoshin Kanri is a method that seeks to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Strategic objectives are clearly defined and the goals of every level of the organization are aligned. With everyone moving in the same direction, process coordination and decision-making ability are strengthened.

Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

Action Priority Matrix

An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

GE McKinsey Matrix

The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.

BCG Matrix

In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Ansoff Matrix

You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

Kraljic Matrix

The Kraljic matrix is a framework that analyzes and classifies a company’s supplier base. Kraljic’s matrix is used by purchasers to maximize supply security/minimize supply risk and reduce costs. In so doing, it encourages them to see procurement as a strategic activity and not one that is simply transactional. The Kraljic matrix is divided into four quadrants based on varying degrees of supply risk and profit impact. Each quadrant defines a type of supply item and a strategy that reduces risk and cost. The quadrants encompass leverage items, bottleneck items, non-critical items, and strategic items.

Product-Process Matrix

The product-process matrix was introduced in two articles published in the Harvard Business Review in 1979. Developed by Robert H. Hayes and Steven C. Wheelwright, the matrix assesses the relationship between The stages of the product life cycle (from ideation to growth or decline) and The stages of the process (technological) life cycle.

Mendelow Stakeholder Matrix

The Mendelow stakeholder matrix is a framework used to analyze stakeholder attitudes and expectations and their potential impact on business decisions.

Requirements Traceability Matrix

A requirements traceability matrix (RTM) is a vital part of the lifecycle of any embedded system, helping organizations ensure their products are safe and meet intended standards. While the matrix has long been associated with medicine, technology, and engineering, the approach works well for any project regardless of industry. A requirements traceability matrix is a tool used to identify and maintain the status of project requirements and deliverables.

Value/Effort Matrix

The value/effort matrix is a feature prioritization model used to build effective product roadmaps. The value/effort matrix allows product managers to prioritize their product backlog using a confident, structured approach. The product team learns how to plan an effective roadmap, identify boundaries of work, and differentiate between needs and wants.

Decision Matrix

A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. Decision matrices are useful when: A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice. A decision must be made based on several criteria. A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.

Cash Flow Statement Matrix


Grand Strategy Matrix

The grand strategy matrix was created by American business theorist Paul Joseph DiMaggio in 1980. The matrix, which first appeared in the Strategic Management Journal, was initially used as a strategic option tool for managers.  The grand strategy matrix helps organizations develop feasible alternative strategies based on their competitive position and the growth of their industry.

8 Dimensions of Quality

The 8 dimensions of quality are used at a strategic level to analyze the product or service quality characteristics. They were first described by Harvard Business School Professor David A. Garvin in 1987. Instead of defensive measures to pre-empt quality control, Garvin proposed that American companies take a more aggressive stance where quality itself would be the basis of product differentiation and a competitive strategy to secure market share.

Product-Process Matrix

The product-process matrix was introduced in two articles published in the Harvard Business Review in 1979. Developed by Robert H. Hayes and Steven C. Wheelwright, the matrix assesses the relationship between: The stages of the product life cycle (from ideation to growth or decline), and The stages of the process (technological) life cycle.

Premium Pricing Strategy

The premium pricing strategy involves a company setting a price for its products that exceeds similar products offered by competitors.

Fast Follower Strategy

A fast follower is an organization that waits for a competitor to successfully innovate before imitating it with a similar product.

Brand Marketing

Brand marketing describes the process of an organization building a relationship between its brand and customers from the target audience. Instead of marketing the features of a particular product or service, brand marketing promotes the whole brand by mentioning how those products and services support the brand’s promise.

Promotional Channels

Promotional channels, sometimes referred to as marketing channels, are used by an organization to advertise its products and services and communicate with the target audience. News coverage is one of the most difficult promotional channels to secure, but it is also one of the most valuable. Editors are bombarded with pitches daily, so the brand needs a compelling and ideally topical story to tell. Other promotional channels include guest posting, influencer outreach, advertorial, and native LinkedIn feed advertising.

Read Also: RAPID FrameworkRACI Matrix3×3 Sales MatrixValue/effort MatrixSFA matrixValue/Risk MatrixReframing MatrixKepner-Tregoe Matrix.

Read Next: Root Cause Analysis5 Whys.

About The Author

Scroll to Top