Date: Thursday, March 3rd, 2022
Time: 11:30-1:00 CST
Location: Zoom

Product Family Matrix

Hello, Lean Implementers!!!

I hope you’ve had a productive month with lots of Lean Wins. Today I’d like to change gears away from high level strategy to the tactics of a Lean Transformation.

A Lean Transformation is more than a collection of Kaizen Events, although you will definitely have some. It’s also more than just moving waste from one operation at the expense of another. A Lean Transformation starts with a vision of the ideal value stream and is a strategic method with the goal of creating flow throughout the value stream at the pull of the customer. The first step of a Lean Transformation…even before a Value Stream Map…is to identify your product families.

Product Family Matrix

A Product Family Matrix (PFM) is simply a tool to categorize your end items into families based on processing steps. It’s not necessarily the models you sell, nor is it just similarly designed products. A Product Family is a group of products that have similar processing steps and work contents, typically evaluated downstream of the pacemaker.

The PFM is created in 4 steps: Outline, Population, Work Times, and Families.

Outline: The outline is simply a matrix with all products down the left side of a spreadsheet and all the processes across the top. This will form the foundation of the PFM, and should include all operations, alternate routings, sub-assemblies and end items.

Population: This step is where the matrix is populated with the operations for each part. For example, if part XYZ goes through the steps Lathe, Mill, and Deburr, you would place an “X” under those operations for that part. Populate all parts with their main routings (including both standard routings and tribal knowledge) and identify any alternate operations with an “A.”

Work Times: Fill in the work content times for all operating steps. This will help to identify wide variations in the work contents of parts that could otherwise be in the same families.

Families: Finally, group the parts according to the processing steps they share with other parts. If the PFM is relatively small, a simple visual sorting can work. If it’s too big, you will have to utilize some automation tools to identify families.

One the PFM is completed, individual Product Families will reveal themselves. While somewhat laborious, developing the PFM is a critical step at the beginning of a Lean Transformation to ensure we are working on the right things. Properly selected Product Families will help to remove some roadblocks to flow when we get to the Layout stage of the Lean Transformation. If the PFM is not done correctly, or not at all, you can very easily have barriers to flow and know even know where they come from.

Next time, we will build on the PFM by selecting the Pilot Product Family to work on and creating Current State, Future State, and Ideal State Value Stream Maps. Until then…Stay Lean!!!

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