A New Tool for your Product Family Matrix

The elimination of waste in a Lean Journey is often stagnated when manufacturing is organized in a “functional” layout.  By having equipment and operations organized into similar functions, improvement often plateaus.  The personnel working in a functional area are often isolated or at least disconnected from other up- and down-stream operations.  For this reason, they naturally focus their improvement efforts to their respective areas.  But this ultimately limits the significant improvements possible in a value stream.

The formation of focused teams and work cells creates a paradigm shift of improvement.  Reorganizing into cellular, product family focused teams enables:

  • Reduced defects and scrap
  • Reduced process variation
  • Reduced transportation
  • Reduced batch sizes and overproduction
  • Creating true continuous, single-piece flow
  • Reduced inventory
  • Improved throughput

Using a product family matrix is a widely accepted approach to determining the best groups of products and machines.  However, when companies have hundreds, or even thousands of part numbers or assembly combinations, it can be extremely challenging to figure out how to group people into focused teams based on product families.

Industrial engineers from universities around the world have struggled for decades with the challenge of how to create “optimal” product families and have thus created multitudes of different algorithms to “solve” this eternal problem.  Meanwhile, Lean practitioners have often approached this problem from more real-world approaches.  From my exposure to these efforts, I have yet to see companies on a Lean journey apply or even be knowledgeable of these “optimizing” algorithms that are available to assist in this process.  Why would you ask a Lean-minded manufacturing supervisor to load up a mathematical model using fancy computational algorithms to figure out how to group their employees into focused teams?

Product Family Studio™ now gives the every-day practitioner or supervisor a practical tool developed on top of an academically proven algorithm to take the pain out of forming Product Families, even for very large numbers of products.   This software application allows the practitioner to creatively manage a product family matrix combined with his/her subjective judgment to come to solutions that work.

So please take a look and let us know what you think!