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How product family and product line relate ?

  • 1.  How product family and product line relate ?

    Posted 11-19-2019 03:25

    I am reading the book titled 'Product platform and product family design'.  It refers to terms such as Product platform strategy, product line strategy and product family maps.  As I read the PDMA glossary and compare to authors definition, I get confused about how the terms product family, product range and product line relate.  How would you relate the three terms and would you use different definition for any terms listed below.

    Here is what I put together to date:

    Putting a relationship between terms

    Thank you,

    Mario Sabourin
    Product Line Engineering Manager
    Alstom Transport S.A.
    Paris, France
    +33 (0) 6 98 58 78 86
    Personal email:

  • 2.  RE: How product family and product line relate ?

    Posted 11-20-2019 16:15

    Hi Mario,

    I think you touched base on an important point and  
    I will try to explain this using an example from home appliances industry

    Fabric Care Product Line -> this is the high level product line that contains products that are delivering the benefit of caring for the customer fabric and let's focus on care here so means everything from washers to dryers to washer dryer to twin tub ... etc.

    Frontload Washers Product Category -> this is all types of front load washing machines grouped Into a single category and this category is part of the fabric care product line. So we are speaking here for a category containing all different specs that fulfill the description of fronload washing machines.

    in some companies they group different categories together so for example some companies group frontload washers and washer dryers together and in some companies they keep them separated. It depends sometimes on the company's structure and sometimes the two categories are small separately in financial terms that they need to group it under one for efficiency and if the market itself is small for both, that's another reason for grouping the categories

    when we speak about product platform, it means products sharing the same platform, so forexample as mentioned in PDMABOK , Volkswagen and audi TT share the same platform (structure) but they are sold as two completely different products with different segments and different customers

    I think the definitions that are presented in this book are not wrong but they are defining these terms in a different way and I believe it is not wrong to define these terms differently even among industries, if you keep one hierarchy same in your business.

    I hope this helps


    Seif Abdelghany
    Local Category Manager
    Electrolux Major Appliance
    10th of Ramadan

  • 3.  RE: How product family and product line relate ?

    Posted 11-25-2019 06:02
    Hi Mario,

    I think Seif covers it very well, as does your own pyramid/hierarchy. I often hear Product Category, Product Range, Product Family and Product Line being used interchangeably. I would probably lump Category into being more market-related and and Family, Range and Line being more specific to an organisation. And I agree with Seif's point that the main thing is about being consistent within your organisation and industry.

    Just to add to it (and hopefully not confuse), here's a list of some other terms that come up a lot in Product Management:

    • Customer Need: Something the customer requires either to solve a problem or create a benefit. It can be known or unknown to the customer. Finding unknown / unarticulated and unmet needs is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself in the market. In Osterwalder's Value Proposition Canvas, the value proposition of products should either be "pain relievers" or "gain creators" for the customer.
    • Portfolio: The full range of products on offer from an organisation or defined organisational scope (e.g. a business unit). For example, the portfolio of AWS would be a subset of the portfolio of Amazon.
    • SKU: Stock-Keeping Unit - a code and related description that describes an exact variant of a product or sub-set of a product 

    Anyone else got terms they come across a lot in their product-related activity?


    Brian Martin