Process capability analysis

What is it?

Capability analysis is a set of calculations used to assess whether a system is statistically able to meet a set of specifications or requirements. To complete the calculations, a set of data is required, usually generated by a control chart; however, data can be collected specifically for this purpose.

Specifications or requirements are the numerical values within which the system is expected to operate, that is, the minimum and maximum acceptable values. Occasionally there is only one limit, a maximum or minimum. Customers, engineers, or managers usually set specifications. Specifications are numerical requirements, goals, aims, or standards. It is important to remember that specifications are not the same as control limits. Control limits generated by control charts and are based on the data. Specifications are the numerical requirements of the system.

All methods of capability analysis require that the data is statistically stable, with no special causes of variation present. A control chart should be completed to assess whether the data is statistically stable. If a system is stable, capability analysis not only shows the ability of the system in the past, but also, if the system remains stable, predicts the future performance of the system.

Capability analysis is summarized in indices; these indices show a system’s ability to meet its numerical requirements. They can be monitored and reported over time to show how a system is changing. The main indices used are Cp and Cpk. The indices are easy to interpret; for example, a Cpk of more than one indicates that the system is producing within the specifications or requirements. If the Cpk is less than one, the system is producing data outside the specifications or requirements.

Why is it important?

Capability analysis is an excellent tool to demonstrate the extent of an improvement made to a process. It can summarize a great deal of information simply, showing the capability of a process, the extent of improvement needed, and later, the extent of the improvement achieved.

Capability indices help to change the focus from only meeting requirements to continuous improvement of the process. Traditionally, the focus has been to reduce the proportion of product or service that does not meet specifications, using measures such as percentage of nonconforming product.

Capability indices help to reduce the variation relative to the specifications or requirements, achieving increasingly higher Cp and Cpk values.

How can PQ help?

PQ provides training in the use of capability analysis and software to accurately assess process stability and perform capability analysis.