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What is it?

A p-chart is an attributes control chart used with data collected in subgroups of varying sizes. Because the subgroup size can vary, it shows a proportion on nonconforming items rather than the actual count. P-charts show how the process changes over time. The process attribute (or characteristic) is always described in a yes/no, pass/fail, go/no go form. For example, use a p-chart to plot the proportion of incomplete insurance claim forms received weekly. The subgroup would vary, depending on the total number of claims each week. P-charts are used to determine if the process is stable and predictable, as well as to monitor the effects of process improvement theories. P-charts can be created using software programs like SQCpack.

What does it look like?

The p-chart shows the proportion of nonconforming units in subgroups of varying sizes.

p control chart

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When is it used?

Use p-charts when you can answer yes to these questions:

  1. Do you need to assess system stability?

  2. Is the data a count of nonconforming items per subgroup?

  3. Can the counts be converted to proportions?

  4. Are there only two outcomes to any given check?

  5. Is the time order of subgroups preserved?

Getting the most

Collect as many subgroups as possible before calculating control limits. With smaller amounts of data, the p-chart may not represent variability of the entire system. The more subgroups you use in control limit calculations, the more reliable the analysis will be. Typically, 20 to 25 subgroups will be used in control limit calculations.

P-charts have several applications. When you begin improving a system, use them to assess the system’s stability .

After the stability has been assessed, determine if you need to stratify the data. You may find entirely different results between shifts, among workers, among different machines, among lots of materials, etc. To see if variability on the p-chart is caused by these factors, collect and enter data in a way that lets you stratify by time, location, symptom, operator, and lots.

You can also use p-charts to analyze the results of process improvements. Here you would consider how the process is running and compare it to how it ran in the past. Are there fewer nonconforming units?

Finally, use p-charts for standardization. This means you should continue collecting and analyzing data throughout the process operation. If you made changes to the system and stopped collecting data, you would have only perception and opinion to tell you whether the changes actually improved the system. Without a control chart, there is no way to know if the process has changed or to identify sources of process variability.