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Cpk

A Guide to Using Cpk


a Process Capability Index

_
_
Cpk = Min [ USL X, X LSL ]
3s
3s
Specification Width
Process Spread

LSL

USL

The following information is provided by the


Technology Issues Committee of AMT
The Association For Manufacturing Technology
to assist in the use and understanding of the
Process Capability Index Cpk.

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11/02-PS150

A Guide to Using Cpk


a Process Capability Index

Introduction
The purpose of this guide is twofold. The first is to provide
information on the process capability index Cpk. The second is
to list various actions that can be taken or parameters checked
in order to reduce process variation.
The idea of comparing the specification of a part parameter to
the measured variation or distribution of the process producing
the parameter has been with us for many years. It has only
been in recent years that the comparison has been given a formal name and a means of calculation.
All authors and analysts writing on Cpk hasten to point out that
the index is a statistic based on measurements and, like all such
statistics, has an associated degree of uncertainty. However,
most practitioners consider Cpk to be a fixed number without
regard to the nature of the data that produced it. We will point
out the uncertainty involved in any statement of Cpk.
This guide assumes the reader has knowledge of control charts
and methods for calculating standard deviations. A good reference is the NIST/SEMATECH Handbook of Statistical Methods.
The complete Handbook is on the Internet and may be accessed
at www.itl.nist.gov/div898/handbook.

What is Cpk?
Cpk is a Process Capability Index. The term index is used
because the value is a comparison or ratio. It is the ratio of the

workpiece specification or tolerance (allowed variation) compared to the process variation (produced variation) expressed in
terms of 3 standard deviations. When standard deviation is
used in a calculation, the assumption is that the underlying
measurements form a normal distribution.
Therefore, in the case of calculating Cpk, all known assignable
causes for variation in the process should be minimized before
measurements are taken that will be used in the final calculation. In other words, the process should be stable and in statistical control.
Some processes may use a positive stop or an in-process gage
to produce part size. In those cases, the size distribution may
not be normal, and the calculations described here will not be
valid. Other sources should be consulted on how to deal with
skewed distributions.
In other cases, the specification is not bimodal nor is it given as
a range. Examples might be hardness at least or surface
finish not to exceed . In those situations a Cpk cannot be calculated since the part specification is not stated as a range. Of
course, the standard deviation for the process output can still be
calculated, and an estimate made about the probability of staying within the specification. But this is not a comparison such
as Cpk.
The importance of sample size in acquiring data cannot be over
emphasized. As we shall see, the calculated value of Cpk
depends on what is technically termed an estimate of the
standard deviation. The larger the sample size, the more accurate is the estimate.

Calculating Cpk
Once data on the process has been gathered and analyzed, and
the standard deviation calculated, a comparison to the products
specification can be made. This simple comparison yields the
process potential Cp. In some cases, the mean of the process is
at the center of the products specification limit as shown in
Figure 1. The term Cp assumes centering and should be equal
to or greater than 1.
Cp =

Specification
Width USL LSL
Specificat
ion Width
=
Process
6s
Pr ocess Spread
Spread

USL is the upper specification limit


LSL is the lower specification limit
X is the process mean

Note: The symbol is used for standard deviation when very


large samples are used that accurately represent the total population. In most cases, it is not feasible to use large samples,
and the resultant standard deviation is represented by s.

However, in most cases, the process will not be centered on the


specification as shown in Figure 2. The actual process capability Cpk then becomes

Cpk =

X Nearest Specificat
ion Limit
Specification
X
3s

This is usually stated as


Cpk = Min [

USL X
,
3s

X LSL
]
3s

FIG. 2

In Figure 2, the nearest specification limit is USL. An


inspection of Figure 2 will show that the first step in increasing
Cpk should be to take action to align the center of the process
spread with the center of the specification spread. This
assumes that the two spreads are close to equal, or the process
spread is actually less than the specification spread.

Of course, if the process spread greatly exceeds the specification spread, steps must be taken to reduce the process spread.
In Figure 2, Cpk would be about 0.5. However, if the process
spread were aligned with the specification, Cpk would be about
1.0.

Putting Cpk in Perspective


For the sake of simplicity, lets assume that the process is centered on the product specification. How many defective parts
per million (parts out of tolerance) would we expect for different values of Cpk? Table 1 lists some values:
Table 1: Expected number of defective parts
for values of Cpk
Cpk
1.00
1.10
1.20
1.30
1.40
1.50
1.60
1.70
1.80
2.00

Parts per million defective


2,700.0
967.0
318.0
96.0
26.0
6.8
1.6
0.34
0.06
0.0018

It should be noted that a Cpk of 2 equates to roughly two parts


per billion defective! Such a number highlights the significance of sample size and the related issue of uncertainty associated with the actual value of Cpk.

Suppose we would like to start with a 90% confidence level


that a calculated value of Cpk based on measured data is equal
to or greater than a specified value. What value would we have
to see based on various sample sizes? Table 2 provides some
examples:
Table 2: Required Test Cpk Values for 90% Confidence
in Specified Value
Specified Value for Cpk
Sample
Size
200
100
50
30
10

1.00

1.30

1.50

1.70

2.00

1.08
1.11
1.17
1.24
1.50

1.40
1.44
1.51
1.60
1.93

1.61
1.66
1.74
1.84
2.22

1.82
1.88
1.97
2.07
2.52

2.14
2.21
2.31
2.45
2.95

Most experts agree that the sample size should be at least 30.
For derivation of how to calculate the values in Tables 1 and 2
above, see the referenced NIST/SEMATECH Handbook (noted
on page 1), section 7.1.4.

Things to Remember About Cpk


 Cpk is used to provide some expectation about the future
capability of a process. However, the number calculated
is based on a snapshot of the process at only one point
in time. The calculated Cpk is only an estimate of how
the process might be expected to perform.
 The confidence level we can assign to the calculated
value is a function of sample size.

We should not lose sight of the fact that establishing process


capability gives us a benchmark for improvement. Continuous
improvement is the ultimate goal of making the measurements.

Factors to Consider in Improving Cpk


Measurement
The key element in establishing Cpk with a customer is reaching agreement on the measurement method and gauges to be
used. The condition of the measurement equipment, and gauge
reproducibility and repeatability (R&R) should be stated. In
fact, for tight tolerances, the conditions used to determine R&R
should be stated such as the number of appraisers and the
number of repeat measurements. In order to be able to analyze
data for events that happen during a test run, make sure that
measurements are recorded chronologically.
See Section 2.4 in the NIST/SEMATECH referenced Handbook
for a complete discussion on gauge R&R.
Machine
Thermal deformation is one of the greatest contributors to
change in the output of a machine tool. All elements responding to temperature change should be understood and monitored.
Machine accuracy and repeatability should be determined using
statistical techniques. Factors such as alignment, spindle
runout and balance, and dynamic stability should be accessed
with respect to the contribution to desired workpiece parameters.
Machine maintenance is useful to restore parameters that have
deteriorated and are contributing to variations. Company procedures should be established for maintaining machine calibration.

Tooling
Changes in tool condition are a common source of shift in
workpiece size or surface finish. These changes can best be
analyzed from a histogram of data taken chronologically.
Changes are not limited to tool wear, but may also be created
by dirt on the toolholder, a balance condition, or repeatability
when changing inserts.
Workholding
The ability of the workholding device to position each part consistently is critical to maintaining uniform output. Tests should
be made to determine the repeatability of workholding devices.
The rigidity of the workholding device in relation to the rigidity
of the workpiece and process-induced forces can also influence
size variation.
Workpiece
Variations in workpiece initial stock conditions are a common
source of output variation. Workpieces should be checked for
incoming size and hardness. Both parameters cause changes in
process forces. Cpk of incoming parts would be desirable.