The capability index dilemma: Cpk, Ppk, or Cpm?

Matt SavageLori, one of our customers, phoned to ask if Cpk is the best statistic to use in a process that slits metal to exacting widths. As a technical support analyst, I too wondered what index would be best suited for her application. Perhaps Cpk, Ppk, Cpm, or some other index offers the best means of reporting the capability of her product or process.

Lori’s process capability index, Cpk, has never dipped below 2 and typically averages above 3. Given this high degree of capability, she might consider reducing variation about the target. While the Cpk and Ppk are well accepted and commonly-used indices, they may not provide as much information as Lori needs to continue to improve the process. This is especially true if the target is not the mid-point of specifications.

Cpm incorporates the target when calculating the standard deviation. Like the sigma of the individuals formula, compares each observation to a reference value. However, instead of comparing the data to the mean, the data is compared to the target specification. These differences are squared. Thus any observation that is different from the target specification will increase the standard deviation.

As this difference increases, so does the sigma of the . And as this sigma becomes larger, the Cpm index gets smaller. If the difference between the data and the target is small, so too is the sigma of the Cpm value. And as this sigma gets smaller, the Cpm index becomes larger. The higher the Cpm index, the better the process, as shown in the diagrams below. (“Better” means closer to the target specification and reduced variation.)

In these 3 charts the process is the same, but as the process becomes more centered, the Cpm gets better.

In these 3 charts, the process stays centered about the target, but as the variation is reduced, the Cpm gets better.

We can use Lori’s raw data to provide an example of how Cpm is calculated. In this example, nine samples of a subgroup size of five is used.

Sample 1 Sample 2 Sample 3 Sample 4 Sample 5 Sample 6 Sample 7 Sample 8 Sample 9
obs 1 90.741 102.711 104.066 106.602 100.904 104.922 112.738 102.388 97.825
obs 2 102.300 100.882 105.620 95.978 108.558 100.243 108.145 104.159 95.209
obs 3 98.642 103.314 96.165 96.265 94.882 97.053 98.679 100.204 91.273
obs 4 106.069 98.569 100.412 95.869 98.573 111.042 103.788 99.328 93.430
obs 5 97.635 96.639 96.316 84.872 108.588 99.068 105.664 94.157 98.263

And the specifications are: USL = 145, Target = 105, LSL = 60

Cpm = (145 – 60) / (6 * )

Cpm = 1.91 (Cpk = 2.51)

In a process with both upper and lower specifications, the target is typically the midpoint of these. When such a high degree of capability exists, one may want to ask the customer if the target value is ideal. Lori should check with her customer to determine if he or she wants a small shift toward one of the specifications. Regardless of the target in relation to the specifications, the focus should always be on making the product to target with minimum variation. Cpm is the capability index that accurately depicts this.

Reference: L.J. Chan, S.K. Cheng, and F.A. Spiring, “A New Measure of Process Capability: Cpm,” Journal of Quality Technology, Vol.. 20, No. 3, July, 1989, p. 16.

One thought on “The capability index dilemma: Cpk, Ppk, or Cpm?

  1. I just want to thank for having the opportunity to receive this electronic issue of P1 Systems Quality blog. I am a Quality Assurance Engineer from LEAR Corporation Cebu, Philippines and it is also a question from myself on what type of quality index that are best for our process since we are using Cpk and PpK here for a short term and long term studies on our process capability and this blog gives me an idea on what are we going to use.

    Thanks,
    Gilbert A. Abarquez
    QAE – LEAR Corporation Plant Gabriela
    Cebu, Philippines

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