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Confidence Intervals for Capability Indices Using MINITAB

By Keith M. Bower, M.S.


The concept of using a single summary statistic, or statistics, to assess the capability of a
process is currently widely practiced. In addition, the use of confidence intervals based upon
the distributions of appropriate capability statistics may be integrated. This paper addresses
the use of a MINITAB™ macro to compute approximate confidence intervals for Cp, and Cpk
by use of an example. The requirements of a stable process and approximate Normality are
necessary for such calculations to be justifiable.

Capability Indices

Frequently, manufacturers and others are required to estimate the capability of a process, i.e.
they require a reasonable estimate of what proportion of their products will conform to certain
specifications (or “specs”). Certain manufacturers look to the results provided by some well-
known capability indices, namely Cp and Cpk.

With given spec limits, a process may be investigated to assess its capability. If the process
appears to be stable over time and we may use the Normal distribution to usefully model the
process (perhaps after transforming the original data) we may attempt to get a handle on the
capability of the process using the aforementioned indices. For more information on
performing capability analysis, refer to Montgomery1 (2000) and examples using MINITAB
by Bower2 (2001). [Post-publication note from author – examples available via and ]

Importantly, as was shown by Somerville and Montgomery3 (1996) if the assumption of

Normality is violated, the actual capability estimates may be misleading.
The simplest index to use is Cp, the formula of which is Cp = (USL – LSL)/6σ where USL =
Upper Specification Level, LSL = Lower Specification Level and σ is the process within-
subgroup standard deviation. In practice, of course, we will never know the true value of σ,
which is why we have to make use of the estimated within-subgroup standard deviation (e.g.
by ) in Ĉ p . Similarly, we may also estimate the process mean µ by using the grand
 USL - - LSL 
average, X for use in Ĉ pk where Cpk = min  , .
 3 3 


Suppose we have a particular situation in which the process may be judged as in statistical
control, and the measurements from this process are well modeled by a Normal distribution.
This information is reflected in the capability sixpack in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Note that the specs for the process are LSL = 37, USL = 43, and subgroups of size 5 are being
taken. With these specifications, and in order to compute an approximate 95% confidence
interval, one may use the macro available from the MINITAB website at by saving it into the
MINITAB macro folder.
One would enter the commands through the editor window by entering the column number
(in this case, column 2), followed by the LSL, the USL, the subgroup size, and the desired
confidence level. Therefore, to obtain 95% confidence intervals for Cp and Cpk using the data
in this example, one would enter via the Command Line Editor (CTRL+L):
%capaconf c2 37 43 5 .95
This results in the output as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2.

The approximate 95% confidence interval is 0.975 to 1.163 for Cp and 0.959 to 1.163 for Cpk.
Importantly, values less than 1 are included in these intervals, which would be of great
concern to many practitioners.

In conclusion, therefore, this author argues that the inclusion of confidence intervals with
capability analysis is an appropriate and necessary step. It is now possible to utilize this
procedure along with capability analysis using the MINITAB macro indicated.


1. Montgomery, D.C. (2000). Introduction to Statistical Quality Control, 4th edition; John
Wiley & Sons, Inc.
2. Bower, K.M. (January, March 2001). “Capability Analysis Using MINITAB (I & II),”
ExtraOrdinary Sense;
3. Somerville, S.E., Montgomery, D.C. (1996). “Process Capability Indices and Nonnormal
Distributions,” Quality Engineering, Vol. 9, No. 2.