Quality Control Introductory Overview - Short Run Charts

The short run control chart, or control chart for short production runs, plots observations of variables or attributes for multiple parts on the same chart. Short run control charts were developed to address the requirement that several dozen measurements of a process must be collected before control limits are calculated. Meeting this requirement is often difficult for operations that produce a limited number of a particular part during a production run.

For example, a paper mill may produce only three or four (huge) rolls of a particular kind of paper (i.e., part) and then shift production to another kind of paper. But if variables, such as paper thickness, or attributes, such as blemishes, are monitored for several dozen rolls of paper of, say, a dozen different kinds, control limits for thickness and blemishes could be calculated for the transformed (within the short production run) variable values of interest. Specifically, these transformations will rescale the variable values of interest such that they are of compatible magnitudes across the different short production runs (or parts). The control limits computed for those transformed values could then be applied in monitoring thickness, and blemishes, regardless of the types of paper (parts) being produced. Statistical process control procedures could be used to determine if the production process is in control, to monitor continuing production, and to establish procedures for continuous quality improvement.

For additional discussions of short run charts, refer to Bhote (1988), Johnson (1987), or Montgomery (1996).

Short Run Charts for Variables. There are several different types of short run charts.

Nominal chart, target chart. The most basic short run charts are the nominal short run chart, and the target short run chart. In these charts, the measurements for each part are transformed by subtracting a part-specific constant. These constants can either be the nominal values for the respective parts (nominal short run chart), or they can be target values computed from the (historical) means for each part (Target X-bar and R chart). For example, the diameters of piston bores for different engine blocks produced in a factory can only be meaningfully compared (for determining the consistency of bore sizes) if the mean differences between bore diameters for different sized engines are first removed. The nominal or target short run chart makes such comparisons possible. Note that for the nominal or target chart it is assumed that the variability across parts is identical, so that control limits based on a common estimate of the process sigma are applicable.

Standardized short run chart. If the variability of the process for different parts cannot be assumed to be identical, then a further transformation is necessary before the sample means for different parts can be plotted in the same chart. Specifically, in the standardized short run chart the plot points are further transformed by dividing the deviations of sample means from part means (or nominal or target values for parts) by part-specific constants that are proportional to the variability for the respective parts. For example, for the short run X-bar and R chart, the plot points (that are shown in the X-bar chart) are computed by first subtracting from each sample mean a part specific constant (e.g., the respective part mean, or nominal value for the respective part), and then dividing the difference by another constant, for example, by the average range for the respective chart. These transformations will result in comparable scales for the sample means for different parts.

Short Run Charts for Attributes. For attribute control charts (C, U, Np, or P charts), the estimate of the variability of the process (proportion, rate, etc.) is a function of the process average (average proportion, rate, etc.; for example, the standard deviation of a proportion p is equal to the square root of p*(1-p)/n). Hence, only standardized short run charts are available for attributes. For example, in the short run P chart, the plot points are computed by first subtracting from the respective sample p values the average part p's, and then dividing by the standard deviation of the average p's.