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Building an Acceptance Chart

by Donald S. Holmes and A. Erhan Mergen

There are some processes that, due to their nature, are expected to have unavoidable shifts
in their average value but which are still able to satisfy customer-established specifications.
This situation occurs when the standard deviation of the process at the various average values
of the process is very small relative to the tolerance width, that is, the difference between the
upper and lower specification limits. In usual statistical process control terms, such a process
is not in control but may be able to produce acceptable product.

As you read statistical literature, it will appear that three different kinds of charts are being
generated for the aforementioned situation. This is incorrect; there is actually only one type:
a chart using sample averages that allows you to detect when processes will produce an
unacceptable level of nonconforming products. The literature's references to "acceptance
control charts" should really be changed to "acceptance charts" because these charts deal only
with the issue of whether the process should be accepted or rejected. There are really two
different issues: acceptance and control. These two issues are independent of each other.


Acceptance deals with the ability of a process to meet specifications. Control deals with the
ability of a process to perform in a consistent, stable fashion.

There are three design approaches you can use for building acceptable quality level (AQL)
acceptance charts: designs based on rejectable quality level (RQL) and beta risk; designs
based on AQL and alpha risk; and designs based on RQL, AQL, beta and alpha. Some writers
refer to the chart generated with an AQL-based design as a modified control chart, and others
simply call it an acceptance control chart. Authors in general seem to agree that charts using
RQL or a combination of RQL and AQL to establish risk levels should use the word
"acceptance" in their titles. We suggest that the word "control" be eliminated because the
charts are used simply for acceptance purposes.

How to build an AQL acceptance chart

Here's how an AQL acceptance chart is constructed for subgroup sample averages using the
upper specification limit (USL) case to demonstrate the principle. [The lower specification
limit (LSL) case is done in essentially the same fashion.]

Step 1. Decide on the AQL appropriate for the process.

Step 2. Set a value known as the upper acceptable process mean (UAPM) at k1x below the
USL, where x is the capability standard deviation of the x's. If the x values are roughly
normally distributed, then using k1 = 2 will produce an AQL value of approximately 2.5%
(see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Graphical Display of UAPM

Step 3. Add k2 to UAPM to arrive at the upper acceptance limit (UAL) for the sample ,
where  is the standard deviation of the 's. The value of k2 sets the probability of
acceptance of material that has a quality level of AQL. Choosing k2 = 2 would set the
probability of accepting material that has a quality level of AQL to approximately 0.975 (see
Figure 2).

Figure 2: Graphical Display of UAL

Remember that the standard deviation of the 's is the standard deviation of the x's divided

by the square root of the sample size, i.e., where n is the sample size.


UAL for 's for an AQL acceptance chart is calculated as follows:

Lower acceptance limit (LAL) for 's for an AQL acceptance chart is calculated as:

where LSL is the lower specification limit.


Suppose we have a process whose output is approximately normally distributed. Engineering

tolerances (i.e., specification limits) are 50 � 10. The process has a capability standard
deviation of 1--about 1/20th of the tolerance--so acceptance charts are a viable alternative.
The primary interest is to supply material that meets specifications (not necessarily "in
control"). A sample size of 9 will be used to calculate 's.

To construct the chart, the following steps are taken:

Step 1. If an AQL value of 2.5% is desired, then k1 is 2.

Step 2 . The UAPM is then

60 � 2(1) = 58

Step 3. If the probability of acceptance is set at 0.975, then k2 would be 2 and the UAL for
sample for sample size 9 is then

Now reverse this procedure to find the lower acceptable process mean (LAPM) by taking
LSL and adding 2 times the standard deviation of ' s. In this case it would be

LAPM = 40 + 2(1) = 42

From this value, subtract 2 times standard deviation of to get the lower acceptance limit
(LAL) for the sample averages, which would be

We use the chart as follows: Take a sample of size 9 and calculate the average ( ). If is
less than 58.67 and is greater than 41.33, then accept the process. Otherwise reject the process
as one that is generating a 2.5% (or worse) quality level.

Why use an acceptance chart?

Given that the process standard deviation is small compared to tolerance, width acceptance
charts are good alternatives to process control charts if the primary objective is to meet the
specification limits rather than monitor process stability. This knowledge is timely in that
many companies have high-tech processes with small standard deviations for which
acceptance charts would be valuable tools.

1. Duncan, A.J., Quality Control and Industrial Statistics, fifth edition. Illinois: Irwin,

2. Freund, R.A., "Acceptance Control Charts," Industrial Quality Control, Vol. 14, No. 4,

3. Holmes, D.S., and A.E. Mergen, "Process Acceptance Charts for Short Runs," Quality
Engineering, Vol. 10, No. 1, 149�153 1997.

4. Holmes, D.S., and A.E. Mergen, "EWMA Acceptance Charts," Quality and Reliability
Engineering, International, Vol. 16, No. 2, 1�4, 2000.

5. Montgomery, D.C., Introduction to Statistical Quality Control, third edition New York:
John Wiley and Sons, 354�358, 1996.

About the authors

Donald S. Holmes is president of Stochos Inc. of Schenectady, New York. He is a retired

professor of the Graduate Management Institute at Union College in Schenectady. Holmes,
a CQE, has master's and bachelor's degrees in mathematics and is a Fellow of the American
Society for Quality. E-mail him at .

A. Erhan Mergen is the dean's research professor in quality, decision sciences, College of
Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. He has a doctorate
in administrative and engineering systems, a master's degree in industrial administration
and a bachelor's degree in management. Mergen is a member of the American Society for
Quality. E-mail him at .