Remote laser welding technology offers opportunities for high production throughput at a competitive cost. However, the remote laser welding process of zinc-coated sheet metal parts in lap joint configuration poses a challenge due to the difference between the melting temperature of the steel (similar to 1500 degrees C) and the vapourizing temperature of the zinc (similar to 907 degrees C). In fact, the zinc layer at the faying surface is vapourized and the vapour might be trapped within the melting pool leading to weld defects. Various solutions have been proposed to overcome this problem over the years. Among them, laser dimpling has been adopted by manufacturers because of its flexibility and effectiveness along with its cost advantages. In essence, the dimple works as a spacer between the two sheets in lap joint and allows the zinc vapour escape during welding process, thereby preventing weld defects. However, there is a lack of comprehensive characterization of dimpling process for effective implementation in real manufacturing system taking into consideration inherent changes in variability of process parameters. This paper introduces a methodology to develop (i) surrogate model for dimpling process characterization considering multiple-inputs (i.e. key control characteristics) and multiple-outputs (i.e. key performance indicators) system by conducting physical experimentation and using multivariate adaptive regression splines; (ii) process capability space (C-P-Space) based on the developed surrogate model that allows the estimation of a desired process fallout rate in the case of violation of process requirements in the presence of stochastic variation; and, (iii) selection and optimization of the process parameters based on the process capability space. The proposed methodology provides a unique capability to: (i) simulate the effect of process variation as generated by manufacturing process; (ii) model quality requirements with multiple and coupled quality requirements; and (iii) optimize process parameters under competing quality requirements such as maximizing the dimple height while minimizing the dimple lower surface area. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.