Control Chart vs. Run Chart

What's the Difference?

Control charts and run charts are both tools used in statistical process control to monitor and analyze data. However, there are some key differences between the two. A control chart is a graphical representation of data over time, with upper and lower control limits plotted to determine if a process is in control or out of control. It helps identify and analyze variations in a process and is commonly used in quality control. On the other hand, a run chart is a simple line graph that displays data points in chronological order. It is used to track trends and patterns in data over time, without the inclusion of control limits. While control charts focus on process stability and control, run charts provide a visual representation of data trends and can be used to identify potential areas for improvement.


AttributeControl ChartRun Chart
Data RepresentationDisplays data points with control limits and central lineDisplays data points over time
PurposeTo monitor and control process performanceTo visualize trends and patterns in data
FocusFocuses on process stability and variationFocuses on trends and patterns in data
Control LimitsUses control limits to identify out-of-control pointsDoes not use control limits
Data PointsIncludes individual data pointsIncludes individual data points
Time AxisMay or may not have a time axisAlways has a time axis
Statistical AnalysisUses statistical methods to determine control limitsDoes not involve statistical analysis
Process MonitoringUsed for ongoing process monitoringUsed for visualizing historical data

Further Detail


When it comes to analyzing and monitoring processes, statistical tools play a crucial role in identifying trends, patterns, and variations. Two commonly used tools in quality management are Control Charts and Run Charts. While both charts serve the purpose of visualizing data, they have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different scenarios. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of Control Charts and Run Charts, highlighting their differences and applications.

Control Chart

A Control Chart is a statistical tool used to monitor and control processes over time. It helps in identifying variations and determining whether a process is within statistical control or not. Control Charts are typically used in manufacturing and quality control settings to ensure consistency and identify any special causes of variation.

One of the key attributes of a Control Chart is its ability to display upper and lower control limits. These limits are calculated based on the process data and provide a visual representation of the acceptable range of variation. Any data points falling outside these limits indicate a potential issue that requires investigation.

Control Charts also incorporate a central line, which represents the process mean or average. This line helps in identifying shifts or trends in the process performance. By plotting data points on the Control Chart, it becomes easier to distinguish between common cause variation (inherent to the process) and special cause variation (due to external factors).

Another important aspect of Control Charts is the ability to differentiate between random variation and systematic variation. Random variation refers to the natural fluctuations in the process, while systematic variation indicates a consistent shift or pattern. Control Charts help in identifying the presence of systematic variation, which can then be investigated and addressed.

Control Charts are particularly useful for process improvement and problem-solving. They provide a visual representation of process performance, allowing teams to identify areas of improvement and implement corrective actions. By monitoring the process over time, Control Charts help in maintaining stability and reducing variation, ultimately leading to better quality outcomes.

Run Chart

A Run Chart, also known as a Line Chart, is a simple graphical tool used to display data points in chronological order. It helps in visualizing trends and patterns over time, making it easier to identify shifts or changes in a process. Run Charts are commonly used in various industries to track performance, monitor progress, and identify potential areas of improvement.

Unlike Control Charts, Run Charts do not incorporate control limits or statistical calculations. They provide a basic representation of data points plotted against time, allowing for a quick assessment of trends. Run Charts are particularly useful when analyzing data that does not require statistical control or when the focus is on identifying patterns rather than controlling the process.

One of the key attributes of a Run Chart is its simplicity. It is easy to create and interpret, making it accessible to a wide range of users. Run Charts can be used to track various performance metrics, such as sales figures, customer satisfaction scores, or production output, providing a visual representation of progress over time.

Another advantage of Run Charts is their ability to facilitate communication and collaboration. By displaying data in a clear and concise manner, Run Charts enable teams to discuss and analyze trends, fostering a data-driven decision-making process. They can be used in team meetings, presentations, or project reviews to share insights and drive improvement initiatives.

While Run Charts lack the statistical rigor of Control Charts, they serve as a valuable tool for initial data exploration and hypothesis generation. By identifying trends or patterns in the data, teams can then decide whether further analysis or control measures are necessary. Run Charts provide a starting point for deeper investigations and can guide the selection of appropriate statistical tools if needed.


Control Charts and Run Charts are both valuable tools in quality management and process improvement. While Control Charts focus on monitoring and controlling processes, Run Charts provide a simpler visualization of data trends over time. Control Charts incorporate statistical calculations, control limits, and help in identifying systematic variations, while Run Charts offer a basic representation of data points plotted against time.

Both charts have their unique attributes and applications. Control Charts are ideal for situations where statistical control is necessary, such as manufacturing processes, while Run Charts are more suitable for initial data exploration, progress tracking, and communication purposes. Understanding the differences between these charts allows organizations to select the most appropriate tool based on their specific needs and objectives.

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