Analyzing Data Dynamics: Control Chart versus Run Chart

Control Chart versus Run Chart in Quality Control infographic

If you are preparing for the PMP Certification exam, most probably you asked the following questions yourself – What are the similarities and differences between control and run charts? and Why are they so important for process control? Basically, Control Chart and Run Chart are two essential Quality Control tools. Both of them are used for evaluating and analyzing quality results within a project or a process. When you look at them, you will have an insight into the health of the process. However, a lot of people mix up these two different tools for quality control and mistakenly think that they are interchangeable.

7 Basic Quality Tools for Process Improvement

Business process improvement aims to find ways to make existing processes faster, more precise, more efficient, and more dependable. If your business processes are costly—requiring more time and/or resources than planned—your business operations will be less effective, putting you behind your competitors.

There are seven tools for Quality Control which are below;

These tools are commonly referred to as “The Old Seven” or “The Basic Seven,” originally highlighted by Kaoru Ishikawa. Experts utilize these tools to assess process improvement or deterioration by comparing the current performance with past performance.

As you see from the above list, a Control Chart is included in the seven tools for Quality Control. Although, a run chart is not included in the list, understanding its features will help you to understand the process improvement tools better.

In brief, both charts are useful tools that can help you determine trends or defects in the product. They are communication tools that help you to understand how the performance of the process is.

What is a Run Chart?

A run chart is a simple chart that shows data points over a period of time. The displayed data in this chart mostly show trends, the performance of manufacturing, etc. Typically it is a two dimensional graph in which one axis shows time and the other axis shows the value.

It helps you analyze the following over time:

  • Changes or trends of the process
  • The cycle of the process
  • Performance of a process

For the project performance measurement, you can draw planned and actual progress lines with the help of these charts. After creating the project schedule, you can extract the planned figures and draw the planned progress curve. As the project progresses, you can insert the actual figures and draw the actual progress curve.

What are the Benefits of Using a Run Chart?

  • It is a visual tool that is easy to draw and use.
  • It enables to determine the performance of a process easily
  • It is easy to evaluate the results
  • It does not require too many technical skills, a minimum statistical knowledge can be enough.
  • It is a communication tool that enables to make decision making.

Run Chart 2

Limitations of a Run Chart

Below are the limitations;

  • A run chart is not related to statistical control limits. Therefore, you can not see the major and minor tolerance limits.
  • It does not provide you enough information regarding the stability and trends of the process.

Run Chart Example

Assume that you are working for in the quality control departmant of a batch plant where you track daily concrete production over a month, recording units produced each day. Using a run chart with days on the horizontal axis and units produced on the vertical axis, you will identify trends like production peaks and unusual fluctuations. This analysis guides informed decisions to optimize production processes and enhance quality.

What is a Control Chart?

A control chart is a specific type of graph that shows data points between upper and lower limits over a period of time. It is also known as a Shewhart chart or statistical process control chart which is developed by Mr. Walter A. Shewhart. You can use them to understand if the process is under control or not.

These charts commonly have three types of lines such as upper and lower specification limits, upper and lower limits and planned value. By the help of these lines, the chart show the process behavior over time.

Control Chart example and calculation steps

It helps you to understand if the process is under control or not. If the results are beyond the control limits you can say that there is an error in the product or process.

Control Chart Example

For example, a control chart can be used to understand the behaviour of a chemical agent. Let’s say the chemical agent must stay effective in the system for a minimum of 30 minutes but last no more than 60 minutes, to prevent its harmful effects. In that example, the lower control limit is 30 minutes and the upper control limit is 60 minutes.

Benefits of Using a Control Chart

  • It enables to specify the stability of a process.
  • It enables to specify the regions where the quality needs to be improved or where the corrective actions need to be taken.
  • It enables to analyze the variations between the given limits
  • It provides a general view of your process on a single chart.

Limitations of Control Charts

Below are the limitations;

  • If the upper and lower threshold limits are determined incorrectly, the results will cause wrong decisions.
  • It requires a piece of basic knowledge of statistical terms and concepts in order to interpret the curves.

Run Chart vs Control Chart

A run chart displays data points connected by a line, alongside a central median line. It does not have upper or lower control limits. On the other hand, a control chart comprises data points, a central line highlighting the average, upper and lower control limits. Charts provide more specific information and understanding of the process rather than the Run Charts.


Both charts are generated by placing the data within a given period. You can obtain a lot of information regarding the quality performance of the process when you look at them. However, Control Charts include upper and lower control limit lines. Therefore, the choice between chart types depends on the project’s targets and requirements. Generally, they give more specific information and understanding of the process, compared to the Run Charts.

Note that these charts are essential communication tools for the project teams. Project teams use them to discuss important performance issues with key project stakeholders.

This is where this blog post ends. If you want to add or share anything, you can use the comments section below to do so.

See Also

Grade and Quality

External Reference

7 Basic Quality Tools

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