Statistical Analysis Tools - Pareto Chart

What is a Pareto Chart?

Picture yourself confronted with an extensive list of issues or causes that require your attention. You are seeking ways to primarily improve your business processes, optimize resources, and enhance overall performance. More specifically, you want to identify the vital few factors that contribute to the majority of your challenges or successes. Unfortunately, the problem you face is that it is difficult to determine which issues or areas are the most critical and require immediate attention. Fortunately, this is where the Pareto chart comes to your rescue.

A Pareto chart is a helpful tool that can make sense of complex information in a simple and visual way. Additionally, they provide a clear picture of what matters most by highlighting the vital few from the trivial many. Eventually, you can pinpoint the key areas where you should focus your attention and resources.

The beauty of Pareto charts lies in their ability to reveal the “80/20 rule.” Interestingly, this rule suggests that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In other words, a small portion of the problems or causes has a massive impact, while the rest contribute relatively little. Thus, the Pareto chart allows you to identify and focus on that crucial 20%.

Practical Example of a Pareto Chart

How to create a Pareto Chart?

Step-by-step process to create a Pareto chart

Pareto Chart

Interpreting Pareto Charts: Analyzing Key Insights

Interpreting a Pareto chart involves analyzing the visual data representation to identify significant contributing factors to a problem. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to interpret the results of a Pareto chart:

1. Identify the Categories:

In the above example, the vertical bars are the different categories of the problem. Each bar corresponds to a specific category. Based on their frequency or impact, we arrange them in descending order from left to right.

2. Analyze the Bar Heights:

The height of each bar represents the frequency or occurrence of the respective category. The taller the bar, the more frequent or significant the factor is when compared to others.

3. Focus on the 80/20 Rule:

One of the fundamental principles of Pareto charts is the 80/20 rule, which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. You should pay close attention to the first few bars on the left side of the chart, as they are likely to contribute to the majority of the problem or issue.

4. Determine the Vital Few:

The “vital few” or “significant few” are the categories represented by the first few tall bars (left side). These are the key factors that have the most substantial impact on the problem and should be the primary focus for improvement efforts.

5. Addressing the Vital Few:

Once you have identified the vital few, prioritize them for further investigation and action. By addressing these top contributing factors, you can have the most significant positive impact on resolving the problem or issue.

6. Consider Pareto Principle Variations:

While the 80/20 rule is a common guideline, it’s essential to remain flexible in interpretation. In some cases, it could be the 90/10 rule or even a 70/30 distribution. The key is to recognize the pattern of significance in the data and act accordingly.

7. Use Pareto Analysis for Decision-Making:

The Pareto chart’s primary purpose is to aid in decision-making and problem-solving. By focusing on the vital few factors, you can allocate resources effectively to address the most critical issues and achieve substantial improvements.

By following these steps and understanding the insights provided by the Pareto chart, you can make informed decisions and take targeted actions to resolve the problem or issue efficiently and effectively.

When to Utilize a Pareto Chart?

Pareto charts are useful in situations where it is important to identify and prioritize the most significant factors contributing to a problem or issue. Here are some scenarios you can apply the Pareto charts:

1. Problem Solving:

Pareto charts serve as a valuable problem-solving tool, guiding efforts toward the most critical issues. Pareto charts analyze the frequency or occurrence of various causes. With that analysis, you can identify the ones with the greatest impact on the problem. You can then prioritize and implement effective solutions.

2. Quality Control:

Pareto charts are a widely-used tool in quality control. It helps to identify common sources of defects or errors. Pareto charts rank causes by frequency. Eventually, this helps you to focus on the vital few responsible for the majority of quality issues and take corrective actions effectively.

3. Process Improvement:

Pareto charts are essential tools in process improvement methodologies like Six Sigma. They help identify process inefficiencies and bottlenecks by highlighting the primary factors contributing to defects, delays, or waste.

4. Customer Complaint Analysis:

Pareto charts help in analyzing customer complaints and feedback. You can use a Pareto chart to categorize and prioritize the main reasons for dissatisfaction. Consequently, you can focus on addressing the most significant concerns and improving overall customer satisfaction.

5. Decision Making:

Pareto charts assist by providing a visual representation of the most critical factors influencing a decision. Further, it enables you to consider the relative importance and impact of different factors. Consequently, you can allocate resources, prioritize actions, or make informed choices.

6. Risk Management:

Pareto charts can be utilized to identify and prioritize the most significant risks or hazards. By understanding which risks contribute the most to potentially negative outcomes, you can allocate resources and implement mitigation strategies accordingly.


Overall, Pareto charts are valuable in situations where you need to analyze and prioritize factors based on their importance, impact, or frequency. As seen in the example, they provide a clear visual representation of the vital few factors, enabling more focused and effective decision-making and problem-solving.

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Pareto Charts are a powerful tool for visualizing and prioritizing data.
  2. They follow the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) where a significant majority of the effects come from a small number of causes.
  3. Creating a Pareto Chart involves organizing data in descending order, plotting bars, and adding a cumulative percentage line.
  4. Interpreting a Pareto Chart helps identify the most significant factors or issues affecting a process or outcome.
  5. Pareto Charts aid decision-making by highlighting where to focus efforts for maximum impact.
  6. Use Pareto Charts in various scenarios, such as quality improvement, issue resolution, resource allocation, and product enhancement.
  7. When applying Pareto Charts, ensure data accuracy, relevancy, and completeness for meaningful analysis.
  8. Regularly update and revisit Pareto Charts to adapt to changing circumstances and new insights.
  9. Software and tools can streamline the process of creating and updating Pareto Charts efficiently.
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