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The relationship between Nonconformity Handling and Continuous Improvement

Non-conformities can be a great opportunity for improvement, so in this article we will remind you how these issues complement each other in the day to day of organizations!

Many companies that have a quality management system (or any other management system) may suffer some difficulties when faced with nonconformities (NCs), and this is normal.

This is because nonconformities are indicators that some process is not being carried out according to plan. Thus, it is necessary that they are identified and treated as soon as possible. Through this action, to find and seek solutions to NCs, the company is promoting continuous improvement.

The management of NCs and continuous improvement go hand in hand, and improvement is one of the requirements of quality management. But, for improvement to be concrete, it is fundamental to identify the company’s problems and seek ways to solve them.

For this reason, in this article, we will take a closer look at what are the non-conformities and how they are linked to the continuous improvement factor. Let’s go!

Understanding what a Nonconformity is

A nonconformity can be identified as any situation, product, or services that are not following the standards that were previously defined. A defective product, or services being performed inadequately, can be considered nonconformities.

These are related to processes that generate unsatisfactory results and/or when they do not meet the procedures or regulatory requirements. These “failures” are usually identified by the organization itself or during audits.

ISO 9001:2015 expects organizations to address their NCs. The goal is for the company to provide improvements and planning so that procedures do not fail again and are carried out, always, according to plan.

Although they are always seen as a negative condition, nonconformities, when handled correctly, can also be understood as an opportunity (or even a tool) for the company to improve.

When nonconformities occur in an organization, it means that something did not go according to plan, and this is an opportunity to improve the processes in order to deliver the best results to all stakeholders.

Therefore, when a nonconformity is found, it must be documented and based on objective evidence. All so that we can understand why the nonconformity is occurring.

How can nonconformities be an opportunity for improvement?

When failures occur in the process, they can generate great learning for the organization, and that’s something essential for its continuous improvement.

That is why when these errors occur it is not enough just to correct them, because this action does not solve the problem completely. When the exact causes of the process are not identified, an opportunity for the failure to happen again is created.

To properly address these occurrences it is necessary to put in place actions that can improve the processes. Identifying root causes and acting to prevent errors from happening again.

Continuous improvement is a process that has steps that help identify and implement opportunities in the organization, making it work more effectively and assertively.

Structuring and correctly implementing a continuous improvement process helps to boost productivity, reduce costs and waste, avoid future failures, eliminate rework, and better qualify your team. In other words, this practice aims to make the result of the processes better and better!

How to implement continuous improvement in your organization?

To properly handle the non-conformities and apply continuous improvement it is necessary to structure your treatment process, following some standard steps.

To explain this, we will use here the famous PDCA Cycle that, in a simplified way, points out what must be worked on by the companies. This improvement cycle works through 4 steps:


The first step in the continuous improvement process is to identify which processes/services need to be improved.

Here, we will develop very detailed action plans based on the objectives that your organization wants to achieve. It is important to establish well the team, deadlines, and materials that will be needed to achieve the goal (use a 5w2h, for example).


The second step is the moment to implement all the actions that were defined in the previous topic. Basically, it is the time to get down to business!

In the second step, it is even more important that the whole team is aware of the objectives of the action, and thus establish their responsibilities and roles to be fulfilled. Even if the planning is excellent, a poor execution can ruin everything.


In this topic it is important to check that everything is going according to plan and to ensure that the progress of the processes is as expected. Here, we will evaluate if everything we planned was executed as it should have been and if this was enough to solve the problem cited or eliminate the non-conformity pointed out.

Problems may occur, causing the action not to achieve the expected results. In this case it will be necessary to analyze, treat and promote and improve in order to eliminate these setbacks, in other words, restart the cycle.


Finally, this is the stage where decisions are made according to everything that has been evaluated.

From this, actions that are defined as preventive are standardized so that problems that may occur do not recur in this process or in others that the company deems relevant.

Deal with the nonconformities in your company to improve your processes!

So, as we have understood so far, every company is subject to problems, this is common. But what organizations need to pay attention to is to always seek ways to correct these problems, identify their root cause, and treat them so that they do not occur again.

With the help of the PDCA cycle it is possible to have a better management of your process and identify opportunities for improvement at all times, not only when nonconformities occur. But there are several other methods that can be more adherent to your context, the company is the one to evaluate this.

ISO 9001 can also be a great support standard for dealing with nonconformities in organizations and point the way to corrective actions that can promote continuous improvement.

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QMS Certification

QMS is an accredited third party certification body, it is currently present in 33 countries and focuses on the certification of management systems. QMS America is managed by the US office and has consistently grown in market recognition by technical level, customer satisfaction and competitive pricing.

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