How to Handle Non-Conformances

Merle Litshie
 July 07, 2014
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Food Safety

What is a non-conformance?
A non-conformance is a non-fulfillment of a specified requirement, a failure to conform or comply with accepted standards or requirements of a quality or other system.


Steps to be followed when handling a nonconformance:

  • Document the nonconformance and give the nonconformance a unique number
  • Issue the documented nonconformance to relevant department 
  • Department (responsible person) to investigate root cause
  • Implement corrective action
  • Verification of implemented corrective action
  • Close out the nonconformance and file 

What ensures the nonconformance are rectified effectively?
Root cause analysis: Seeks to identify the origin of a problem and uses specific steps with associated tools to find the cause of the problem by:

  • Determining what happened
  • Determining why it happened
  • Figure out what to do to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again
  • Use tools such as 5 why’s and Fishbone diagram to determine root cause

Corrective action versus correction

Corrective action: This is action implemented to eliminate or prevent the non-conformance from occurring again. This is achieved by identifying and analyzing to root cause as well as remedying the root cause. Akways be careful not to implement a correction as this will not solve the non-conformance.


Correction: This is action implemented to rectify problem or nonconformance and often implemented many times without success as the same action is implemented over and over again.

Example of corrective action versus correction:
Conveyor belt snaps and breaks.
Correction - Maintenance joins the snapped conveyor belt and production resumes immediately. Then the conveyor belt snaps again in a different area within an hour again and again maintenance joins conveyor belt again. This is a correction and does not solve the problem.

Corrective action - Maintenance conduct a root cause analysis to determine the cause of the snapping conveyor belt. Upon investigation they discover that there is too much tension on the belt and that there is not enough lubrication on the top run idlers. The belt is then loosened and lubricated then the changes are documented on the preventive maintenance program so that weekly or monthly inspection are conducted to prevent this from occurring again.

Remember effective root cause analysis and correct action are key to resolving non-conformance’s as well as ensuring continuous improvement.

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