Nonconformity, Defect, or Finding


Are you using the right term? What do you call it when a requirement is not met? ISO 9000:2005, 3.6.2, defines the non-fulfillment of a requirement as a “nonconformity”. As expected, “conformity” is defined in 3.6.1 as the fulfillment of a requirement.

However, some auditors use “conformance” and “nonconformance”. Does it matter? ISO 9000:2005, 3.6.1, states that although conformance is synonymous with conformity, it is deprecated. What does that mean? Well, “deprecated” refers to a term that is considered obsolete and being phased out. That being the case, it is preferable to use the terms Conformity and Nonconformity.


If a nonconformity relates to the intended or specified use of the product, the correct term becomes “defect”. ISO 9000:2005, 3.6.3, cautions that using the term “defect” has legal connotations related to product liability issues and should be used with extreme caution.


When you hear about audit findings, you probably think that problems or concerns are being reported. Is that always the correct interpretation? ISO 9000:2005, 3.9.5, defines a “finding” as the result of an evaluation of the collected audit evidence against audit criteria. It states that findings can indicate either conformity or nonconformity with audit criteria, or opportunities for improvement. So, findings can also be good. It’s just that audit reports tend to focus on those findings that are nonconformities.