Certification audits normally consider two degrees for non-conformity severity (and both are considered serious):
- Minor non-conformity: a nonconformity that does not affect the capability of the management system to achieve the intended results.
- Major non-conformity: a nonconformity that affects the capability of the management system to achieve the intended results. For example, if the company completely failed to fulfill a certain requirement; if a process has completely fallen apart; or if you have several minor nonconformities that are related to the same process or to the same element of your management system.
Regarding the certification / re-certification process, minor non-conformities identified during the process does not affect the certificate (provided that you present an action plan for the auditor). On the other hand, a major non-conformity is an impediment for the certification, until the situation is solved.
Pleas e note that the definition of major and minor non-conformity are based on best practice used by certification bodies and certification auditors. ISO 17021, the ISO standard for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems, states that a non-conformity shall be classified (but it does not define the classification to use). Also note that this grading is not mandatory for internal audits (most often such grading is not necessary for internal audits).