Starting Strong: cGMP Training as a Key Onboarding Component

Posted: August 15, 2023
Category: FDA,GMP,Regulation

Starting Strong: cGMP Training as a Key Onboarding Component

In the intricate landscape of pharmaceuticals, where precision and quality are paramount, cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) training stands as a vital pillar for ensuring excellence. Beyond being a best practice, cGMP training is a legal requirement that holds significant weight for pharmaceutical companies. The FDA’s watchful eye is keenly attuned to the level of cGMP training provided to employees within these organizations. In a sector where patient safety and product quality are non-negotiable priorities, inadequate cGMP training can trigger profound consequences, as evidenced by warning letters issued to companies found lacking in this crucial area.

This blog, titled “Starting Strong: cGMP Training as a Key Onboarding Component,” embarks on a journey through the intricate threads that weave cGMP training into the very fabric of a pharmaceutical company’s onboarding process. From the foundations of onboarding to the nuances of legal compliance and interactive learning, we’ll navigate each step to illustrate the transformative power of comprehensive cGMP education. Join us as we unveil why the onboarding process serves as the ultimate crucible, forging a workforce that is not only well-equipped but also passionately committed to upholding the highest standards of quality, safety, and compliance in the pharmaceutical industry.

Table of Contents

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding is the process through which new employees are introduced to and integrated into an organization. It’s a comprehensive and structured program designed to help new hires become familiar with their roles, responsibilities, the company’s culture, policies, procedures, and overall work environment. Onboarding goes beyond a mere orientation and encompasses a series of activities and interactions aimed at helping new employees transition smoothly into their new roles.

The goal of onboarding is to provide new hires with the information, resources, and support they need to quickly become productive and engaged members of the organization. Effective onboarding not only accelerates the learning curve for new employees but also fosters a sense of belonging, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention.

Onboarding typically includes various components such as:

  • Introduction to the company’s mission, values, and culture.
  • Explanation of company policies, procedures, and expectations.
  • Job-specific training and orientation to responsibilities.
  • Familiarization with colleagues, teams, and key stakeholders.
  • Overview of benefits, compensation, and HR procedures.
  • Training on compliance and industry regulations.
  • Access to tools, technology, and resources necessary for the role.


The duration of onboarding can vary, ranging from a few days to several months, depending on the complexity of the role and the organization’s practices. A well-designed onboarding program ensures that new employees not only understand their job functions but also feel welcomed, supported, and prepared to contribute effectively to the organization’s goals.

The Legal Mandate for cGMP Training

Within the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory compliance isn’t just a preference; it’s an absolute necessity.

The primary law that mandates cGMP training for individuals working in the pharmaceutical industry is the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Specifically, the cGMP regulations are outlined in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 210 and 211. These regulations, often referred to as 21 CFR 210 and 21 CFR 211, establish the minimum requirements for the methods, facilities, and controls used in the manufacturing, processing, packaging, and holding of pharmaceutical products.

The primary law that mandates cGMP training for individuals working in the pharmaceutical industry is the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

While these regulations do not explicitly state that cGMP training is required, they emphasize the importance of a qualified workforce and staff that are familiar with cGMP requirements. The regulations focus on various aspects of pharmaceutical manufacturing, including personnel qualifications, training, and education. Here are some specific sections within the regulations that highlight the importance of training:

Learn more about 21 CFR Part 210 by taking our 21 CFR Part 210 – cGMP in Manufacturing, Processing, Packing, or Holding of Drugs Online Training Course

Lets take a closer look at 21 CFR 211:

21 CFR 211.25 – Personnel Qualifications: This section requires that employees who manufacture, process, pack, or hold drug products have the education, training, and experience necessary to perform their job functions. It emphasizes the need for appropriate training to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities and can carry them out effectively.

Ҥ 211.25 Personnel qualifications.
(a) Each person engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, or holding of a drug product shall have education, training, and experience, or any combination thereof, to enable that person to perform the assigned functions.”

 21 CFR 211.25

21 CFR 211.28 – Personnel Responsibilities: This section outlines the responsibilities of key personnel involved in drug manufacturing, including those in quality control and quality assurance. It emphasizes that personnel should be knowledgeable and trained in cGMP principles to ensure compliance and product quality.

Ҥ 211.28 Personnel responsibilities

(a) Personnel engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, or holding of a drug product shall wear clean clothing appropriate for the duties they perform. Protective apparel, such as head, face, hand, and arm coverings, shall be worn as necessary to protect drug products from contamination.

(b) Personnel shall practice good sanitation and health habits.

(c) Only personnel authorized by supervisory personnel shall enter those areas of the buildings and facilities designated as limited-access areas.

(d) Any person shown at any time (either by medical examination or supervisory observation) to have an apparent illness or open lesions that may adversely affect the safety or quality of drug products shall be excluded from direct contact with components, drug product containers, closures, in-process materials, and drug products until the condition is corrected or determined by competent medical personnel not to jeopardize the safety or quality of drug products. All personnel shall be instructed to report to supervisory personnel any health conditions that may have an adverse effect on drug products.”

21CF211.28

Learn more about 21 CFR Part 211 by taking this course  – 21 CFR 211: cGMP for Finished Pharmaceuticals Online Training Course

FDA Warning Letter Citations: cGMP Training Deviations

The FDA frequently issues warning letters to companies that fail to conduct adequate cGMP training. 

Warning Letter Example #1. In a Warning Letter (2022) MARCS-CMS 641808
to the company Auto-Chlor System LLC (USA), the US regulatory authority FDA found a deviation where their quality control (QC) Unit failed “to ensure the following:Employees are trained and remain familiar with CGMPs (21 CFR 211.25(a))”.

Warning Letter Example #2. In a Warning Letter (2023) MARCS-CMS 621313
to the company Premier Trends LLC (USA), the US regulatory authority FDA found a deviation where they  “failed to ensure that all personnel are qualified for the CGMP operations they perform….”.

I will now guide you through eight essential steps that I believe are crucial for the robust and comprehensive integration of cGMP training into your company’s onboarding process.

Step 1. Identify Training Needs based on Job Functions

Begin by assessing the specific cGMP training needs for various roles within your pharmaceutical organization. Determine the key concepts and regulations that are essential for new hires to understand. This critical activity involves a systematic assessment of the specific training requirements for different job roles within a pharmaceutical organization. By identifying training needs, companies ensure that employees receive targeted education that equips them with the precise skills and knowledge necessary for their roles, minimizing errors and maximizing adherence to cGMP principles.

Documentation and Responsibility:
The process of identifying training needs should be methodically documented as part of the company’s Quality Management System (QMS). This documentation serves as a roadmap for training plans and demonstrates a commitment to compliance. The responsibility for identifying training needs typically falls upon the Quality Assurance (QA) and Human Resources (HR) departments, working in collaboration with department managers or supervisors who possess a deep understanding of job-specific requirements.

Expectations of FDA Inspectors:
FDA inspectors indeed expect pharmaceutical companies to have a well-defined process for identifying training needs, aligning with the cGMP regulations. During inspections, the FDA scrutinizes whether the company has established a clear methodology for determining the training necessary for employees to perform their roles effectively while adhering to cGMP standards. This scrutiny reflects the FDA’s commitment to upholding product quality and patient safety by ensuring that employees are well-versed in the practices that govern pharmaceutical manufacturing.

During inspections, the FDA scrutinizes whether the company has established a clear methodology for determining the training necessary for employees to perform their roles effectively while adhering to cGMP standards.

Benefits of Effective Training Needs Identification:
Efficient identification of training needs yields several benefits for pharmaceutical companies. It ensures that employees are equipped with knowledge relevant to their roles, preventing misunderstandings or deviations that could compromise product quality. Furthermore, targeted training reduces the risk of human errors, enhances efficiency, and fosters a culture of compliance from the outset. Effective training needs identification also minimizes the potential for non-compliance findings during FDA inspections, bolstering the organization’s reputation and credibility.

Let’s delve into how training needs pertaining to specific functions might appear:

Example 1: Manufacturing Technician
For a manufacturing technician responsible for producing pharmaceutical products, essential cGMP training needs might include:

  • Understanding cleanroom protocols and aseptic techniques to maintain sterility.
  • Proper handling and documentation of raw materials to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Knowledge of equipment calibration and validation procedures to ensure accuracy in manufacturing.
  • Familiarity with batch records and documentation practices to maintain traceability and compliance.

Example 2: Quality Control Analyst
A quality control analyst plays a crucial role in ensuring product quality. Their cGMP training needs could encompass:

  • Proficiency in testing methods and equipment used for product quality assessment.
  • Knowledge of stability testing protocols to evaluate product shelf life.
  • Understanding data integrity principles and the importance of accurate record-keeping.
  • Awareness of deviations and out-of-specification results, along with the correct reporting procedures.

Example 3: Regulatory Affairs Specialist
Regulatory affairs specialists navigate the complex landscape of compliance. Their cGMP training needs might involve:

  • In-depth knowledge of global cGMP regulations and their implications on product approval.
  • Familiarity with submission requirements for regulatory agencies, such as the FDA or EMA.
  • Understanding of cGMP requirements for labeling and packaging to ensure accurate product information.
  • Knowledge of post-approval changes and reporting obligations to maintain regulatory compliance.

Example 4 Supply Chain and Logistics Personnel:
For supply chain and logistics personnel, cGMP training needs might cover:

  • Compliance with temperature-sensitive storage and transportation requirements for pharmaceutical products.
  • Ensuring proper handling of materials to prevent cross-contamination during storage and distribution.
  • Familiarity with customs regulations and import/export procedures for international shipments.
  • Understanding the role of Good Distribution Practices (GDP) in maintaining product integrity during transit.

In each of these examples, identifying the specific cGMP training needs involves considering the unique responsibilities and regulatory requirements of different roles within the pharmaceutical organization. By tailoring the training to address these needs, new hires are equipped with the knowledge necessary to excel in their respective positions while upholding the organization’s commitment to quality and compliance.

Step 2. Infusing cGMP Training into the Onboarding Fabric

Seamlessly incorporating cGMP training sessions into the onboarding schedule optimizes the learning experience for new employees.  Imagine a scenario where a newly hired manufacturing operator undergoes a multi-day onboarding process. Within this schedule, designated time slots are allocated for cGMP training sessions. These sessions dovetail into the overarching onboarding curriculum, creating a fluid and logical progression of learning. For instance, after learning about the company’s mission and values, the operator seamlessly transitions into cGMP principles that align with the organization’s commitment to quality.

As the onboarding journey unfolds, modules tailored to different roles are introduced, enhancing participants’ understanding of their specific responsibilities within the broader context of cGMP compliance. By blending cGMP training seamlessly into the schedule, new employees not only receive a comprehensive introduction to the company but also internalize the critical role they play in upholding regulatory standards and ensuring the integrity of pharmaceutical products.

Step 3. Leverage Interactive Methods

Incorporating interactive training methods into cGMP training during the onboarding process transforms learning into an immersive experience. Imagine new employees participating in workshops where they collaboratively solve real-life case studies that mirror challenges they might encounter in the pharmaceutical manufacturing environment. Picture them stepping into simulated scenarios, where they navigate equipment calibration processes or make decisions based on quality control results.

Similarly, case studies could immerse trainees in situations involving regulatory audits, prompting them to navigate complexities, make compliant decisions, and thus internalize the implications of their choices.

The use of discussions might involve analyzing historical instances where lapses in cGMP adherence led to regulatory actions, fostering a culture of vigilance and prevention. Through these interactive methods, employees not only grasp cGMP concepts but also develop problem-solving skills that are crucial in maintaining compliance and upholding the pharmaceutical industry’s standards of excellence.

Need help with designing your CGMP onboarding modules? 

Step 4. Continuous Learning: Making Resources Accessible

Supporting new employees’ learning journey extends beyond the onboarding period. To enable ongoing understanding of cGMP principles, providing easily accessible training materials is essential. Imagine equipping each employee with a digital portal containing comprehensive training modules accessible at any time. This virtual library could house interactive e-learning modules on topics like cGMP regulations, quality control processes, and risk management. 

Ongoing cGMP Training

Additionally, offering downloadable PDF guides ensures that printed resources are at their fingertips. Picture new hires finding a quick-reference document outlining cGMP key points or a step-by-step guide to documenting quality-related activities.

By providing links to relevant regulatory documents such as FDA guidelines or European Medicines Agency (EMA) directives, employees can stay current with evolving cGMP standards. This approach transforms onboarding from a mere introduction into an ongoing resource-rich journey, fostering continuous learning and enhancing the organization’s culture of compliance.

Step 5. Encourage Questions and Discussions

Promoting an environment where new employees feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in discussions about cGMP topics is a testament to an organization’s dedication to nurturing learning and development. This should start during the onboarding process.

Interactive cGMP Training

Trainees should be able to openly discuss cGMP challenges, ranging from interpreting complex regulatory clauses to applying quality control measures. These discussions, facilitated by approachable subject matter experts, not only enrich understanding but also showcase the organization’s commitment to their professional growth.

For instance, during one such discussion, a trainee might raise questions about interpreting a recent FDA guideline update, triggering a lively debate that sheds light on its implications for their roles.

By encouraging questions and discussions, organizations create a fertile ground for the exchange of diverse perspectives, leading to collective problem-solving and a profound appreciation for the role that each individual plays in upholding cGMP standards. This commitment to open dialogue reflects an investment in fostering a culture of learning and continuous improvement, reinforcing that every employee’s voice matters in ensuring the pharmaceutical industry’s unwavering commitment to quality and compliance

Step 6. Evaluate Comprehension through Assessment

The integration of assessments and quizzes after cGMP training sessions during the onboarding process serves as a pivotal step in gauging the depth of understanding and identifying areas for potential improvement

cGMP post course assessment

Imagine a scenario where, following a training module on documentation practices, new employees engage in a knowledge check that evaluates their grasp of key concepts. This assessment not only reinforces the material covered but also offers immediate feedback, highlighting areas that may require additional attention. For instance, if a substantial number of trainees struggle with comprehending the intricacies of deviation reporting, it signals an opportunity to provide supplementary resources or offer targeted follow-up training.

By systematically collecting and analyzing assessment results, organizations can tailor their cGMP training approach to ensure that all employees have a firm grip on critical principles, thereby reinforcing a culture of precision and compliance. This practice transforms training from a one-way dissemination of information into a two-way dialogue, where both trainees and organizations collaborate to refine their understanding of cGMPs, ultimately bolstering the organization’s commitment to product quality and patient safety.

Step 7. Evaluate Training Effectiveness and Revise

The process of cGMP training doesn’t end with the final session; it’s an ongoing evolution. Imagine a continuous loop of evaluation where new employees are encouraged to provide feedback on their cGMP training experience. 

Evaluate cGMP Training

Through surveys or discussions, trainees might express that a specific module on quality control methodologies was particularly insightful, while another session on risk management could benefit from more interactive elements. This feedback-driven approach offers organizations the chance to refine their onboarding curriculum. For example, based on feedback that hands-on simulations made cGMP principles more tangible, adjustments could be made to incorporate additional interactive components across training modules.

By routinely evaluating the effectiveness of cGMP training, organizations actively demonstrate their commitment to a culture of continuous improvement. This iterative process ensures that the learning experience remains engaging, relevant, and impactful, while also reinforcing to new hires that their voices contribute to shaping the organization’s commitment to excellence in quality and compliance.

Step 8. Document cGMP Training undertaken during the Onboarding Process

In the pharmaceutical industry, where precision, safety, and regulatory compliance are paramount, every facet of operations is meticulously orchestrated to ensure the highest quality products reach patients. One foundational element in this intricate puzzle is the comprehensive recording of new employees’ cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) training as part of the onboarding process. This practice transcends a mere procedural checkbox; it serves as a strategic imperative that bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and tangible application, reinforcing accountability, regulatory adherence, and ongoing professional development.

cGMP Training Records

Demonstrating Legal Commitment:
Recording cGMP training underscores the legal obligation of pharmaceutical companies to ensure that their workforce is educated and well-versed in the principles that govern their operations. cGMP regulations are embedded within the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, specifically 21 CFR Part 210 and 211. While these regulations don’t explicitly mandate the recording of training, they emphasize the importance of personnel qualifications, which include proper education and training. In this context, documentation becomes a tangible representation of the company’s adherence to the law, ready to be presented in the face of regulatory scrutiny.

Navigating Regulatory Audits:
In an industry where FDA inspections and audits are routine, meticulously recorded cGMP training becomes a strategic asset. Regulatory bodies closely examine an organization’s ability to ensure that their personnel are knowledgeable about the processes, protocols, and practices that maintain product quality and safety. During inspections, well-documented training records provide irrefutable evidence of the organization’s commitment to regulatory compliance, bolstering the confidence of both regulators and stakeholders.

Enhancing Performance Evaluation:
Beyond regulatory obligations, recorded cGMP training becomes a lens through which employee performance is evaluated. Training records offer insight into the extent to which new employees have assimilated cGMP principles and are equipped to fulfill their roles responsibly. Supervisors can assess whether employees possess the foundational knowledge necessary to maintain product integrity and adhere to cGMP standards, identifying areas that might require additional support or targeted training.

Fostering Continuous Learning:
The recorded documentation of cGMP training isn’t confined to a static archive; it’s a dynamic resource that propels ongoing learning. As employees progress in their careers, this repository serves as a reference for further development. It enables organizations to tailor advanced training modules, workshops, and resources that deepen employees’ understanding, nurturing a culture of continuous learning that aligns with industry advancements and evolving standards.

Conclusion

As we conclude this enlightening journey through the dynamic world of cGMP training in pharmaceutical onboarding, it becomes abundantly clear that this process isn’t merely an obligation but an opportunity—a transformative passage that shapes the course of an organization’s future.

From understanding the legal mandate to cultivating interactive learning environments, and from embracing continuous improvement to rigorously documenting each step, cGMP training encapsulates the essence of pharmaceutical excellence. The threads that bind onboarding, compliance, and competence are tightly woven, forming a fabric of knowledge, dedication, and diligence that’s emblematic of the pharmaceutical industry’s unwavering commitment to patients and product quality.

The journey doesn’t end with onboarding; rather, it unfolds as a continuum of growth, development, and sustained success. We invite you to carry the torch of cGMP education forward, igniting a culture where every employee’s journey is a testament to starting strong, staying compliant, and forging a path towards pharmaceutical brilliance.

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    Dr. Fiona Masterson

    Dr. Fiona Masterson

    With over 25 years’ experience in quality management, operations management,
    and higher education, Fiona combines technical expertise with highly engaging
    training. She has worked in fast-paced manufacturing environments including
    medical device companies, and lectures part-time in universities.

    She has Bachelor and Master of Science degrees, and a Doctorate in
    Mechanical Engineering. Fiona has published in peer reviewed journals on
    topics such as medical device and pharmaceutical regulatory affairs, on-the job
    training and innovative training technologies and strategies. .