Safety First: Putting Incentives to Work for GMP Compliance

Shawn Russell

Employee working the assembly line at a pharmaceutical manufacturer

In 1999, a $125 million NASA satellite destined for Mars overshot its mark, drifted into space and was lost forever.

Why? It turns out NASA used the metric system (meters) and their partner, Lockheed Martin, used customary units (feet).

And, just this past March, an Amazon server outage took down many of the internet’s most popular sites for an entire day.

Why? An IT employee made a typo while doing some routine maintenance.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But, for as costly and gut-wrenching as these mistakes were, errors in other fields might be even worse.

For those extremely sensitive industries, regulatory compliance with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) ensures the highest quality outcome with lowest possible risk.

Why GMP Compliance Exists

In the world of manufacturing, especially food, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, the stakes for clean environments and rigid, distinct processes are sky high. Mistakes can lead to contamination, illnesses or worse, and not to mention the subsequent financial toll that sends shockwaves through companies.

Current Good Manufacturing Practices, a rigid set of manufacturing regulations in the food, drug and pharmaceutical industries, are enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Any variance from those rules are met with severe fines and punishments: cash settlements, forced revamps of compliance programs or a total disbarring of the company from federal healthcare programs—the ultimate punishment for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.

Clearly, GMP compliance is nothing to mess around with. It’s what keeps us from living in a world with untested, tainted or risky ingredients in our food and medicine and dangerous practices used to make them.

Though these laws have been effective in improving the quality of manufacturing over the years, human error still frequently occurs in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Plus, it’s not just your team members on the manufacturing floor who are on the handle for GMP compliance—it’s everyone who interacts with the manufacturing process, from IT to HR and more, according to federal regulations.

Encouraging manufacturing best practices through incentives can help your company minimize the risk of injuries and costly mistakes. Here’s how they work for three major tenets of compliance.

Incentivizing Training for GMP Compliance

Before your people can do their part to ensure GMP compliance throughout your company, they have to be trained on the best practices you employ.

After all, it’s hard to perform up to expectations if those expectations haven’t been made crystal clear.

It’s a best practice for safety programs to reward for training rather than punish for mistakes, and your GMP compliance program should follow suit. Offer incentives for people to partake in training, but don’t be punitive when small mistakes are made—use them as a learning opportunity.

When it comes to the kinds of incentives in this instance, experts agree awards are preferable to cash and the time to switch from monetary to non-monetary incentives is now.

"Our people respond better to gear incentives than they do to cash," one manager explains in a SHRM article. "We've tried everything when it comes to training incentives, and we found that our people work twice as hard and get twice as jazzed when they earn a free jacket as opposed to a bonus check."

Incentivizing Communication for GMP Compliance

Communication between employees and managers is crucial to ensure GMP compliance. After all, managers aren’t always on the “front lines” of manufacturing, so they might not be fully aware of pressing issues present on the factory floor.

Accordingly, companies need to ensure the lines of communication between managers and employees are as open as possible to ensure issues are addressed as quickly as possible.

Let’s say a factory floor employee at your pharmaceutical plant spots a potential problem that could result in GMP concerns. It’s good to report it to supervisors, but it’s even better to pinpoint the cause of the failure, suggest ways to improve and more.

By offering increasingly valuable awards for greater participation in your incentive program, including ideas to fix potentially hazardous situations, you fix problems and prove to your people their input matters.

Incentivizing Uniformity for GMP Compliance

The chef at your favorite restaurant can make an incredible spaghetti carbonara, night after night, each tasting identical. That takes a lot of uniformity and discipline.

You can eat a candy bar made in Phoenix, and it tastes the same as one made in Boston. That takes a lot of uniformity and discipline as well.

Standardized practices are the backbone of manufacturing. They ensure your customer is receiving the same experience every time. And when you add emphasis to the practices used to create a quality product through incentives, you help ensure a clean, safe product, free from defects.

The Perfect Incentive

People are complex, and so is human behavior, argues Dr. Ginette M. Collazo in a MasterControl blog post.

“Just like equipment, product, and process, [human error] needs to be analyzed in depth,” she writes. “We would never end an investigation with just ‘equipment failure.’ We would explain exactly what the equipment failure was so it could be fixed.”

As human behavior is complex, so are the motivators behind the decisions people make. If you’re looking to incentivize GMP compliance, the right incentive for them is to choose what they want.

Shawn Russell

Shawn Russell

Shawn Russell is a results-driven marketing and communications professional with a proven record of accomplishment in developing and leading comprehensive marketing strategies to attain business goals and objectives. She’s excited about exceeding expectations, building advocacy and driving business—but she’s just as passionate about being a soccer mom and baking.