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Helping Save the Lives of Québec’s Tiniest Citizens Through a Very Unlikely Partnership

May 10, 2018

Toyota shared its manufacturing know-how with Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank, helping increase the output of donated breast milk to support more premature babies.

Learn more about how you can help, at Héma-Québec.

Moms around the world are our everyday, unsung superheroes whose power and abilities often go unnoticed. And sometimes they need the additional support of a community -- especially when caring for a fragile, premature newborn. That’s why organizations like Héma-Québec do what they can to support mothers who need that extra ounce of courage. And when Toyota was told they could help multiply the important work being done, they seized the opportunity. Here’s a look at how an unlikely partnership was dedicated to saving the lives of our tiniest citizens.

About the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank
Amongst the many initiatives that Héma-Québec undertakes, one in particular exists with the goal of helping our most fragile and vulnerable citizens: very premature babies. The Public Mothers’ Milk Bank at Héma-Québec provides breast milk donated by new mothers to Quebec hospitals for use in helping care for premature babies born at 32 weeks or earlier.

When babies are born this prematurely, their mothers are often unable to breastfeed. Studies have shown that donated breast milk reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious neonatal disease that can attack the digestive systems of babies.  Every year, many premature infants contract this serious intestinal disease, and far too often, the results are fatal. Thanks to the generosity of donor mothers across the province, Héma-Québec is able to give these very premature babies a helping hand to get healthier and stronger.

The Unlikely Partnership: Toyota & Héma-Québec
For more than 25 years, Toyota, through its Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC), has shared the Toyota Production System (TPS) with organizations in the public and private sectors to help them become more productive, maximize available resources and improve their quality and safety. This includes Canadian organizations such as Héma-Québec and Canadian Blood Services.

In 2017, Toyota partnered with the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank to help identify improvement opportunities at Héma-Québec’s production facility in Montréal, and to help increase the output of milk delivered to partner hospitals across the province. The milk undergoes numerous steps before being shipped to local hospitals, including testing, analysis, processing, labelling, pasteurization, and packing for transport. Héma-Québec’s goal is to achieve an annual output of 4,000 litres of milk – an amount that would meet the needs of Québec’s premature babies every year.

Through this partnership, Héma-Québec was able to identify significant opportunities to improve the milk bank’s output, allowing the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank to help even more premature babies in Québec.

A Few Results
In just one year, the milk bank has already increased their distribution of donated milk to partnering hospitals by 20%.

Héma-Québec has also increased its potential production capacity by nearly 500 percent. At the onset of the partnership, the milk bank demonstrated a projected capacity of around 700 litres of milk per year. Today, the milk bank is well on its way to its 4,000-litre per year goal.

Standardized process steps have helped double the daily production capacity from one to two batches per day at the facility that tests, documents and pasteurizes the donated milk.

Based on the core principles of TPS, Toyota’s goal was to equip Héma-Québec staff with the knowledge and tools necessary for the organization to create and apply its own approaches to production improvements. Toyota believes that for any change to be sustainable, it must be driven by those who carry on the day-to-day operations and actively supported by senior leadership.

To learn more about how the Toyota Production System is helping other similar projects in Canada and the U.S. through the Toyota Production System Support Centre (TSSC), visit

How You Can Help

Approximately 300 active donors on a constant basis are required to meet the needs of hospitals in Québec. To help meet this goal, eligible Québec residents can register to donate directly through the Hema-Quebec’s website here.
Furthermore, Toyota Canada and Héma-Québec are inviting Canadians to also help create awareness for the program and community by sharing this story.