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Prolacta’s manufacturing team shines in 2020

“We’re a tight-knit family in manufacturing. Every single one of us is deeply committed to our mission of helping to save the lives of thousands of fragile babies worldwide.”

– Mario Rodriguez, senior manufacturing manager

Baby LaMaia was born at 24 weeks of gestation weighing just 1 lb 2 oz. She is now a healthy and thriving infant thanks to Prolacta’s lifesaving human milk–based nutritional products.

Ensuring that the world’s tiniest babies like LaMaia have access to optimal nutrition from day one, even in the midst of a global pandemic, is no easy feat, but it’s what Prolacta’s manufacturing team is all about.

Led by senior manufacturing director Etienne Fung, who joined the company in 2014, Prolacta’s manufacturing team is responsible for receiving and collecting samples for testing donor milk and then concentrating, pasteurizing, and manufacturing it into a complete line of human milk–based nutritional products for use in neonatal intensive care units.

In 2020, the manufacturing team exemplified the epitome of solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic by working together safely and efficiently to keep their commitments to providing Prolacta’s lifesaving nutritional products to thousands of hospitals worldwide.

“Although the world was grappling with a pandemic, our priority as a team never changed. We always put the lives of the premature babies we serve first. They are our number one priority, and that really drives our passion.”

– Etienne Fung

Their outstanding achievements as a team in 2020 included:

  • Fulfilling 100% of orders to customers
  • Achieving zero manufacturing shutdowns or delays in shipping
  • Increasing on-hand inventory in just three months to ensure enough product was available to serve the needs of fragile patients during the pandemic
  • Processing and packaging record levels of human milk while maintaining a high level of quality and safety standards

They owe their success to one thing: teamwork.

“Our mantra is ‘one team.’ We have a ‘one team’ approach to everything we do in manufacturing.”

Mario Rodriguez

The diverse team comprises 80 people and is located across two pharmaceutical-grade manufacturing facilities (the first and only of their kind in the world).

The first facility, in Duarte, California, is led by Mario Rodriguez, who joined Prolacta in 2016. Mario and his team are responsible for receiving and collecting samples so that the quality control lab can test the donor milk using methods modeled after the plasma and blood industries that surpass food-product safety standards.

Donor milk that has passed testing is then sent to the second facility in City of Industry, California. It is led by longtime Prolacta employee Armando Montoya, senior manufacturing manager, who has been with the company since 2005. Here, donor milk that has passed testing is being manufactured under a proprietary process and then pasteurized by following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines from its Milk Pasteurization Ordinance into the final product and is shipped to hospitals.

From donor to recipient, manufacturing plays a vital role in the lifecycle of Prolacta’s products. That is why teamwork is so important.

“We’re always looking out for each other. We have one another’s backs.”

– Armando Montoya

Everyone on the team must work together to ensure the company always has product available to serve the nutritional needs of the world’s premature infants.

“I am proud to say that we continuously have product readily available.”

– Armando Montoya

In addition to teamwork, safety is a high priority for the manufacturing team.

“Prolacta truly cares about its employees. That’s why the company made the health and safety of its entire manufacturing team a top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

– Etienne Fung

In light of COVID-19, aside from regular cleaning and sanitizing, wearing masks, and social distancing, extra safety precautions were taken to help prevent the spread of the virus among the manufacturing team. This included separating the receiving and sampling teams into two different groups at the Duarte facility, and creating a separate dedicated break area, outside eating area, designated restrooms, and specific pathways at the City of Industry facility to minimize contact and create a safer work environment. The company also provided some essential supplies at the beginning of the pandemic for employees to bring home and maintain a safe living environment.

“The response from the team was incredible. Everyone really takes to heart our company mission. We’re all united in helping to save the lives of premature infants, so we rally as a team and do whatever it takes to make sure we get our shipments out on time and get our products to the fragile babies who need them most.”

– Mario Rodriguez

While 2020 may have been a challenging year for many businesses, families, and communities, Prolacta’s manufacturing team is hopeful for a stronger and brighter future. They will continue to work together as a team to bring the best human milk–based nutritional products to premature infants worldwide.

“We’re looking forward to the day we can all celebrate in person together, but for now, we will continue to stay the course, keep up the hard work, and support each other as a team.”

Etienne Fung