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Master of Management in Operations Research (MMOR) students John Cox and Sunny Wong faced a difficult problem: How can you minimize the spoilage of stored blood while keeping enough on hand for routine demands and life-threatening emergencies?

This was the focus of their Industry Project, the hands-on component of the MMOR program run by the Sauder School of Business's Centre for Operations Excellence (COE). Cox and Wong worked as consultants with the Provincial Blood Coordinating Office (PBCO) and took on a project focused on developing an inventory management system. The result was a new process that has helped save half a million dollars by reducing wasted blood by 50 per cent without negatively affecting patient care.

In recognition of the project’s success, BC Health Care awarded the PBCO a Green Apple award in the category of collaboration. Plans are now in the works to roll this tool out, the first of its kind in Canada, to hospitals across the country.

“We’re thrilled the work the COE does and the impact we have on health care operations is being recognized,” says Stuart Donald, managing director of the Centre for Operations Excellence. “It draws attention to how projects like this make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Guided by Sauder’s COE faculty and professional staff during industry projects, students help partners make sense of data, identify areas of improvement and make recommendations for process optimization. On this project, Donald says the students “showed they’re skilled not only at data analysis, but at devising effective solutions as well.”

The COE industry project is the cornerstone of the 16-month UBC MMOR program, offered by Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. Over 126 industry projects have been completed since 1998, and one hundred per cent of MMOR students are hired within six months of graduation, owing to the program’s success working with industry.  

This year the COE was also awarded the UPS George D. Smith Prize, the leading international award recognizing top operations research programs connecting industry with higher education. It was the second year the COE qualified as a finalist for the prestigious $10,000 award, granted by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the world’s largest professional society in the field.