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The Centre for Operations Excellence at the Sauder School of Business has won the UPS George D. Smith Prize, the leading international award recognizing top operations research programs connecting industry with higher education.

Focused on business analytics, the COE partners with a diverse range of organizations, from health care to aerospace, to find solutions to operations challenges. By placing specialized graduate students with advanced skills in operations optimization as consultants and providing leading edge thinking in the field, the COE has established itself as global leader.

“We’re extremely proud of the COE’s success,” said Sauder’s Dean Robert Helsley, Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy. “This award reflects the significant impact the centre is having bridging industry and academia to help organizations improve how they do business and deliver value to their clients.”

Coming out ahead of fellow finalists Carnegie Mellon University and Lehigh University, 2015 was the second consecutive year the COE qualified as a finalist for the prestigious award.

The centre produces high-calibre research in operations, management science and analytics, and runs the Master of Management in Operations Research (MMOR), a degree program offered by Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. The 16-month MMOR provides students with advanced education in business analytics and operations research and placements as consultants with leading organizations.

“There’s a rapidly growing interest in analytics and big data, and many universities are expanding their programs in the area. So it’s encouraging to see that the impact we’re making is attracting attention.” says Associate Professor Harish Krishnan, the centre’s director. “Winning this award shows the COE and the Master of Management in Operations Research are recognized as world leaders.”

One hundred per cent of MMOR students are hired within six months of graduation, owing to the program’s success working with industry.

Boeing Canada has partnered with the COE on nine projects, and has built a large Advanced Analytics Group including a dozen MMOR graduates. A partnership with the Fraser Health Authority, one of Canada's largest and fastest growing authorities, has seen significant operational changes based on student recommendations, as well as the expansion of their analytics division, building a team of researchers that includes numerous alumni from the MMOR program.

The most recent cohort’s projects also include streamlining cardiac patient care in B.C. hospitals, partnering with WorkSafeBC to mitigate return-to-work delays, improving blood inventory management, and working with telecommunications company Telus on billing processes.

Prize committee chair Ranganath Nuggehalli said the COE earned the award for its long and distinguished proven track record. “A unique blend of theory and intensive hands on practice, this program has produced a generation of practitioners who are highly sought after by the industry.”

The UPS George D. Smith Prize, which includes a $10,000 award, is granted by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), the world’s largest professional society in the field. It was first awarded in 2012 and named in memory of the late UPS CEO who was a champion of operations researchers at the leading Fortune 500 Corporation.

Past winners of the prize include Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Leaders for Global Operations program (2014), Naval Postgraduate School (2013), and the University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for Global Operations (2012).

Photo courtesy of INFORMS.