When Sauder student Alex Dueck sees a Boeing 747 crossing the sky, he likely sees a trail of numbers following in its wake.

This summer, he was knee-deep in data helping the aviation giant create an analytical model that improves their ability to hire and retain top talent – an endeavour he took on as an industry project, a core part of his Master of Management in Operations Research.

“Boeing’s analytics team in Vancouver is known for being early adopters, so given how warmly they received our recommendations, we’re excited to think of how our strategies could permeate throughout the rest of the global organization,” says Dueck.

Dueck’s project was managed by Sauder’s Centre for Operations Excellence (COE), an international hub for operations research that recently won the UPS George D. Smith Prize, the leading award for universities providing training in operations research, management science and analytics.

Fresh off the award, the COE has announced a new model for industry partnerships that will allow them to have a bigger and more lasting impact on firms like Boeing.

Since the COE was established, the research centre has partnered with organizations every year, matching students and data-driven challenges in everything from health care to financial services to telecommunications.

Under the new partnership model, companies will work more closely with the COE on projects that can span multiple years. Firms will have year-round support with increased access to the expertise of the COE’s faculty, staff and students as on-call consultants.

Some companies, like Boeing, have already been working with the COE for many years and provide an exciting glimmer of what is achievable through a closer working relationship. 

This year alone, five students consulted on two different projects for Boeing; a second team developed a model that allows the company to translate social media feedback into valuable insights that can help improve airline operations.

Boeing Vancouver’s analytics team is led by Andrew Hall, a Sauder alumnus who worked on the second project the COE did with the global firm in 2009 – there have been eight others to date. Since taking the helm, he’s hired a dozen fellow graduates, who now make up close to a third of the analytics group.

“Our analytics approach is certainly based on what many of us learned at the COE,” says Hall, adding that the ongoing connection Boeing has had with the COE has been critical to his team’s success.

“We’ve been sponsoring industry projects every summer lately, which have been very useful, and as a source of specific hires and talent development, the COE has definitely been a strong pillar,” he says.

The new partnership model will enable the COE and its partners to delve deeper into solving bigger problems.

“With a long-term year-round relationship, we can keep the momentum going following each industry project, and better support implementation and the transfer of knowledge,” says Stuart Donald, managing director of the COE.

“Business analytics is becoming more and more important, so many companies are realizing it’s what they need to do to catch up or to get ahead.”

Top image source: Justin Griffiths on Flickr


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