In Conversation with Opher Baron: On the Making of an Online Canadian PPE Marketplace
For the second instalment of our 2020–21 speaker series, we had the pleasure of joining Dr. Opher Baron, Professor of Operations Management, from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He shared his journey creating a Canadian marketplace for personal protective equipment (PPE) to help bridge the crucial supply chain gaps that swept across the country during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through this interview, we learn how the expectations of traditional PPE supply chains were fundamentally changed by the onset of COVID, shifting from a norm of relatively limited quantities and demand to a sudden, dramatic, and global increase in need. Dr. Baron delves into the way WeChat in Wuhan, China provided insight into effective PPE distribution and the ability of tech platforms to leverage the benefits of open, transparent marketplace dynamics for both large and small scale equipment procurement.
Recognizing the significant need for better access to the Canadian PPE supply chain, Dr. Baron, his colleagues, and volunteers created the COVID PPE Help platform (covidppehelp.ca). The site brings together PPE suppliers and customers, increasing market transparency for both sides and facilitating the efficient distribution of PPE. Thanks to the team's tireless commitment, the platform continues to be a powerful tool used by Canadians in order to adequately provide PPE to front line workers and Canadians from coast to coast.
Please enjoy this video of our conversation!
A special thanks to both Dr. Opher Baron for participating in this interview and Melanie Ramnauth, UTIHI Director of Collaborations, for hosting.
Opher Baron is a Distinguished Professor of Operations Management and the area coordinator for Operations Management and Statistics at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
He was a visiting associate Professor at the Industrial engineering and Management faculty of Technion (2009/10) and a visiting Professor at the School of Information Management and Engineering, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics (2016/17).
He has a Ph.D. in Operations Management from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MBA and BSc in Industrial Engineering and Management from The Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.
On the teaching front, Opher is especially proud of the "Analytics for decision-making" MBA elective course he introduced and teaches at Rotman. His research interests include queueing, business analytics, service operations (such as healthcare), inventory planning, and revenue management. Opher's work is published in leading journals such as Operations Research, and Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, and he has won several research and teaching awards and grants, including the 1000 Talents Plan Scholar from the Shanghai Municipal Government, 2017.
Opher is active in the operations research and operations management community. He has given numerous invited lectures and seminars, chaired several conferences, clusters, and sessions, and is currently serving on the editorial boards of several journals, including Manufacturing & Service Operations Management and Service Science.
During the COVID-19 outbreak he and his colleagues, professors Philipp Afèche, Dmitry Krass, and Ming Hu, set out to transform the PPE marketplace, improving its transparency. With a group of volunteers led by Dr. Val Kobylianskii they launched CovidPPEHelp.ca in late April 2020. This free platform effectively connects customers and suppliers of PPE. The platform now helps non-for-profit and charitable organizations to get discounted PPE and operates a group buying offer that allows small customers to purchase PPE at wholesale prices.