University of São Paulo: USP material helps small businesses improve product quality

PIt may not seem like it, but there is science behind a perfect brigadier. When the candy is made with standardized measurements and ingredients, using the same recipe and the same mold, so that all units have the same weight, flavor and appearance, we can say that it has met the principles of quality, an area that, in turn, time, it is directly related to statistics. The problem is that few micro and small entrepreneurs have this knowledge and the result is products and services without a defined standard, and an accumulation of customer complaints. To help change this scenario, a survey developed at the Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences (ICMC) at USP, in São Carlos, it mapped the problems of micro and small companies in the food sector in Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, and developed material for basic training in statistical tools.
The study, carried out by Francisco Constantino Simão Júnior during the Professional Master’s in Mathematics in the National Network (PROFMAT) and supervised by Professor Juliana Cobre, was born from the researcher’s desire to guide a work directly related to society and the student’s desire to share part of the learned in a 38-year career in the industry.

“I spent years focused on improving processes and I realized that large companies had access to this knowledge and the necessary statistical tools, but commerce, small stores, did not. I asked myself: why can the industry benefit and the small trader not? If they knew simple things, they could improve their results”, says Simão Júnior.

From door to door
A resident of Poços de Caldas, Simão Júnior decided to use data from micro and small companies (SMEs) in the municipality’s food sector in his project. He obtained from the City Hall a list of 1,883 establishments in the sector and used the numbers of these enterprises in the Cadastro Nacional de Pessoas Jurídica (CNPJ) to check the nature of the businesses and their situation with the Federal Revenue, in addition to verifying their presence on iFood , excluding so closed companies. The check resulted in 565 MPE.

From this total, he calculated the appropriate sample size and selected the enterprises he would visit, ensuring randomness in the sample and the collection of information in different neighborhoods of the city. As not all the enterprises visited were open or agreed to participate, he had to visit 155 establishments to obtain the necessary 84 participants, including snack bars, bakeries, pizzerias, sweets, coffee shops and ice cream parlors.

“I wanted to have a face-to-face approach with the research participant. I wanted the interviewees to know who I am, that the research was from USP, and to understand the importance and benefit of participating. There needs to be that human warmth,” she comments.

In these MSEs, Simão Júnior applied a questionnaire with questions such as: What is the “flagship” product of the place ? Is it always made with the same ingredients? Is it produced with printed recipes and standardized quantities? Does the team undergo training? Do customers complain about the variation in quality?

The results confirmed the hypothesis: businesses that present the factors machine, environment, labor, raw material, method and measurement (the so-called 6M manufacturing factors) standardized, controlled and continuously improved, in an index greater than 70%, have a lower rate of consumer complaints than others.

“I’m used to analyzing real data sets and often we don’t reach a conclusion because we don’t have enough information from the data, but in the case of this research, a sampling was carried out, there was this care. This was essential to get answers”, evaluates the advisor Juliana Cobre.

“I spent years focused on improving processes and I realized that large companies had access to this knowledge and the necessary statistical tools, but commerce, small stores, did not. I asked myself: why can the industry benefit and the small trader not? If they knew simple things, they could improve their results”, says Simão Júnior.

Statistical literacy
Based on the responses of the interviewees, Simão Júnior formulated a material for education and basic training in statistical tools. With examples from the MSE universe, he compiled the step-by-step process of eight tools that allow identifying problems and opportunities for improvement, and evaluating performance in production and delivery processes: Pareto chart; Cause and Effect Diagram; stratification; check sheet; histogram; scatter or scatter diagram ; control and process sigma chart and diagram.

The guidelines are contained in the dissertation by Simão Júnior, available at the Library of Theses and Dissertations at USP (from page 125), and the researchers are open to partnerships for the publication of the material.

“There is a great need when we talk about knowledge of statistics”, says the researcher, who sees the need to reformulate the curricula of elementary, secondary and higher education to include more topics in the area. “Statistics allows you to critically evaluate data, read and interpret graphs. It also helps people make their decisions based on facts and not be manipulated by false information”, he says.

Juliana agrees. She also adds that, in the pandemic, companies used to collecting and analyzing data on consumer satisfaction achieved good results and would like this practice to reach MSEs. “Small businesses are not used to organizing their customers’ data. They don’t know, for example, how to direct communication because they don’t know the preferences of the target audience. They are knowledge that should not be so distant from society in general. Would everyone need to be in Administration or Marketing to sell a hot dog or pizza? It is knowledge that makes the economy go round”, concludes the ICMC professor.

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