Exploring Brazil: A Student Perspective

Cal Poly students meet with locals in Brazil
Business student Rob Wagner talks about his experience on a trip to Brazil as part of BUS 304: Establishing International Supply Chains.

Through the Orfalea College of Business’ trip to Florianopolis, Brazil, we were able to experience an unmatched look deep inside Brazilian culture. Touring four different manufacturing plants allowed us to apply the information we learned in the classroom to real-world situations, furthering our education, and shifting our perspective to understand Brazilian business decision making processes.

Students on an industry tour in BrazilThrough the course of the trip we toured four different manufacturing plants. Each company was happy to accommodate us and provide a presentation into their supply chain and sourcing decisions. Intelbras, the leading consumer electronics manufacturer in South America, provided great detail into their decisions that led to massive growth over the last 20 years, as well as how they coordinate their departments and communicate effectively with their suppliers to prevent supply chain disruption. Another manufacturer we visited was the BMW Araquari plant in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We learned a great deal about maximizing their efficiency, and received an in-depth explanation of their quality control processes and risk mitigation strategies in a global supply chain. Uatt?, Brazil’s largest gift brand, focused mostly on value chain management and adding value to the consumer through a perpetually changing supply chain. Through annual supplier evaluations and a shift to in-house manufacturing, Uatt? detailed how they add maximum value for the consumer during the production process while minimizing costs.

Students at a major port in BrazilIn class, we had learned about the recent presidential impeachment, corruption charges and economic decline, experiencing it firsthand however, was a completely different story. In the last 10 years, Brazil has experienced an economic boom that led into a recent decline. Last year, the inflation rate in Brazil was 30%, significantly weakening the power of the Real. This was readily apparent in the Centro district of Florianopolis where we stayed the duration of the trip. Hundreds of hotels lined the waterfront, completely dark and empty. A state of 1.5 million people had been depleted to 400,000, and homeless people lined the streets Through our tour guide Rodrigo, we were able to travel across the entire island, stopping off at all the hotspot destinations and immersing ourselves directly into the local culture with no crutch. We were able to hear local citizens accounts of the past recession and the insight on how the culture of Brazil led to it. It was like nothing we had ever seen in the United States, and allowed us to analyze the advantages that we have as Americans, as well as the differences between our countries that led to this problem.

Altogether, we were able to gain a strong understanding of supply chains from an international supply chains, while immersing ourselves in a culture struggling with political and economic uncertainty. This trip was a once in a lifetime experience and I can’t even begin to explain the effect that it had on me. It provided valuable cultural awareness, a Cal Poly educational experience, and a bonding experience with my peers and professors that you can’t find anywhere else. This tightened our relationship with faculty members and fellow students, and laid a foundation for success in international business and supply chains after graduation.

Header photo by Ferrari Franzoni.