OCP Group: Powering Innovation and Redefining Sustainability with the Next-Level AgTech Solutions

OCP Group

OCP GroupOCP is the world’s largest phosphate mining company and a leading fertilizer producer. Phosphate is critical to global food security and OCP is the considerate custodian of the largest reserves worldwide. Therefore, the mission of the company is to “feed the soil to feed the planet.”

OCP is a global company based in Morocco, Africa, serving over 350 customers across five continents. It is known as Morocco’s largest company representing 5% of the GDP with over 20,000 employees.

With this scale comes great responsibility and the key operating principle is sustainability. OCP aims to tread lightly on the planet, minimizing negative outcomes while maximizing positive impact. The company envisions doing the right thing always and that is how OCP has been thriving for more than 100 years.

 

From Single Mine to Multinational Agtech firm: the Success Story

Sustained momentum is only possible when a business is structured for adapting and innovating. OCP has evolved and diversified from a single Moroccan mine to a multinational agtech firm with operations ranging from mining and manufacturing to education and engineering.

The aim is to help the world’s farmers meet the increased demand for food while minimizing environmental impact. The team is improving efficiencies, transitioning to green energy, consuming less conventional water, and helping farmers use only as much fertilizer as they need, all with the ultimate goal of global food security top of mind.

 

A Trailblazer with Best Leadership Attributes

Mostafa Terrab has been the chairman and CEO of OCP Group since 2006. From 2019, Mostafa has also been the President of the International Fertilizer Organization, bringing together 480 members of the fertilizer industry in 68 countries.

Mostafa was named one of the 50 most influential Africans worldwide by Jeune Afrique Magazine in 2014 and is one of the 100 most influential Africans by New African Magazine in 2013. In 2012, Morocco World News named him ‘Person of the Year’ for his contributions to the “most vital” sector of the Moroccan economy. In 1998, he received the Frederick C. Hennie III prize for his contribution to MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science teaching program.

Mostafa’s strong academic background has been a major influence in leading OCP’s transformation. Le Mouvement is his key philosophy guiding the growth and management of OCP. At its core are decentralization and distributed leadership, reducing the number of levels of management and creating linkages between people, focusing on employee needs.

Le Mouvement relies on building the path from a bureaucratic and hierarchical organization to a more adaptive organization based on trust, co-responsibility, and collective intelligence.

 

‘Innovation’ at the Heart of Business Evolution

HERE ADD AN SENTENCE TO INTRODUCE  THE INTERVIEW WITH HICHAM GUELLAF

Hicham remarks that innovation is core to OCP’s business. Better mining and production methods help the team to meet demand, support global food security, and improve profitability. He highlights that they work hard to evolve mining and processing practices and look at new ways to customize fertilizers.

However, OCP is not just focused on innovating within operations, but also works as part of a knowledge ecosystem to support researchers, NGOs, and students to realize their ideas in areas such as smarter agritech and data science, states Hicham.

 

A Paradigm Shift in Mining with Disruptive Tech 

Hicham opines that disruptive technologies bring a range of new capabilities, from the extended indoor, outdoor, and real-time communication of 5G to the collection and storage of large-scale information and data enabling advanced analytics such as data modeling and machine learning. The cutting-edge technologies also provide the ability to deploy smart and embedded systems with IoT and the capacity to process at a large-scale using cloud computing.

According to Hicham, technologies allow the team to improve and develop new techniques and methods for operations across a range of areas. In maintenance, the reinforcement of reliability and availability of equipment through remote maintenance and inspection, as well as real-time monitoring or predictive maintenance for critical equipment. He adds that while in manufacturing, the industry feels the capacity and yield improvement using mobile and real-time monitoring, including advanced processing control for plants and advanced automation for mining fleets (remote control and autonomous equipment).

Hicham reveals that over in quality management, OCP gains quality control through online and smart sensors with integrated tracking and traceability throughout the value chain. The supply chain is enhanced with real-time, integrated, and optimized planning and monitoring of operations across sales, manufacturing, and logistics. From a safety perspective, it gains from risks prevention from using smart sensors and collaborative platforms for best practices utilizing and enabling the creation of new business models, like the experience of OCP-MS (OCP Maintenance Solutions). He further describes that OCP-MS is a subsidiary of OCP Group and specializes in Industry 4.0, developing several software and advanced reliability and maintenance solutions. Since its creation in 2017, OCP-MS has been working to develop considerable know-how and expertise in industrial maintenance, particularly in services in various fields including advanced NDT (Non-Destructive Testing), services by weaving exclusive international partnerships, business training, as well as through digitization services adapted for a 4.0 maintenance.

 

Bequeathing Novelty with Creative Dynamism 

Innovation allows a company to explore new ways of operating and the development of new services providing performance levers and making it possible to be a pioneer in its business activity, says Hicham. He presumes that with innovation, OCP Group has embarked on a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement with a reinforced capacity of analysis, simulation, and prediction. The team has developed the spirit of creativity driving dynamism within the organization.

Hicham remarks that OCP has invested heavily in this area, in particular by creating Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) as a research and innovation training platform for industrial operations, renewable energy agriculture, and more. UM6P is a hub of education, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship aspiring to become a solid bridge of knowledge between Morocco and the world.

UM6P is located in the ‘green city’ of Benguerir, near Marrakech, with branches in Rabat and Laayoune, reveals Hicham. He adds that it applies a “learning by doing” approach and develops sound partnerships with world-class universities to promote leadership and training in focused research areas. Today, UM6P has more than 3,500 students, 10% of which are international, within more than 30 programs and schools focusing on innovative applied research and education. By contributing to the training of a new generation of researchers, entrepreneurs, and leaders, UM6P is committed to positioning Morocco and Africa at the forefront of technology and human science. Hicham ensures that several partnerships have been developed with other industries, research laboratories, as well as start-up incubators through this platform.

 

Overcoming the Skill Gap with Determination

Hicham states that the main challenges the company faced were expertise and skills development. For dealing with high technology areas or domains, building an ecosystem and synergies in these technologies, bringing together skills and expertise adaptation of assets for digital (network, cyber security, sensors, etc.), and change management around the deployment of new operating models, they needed knowledge.

He highlights that UM6P is engaged in economic and human development and puts research and innovation at the forefront of African development. It is, therefore, central to responding to the skills challenge. It will contribute to educating a new generation of African leaders who are aware of their continent’s main challenges and ready to face them.

Furthermore, the data center at UM6P is home to the African Supercomputing Center, remarks Hicham. Being developed in partnership with the prestigious University of Cambridge, it is the most powerful supercomputer in Africa and ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful supercomputers. It has raised Morocco to 26th place worldwide in terms of computing power, ahead of Austria and Hong Kong. With this cutting-edge computing platform, UM6P is strengthening its presence in the country with technological solutions to contribute to digital sovereignty, security, and processing of the data it uses.

 

Soaring High with Modular Investment Programs 

Hicham affirms that OCP is implementing an ambitious modular investment program until 2027 for upstream and downstream activities to meet the growing global demand for food. It is capitalizing on a unique position in the industry through its considerable presence in the three sectors of the phosphate value chain such as rock, acid, and fertilizers.

He discloses that the company has a plan to sustainably expand facilities throughout Morocco, increase mining and processing capacity, and consolidate its strong position in the fertilizer industry.

While growing, OCP is also focused on constantly innovating, reveals Hicham. The team is conducting soil mapping and analysis around the world and customizing approaches and products.

To date, 30 million hectares of land across Africa have been mapped, providing detailed soil profiles to enable the development and deployment of customized fertilizer. Hicham acknowledges that the company has worked with more than 600,000 farmers across the continent while boosting crop yields by as much as 30%.

 

The ‘Next Leap’ for a Sustainable Future

Hicham states, “I see a technological company capable of providing new products and advanced services, offering high added value through the sustainable use of resources, efficient agriculture, and farming, as well as agile, flexible, and integrated within the entire industry ecosystem.”

From operations to R&D investment and supporting communities, Hicham voices that the commitment to creating a sustainable and more equitable future for everyone has transformed the organization.

OCP was focused on developing phosphate market share since its foundation day in 1920. The strategy had shifted to diversification while adding value to phosphate by 2015. Today, OCP is in its third “S-curve”, centered around innovation-based growth.

This growth will benefit everyone who encounters OCP. Hicham concludes by saying that the company creates value for everyone from farmers using products and their customers to employees and the communities within which the company operates.

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