IBRAHIM SLAOUI

Morocco 2020 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ibrahim Slaoui, President of Mafoder, about value addition, youth unemployment, and goals for the coming year.

What are some promising ongoing collaborations, and what value do they bring to your company?

Locally, we have partnered with companies like OCP and Managem. OCP is in the #1 exporter of phosphate and its derivatives in the world and Managem is a global player in the mining sector. From manufacturing spare parts for pumps for industrial users as well as OEMs, we are also a manufacturer of pumps. This project was a core development with OCP, which did the engineering of the pump, while we did the manufacturing of the parts. The pumps have been successfully tested and are operating on the field. We were essentially a manufacturer of replacement parts with reverse engineering capabilities. We have for the last ten years managed to diversify our customer base and serve OEMs with pump parts in the dredging industry in many geographical areas of the world as well in mining. We collaborate with their engineering department and have the advantage of manufacturing répétitive series instead of unit parts as in the replacement market. We deliver up to four tons pump casings in heavy-duty material all over the world including the Netherlands, Germany, France, Algeria, Tunisia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East. It represents 50% of our sales. More generally, we have three main activities within the Mafoder group: steel and cast-iron foundry products, prefabricated concrete, and outdoor furniture.

What role does innovation play in the development of your business?

We do a great deal of product development because bringing new products with better performance to the market is necessary to remain the leader. We regularly introduce products which meet ISO standards and which actually solve problems for end users. We entered the prefabricated concrete business because the construction of underground networks, under the manhole covers we manufacture, was of poor quality. Instead of pouring concrete on site to build the manholes, they would be prefabricated in a factory. This was a revolution since we brought a standardized solution for an equipment that could be installed on construction sites with efficiency, ease and a proven quality. It was a product in concrete that was closely associated with our ductile iron covers, although in a different material and technology.It helped us strengthen our position on the market because we were combining our services into a more integrated approach and solution. In terms of urban furniture, we did the shelters for the Casablanca tram, which was a big project for us. We transferred our know-how of foundry and concrete to this new business line thanks to our experience in material shaping. Foundry involves heavy-duty parts with high value added from casting, machining, and heat treatment.It is very challenging. For the replacement market in Morocco, the market for steel castings is very fragmented.Most of the time a customer brings in in a new replacement part to manufacture ,we have to take the measurements and create the drawings and then cast, machine, heat treat, validate, and test the parts. This has taught us how to respond quickly to this fragmented demand on the market. To better serve our customers, we have developed rapid prototyping techniques in order to reduce time to market. We gained great agility over time and we can say that innovation was always part of our DNA because it meets the values we cherish such as freedom to create and full commitment in our endeavors.

What are the main struggles that companies face in the sector?

The rigidity of the labor laws means that over time you need to restructure your workforce. Severance packages are costly and there is little flexibility in hiring people on a limited basis. It is also difficult to bring in talent because the education system is not efficient, and training institutes do not really target the specific needs of the foundry sector. The younger generation has sometimes unrealistic expectations that we cannot meet because they seem impatient to take responsibilities. The problem is that Morocco has opened its borders to many countries with free trade agreements which creates a big problem for the local industry. The local companies cannot face open competition without government support because our market is too small and input costs are not always favorable. Tenders are designed in a way that does not allow Moroccan companies to compete. I also do not see much help from the government in supporting local SMEs.

As a member of the board of EFE Maroc, what measures has the organization taken to address youth unemployment?

We have provided extensive training on soft skills because this was lacking in the market. We needed to improve communication skills and the attitudes of the youth on how to orientate their careers, seek opportunities in the market, write their CVs, prepare for interviews, find jobs, and improve their capacity to integrate the job market once they are hired. Sometimes, they have high expectations, are impatient, do not know what the environment they are landing in is like, or do not know how to resolve conflicts. We look at how we can inspire them to be great employees and present themselves properly. We have the privilege to be part of an international network in the US, Europe and the Middle East. We have been partnering with companies such as Master card , Accenture, Citibank, Boeing, Chanel, and CDG on coding. Over a 10-year period, 50,000 people have been trained. We have about 450 coaches that are EFE certified trainers, and we have trained people all over Morocco.

What are the goals for the group in the upcoming year?

We will continue to focus on our exiting business and increase our volume with European OEMs .We have recently acquired a major world renowned certification from the Meehanite Corporation that puts us in a great position to develop our business within the phosphate industry. In terms of urban furniture, we plan to work more with designers and architects to develop new lines of products. We have plans to be much more involved in the supply of solutions to urban planning. We will increase our presence in the arts and cultural scene. We are great believers in how the industry can collaborate with art. It needs to find its expression in our community.