We are space enablers

The BAL Industrial Leader tells us about his career 06-21-2022 |  3 minutes


Interview with Laurent Mexmain, who works primarily on optimizing the new Ariane 6 Launcher Assembly Building (BAL – Bâtiment d’Assemblage Lanceur) at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana

What is an Industrial Leader at ArianeGroup?

At Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, the role of the Industrial Leader, who is also in charge of “launcher operations industrialization” (IOL in French), is to ensure that the production tool defined and built meets the cost/delivery/performance requirements. In other words, how to assemble the launcher as quickly as possible, with the greatest possible reliability and at best cost.

Concretely, what does this work entail for the BAL?

We make the initial major strategic choices regarding costs and we challenge them against the operational times in order to create the various integration phases, both in Kourou and back in France. This is possible thanks to “takt time” which enables us to optimize each workstation so that there is no waiting and thus no time wasted along the entire production chain that we set up.

For our non-specialist readers, could you explain what you mean by “takt time”?

For each workstation, we establish a time during a certain phase of activity and attempt to balance the various workstations so that the entire production process is as optimized as possible. This is done either by adapting the number of persons who work on a particular station in the best possible conditions, or by transferring the operations to certain stations to balance the whole.

What has your career path been since you arrived at ArianeGroup?

I began on Ariane 4, which enabled me to discover the industrial tools used in the space industry. The innovative ideas and the challenges that I encountered on Ariane 4 and Ariane 5 brought me extensive experience of the industrial activity. I worked more on the quality control and production side in the workshops, which gave me a good overview of all the possible scenarios. I also worked for five to six years on defense projects, which nicely complements my other activities.

What is the main goal of your role today?

Assembling the Ariane 6 components includes a large number of highly complex steps. The goal is obviously to optimize the performance of all these steps. Building on experience and using brainstorming, we are making a real difference by comparison with the time taken on the same operations for the previous launchers.

Were you a space fan before working in this field?

I began my career on Ariane because it was my dream. During the interview for my first job at Aérospatiale at the time, I was offered two options: Ariane or micro-mechanics. I replied “Ariane or nothing”.

What do you think is the most important quality for occupying this role?

Creativity: you have to be creative in order to change certain habits in the sector. These may be synonymous with robustness, but they are now sometimes not so adapted to the modern context, when you look at the competition.

What advice would you give to students looking to work in the space sector?

Keep dreaming and believing.


Thank you to Laurent for this introduction. A second article will be out soon, in which we will be describing all the BAL innovations in detail.