[Job portrait] Audrey, Mid-section manager of the FCD of the Terrible

Audrey Ribière

18 June 2021 Defense Naval Fleet services Human ressources Story

The first Full Cycle Docking (FCD) for the nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Terrible is currently underway on Dock 8 of the Brest naval base. Over the course of 14 months, the SSBN will undergo some 300 modifications on its installations which will restore its operational potential for the next ten years. Audrey Ribière, manager of the mid-section – which includes the deterrent weapon system – tells us about her role in this major project, which brings together exceptional skills for one of the world's most complex products.

Could you describe your professional career?

I am from Lyon and have a background in engineering. In 2011, the industrial piping company for which I worked (in the Bids department) found itself in direct competition with Naval Group. It was at this point that the group’s activity piqued my interest! So much so that I joined the Brest naval base in 2012, as a mechanical and electric Work Package Manager (WPM) within the Department for Weapons and naval equipment (AEN). It was then that I discovered the world of naval defence, and it was absolutely eye-opening! I participated in the FCD for the Triomphant and the ship’s adaptation to the M51 missile. I then became head of the Weapons department and led its restructuring with the integration of new teams. It was my desire to return on site that drove me to my current position as SSBN FCD section manager.

What is the role of a section manager?

As a section manager, I oversee the coordination of the activities of different trades that are working on the shipyard. In an environment with high levels of co-activity, I ensure that the rules of Health and Safety at Work and Environment (H&SW/E) are respected. I am therefore highly involved on board. This supervision also encompasses the quality of the work in progress and the achievement of the various milestones. It is a field function with a substantial managerial component. I manage a team of Work Package Managers (WPMs), coordinators and schedulers. A certain level of leadership is therefore required to ensure that everyone is on the same page. You need to know how to motivate and guide individuals when needed, how to be demanding yet attentive to the operational personnel on whom you rely.

What major challenges does this FCD present for you and your team?

Since this is the first FCD of an SSBN armed with M51 missiles, some of the operations that we are carrying out are unprecedented. With regard to the deterrent weapon system (DWS), this involves removing 16 fixed internal tubes in the external tubes of the missile launcher. The first fixed internal tube was removed in February. The process is being stabilised and optimised little by little. The second major challenge is, of course, to meet the ambitious schedule while ensuring that there are no work accidents and that deviations in quality are kept to a minimum. On the FCD for the Terrible, we are now being assisted by on-board quality roundsmen. They help us integrate and strengthen the Quality culture within the teams. For example, they monitor that system blanking rules are respected. In terms of H&SW, we have set up a system for securing emergency evacuations (use of an RFID chip on each worker’s helmet) and have doubled the amount of back-up response team members. All these elements require very precise activity management.
The work is high-paced, but I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to grow in this exciting universe!