Daniel Rivard

Daniel  Rivard
  • BS Mechanical Engineering 1959
One of the most recognizable mottos in the world was coined not by a copywriter but by an engineer. Ford Motor Company's "Quality Is Job One" was a slogan and a corporate touchstone for seventeen years, practically forever in the short-attention-span world of marketing. It originated with one man's obsession with making everything better.

"Dan Rivard was the face of Total Quality Improvement at Ford Motor Company for an entire era," said Shea McGrew, Michigan Tech's vice president for advancement. "To this day, he lives and breathes it."

Rivard '59 joined Ford in 1960 and quickly rose through the ranks. In the 1980s, he was executive director for product and process quality improvement, leading efforts to fundamentally change the way the company created and produced vehicles. "I learned inside Ford that permanently imbedded processes are so important," he says. He led several large scale process improvements that helped save the auto giant "from the jaws of the lion" at least three times.

His career also included a mechanical engineer's dream come true. In 1993, he was called out of retirement to lead the company's international racing effort, giving him entre to the pressure-cooker world of NASCAR, Formula 1, Indy cars, and World Cup rallies. There, he again applied the lessons learned in industry to racing performance and safety.

"Process improvement applies to everything," he said. "In racing, it's not only the race car itself; you have to look at the driver, the track, and how the team does business. You have to take a holistic approach."

"It's a never-ending effort," he stressed. "You need to look at how you do things everyday in every way, to improve forever. The world constantly moves around you, and if you don't adapt, you fall behind. That's what process improvement is about."

Rivard now helps Tech's current students learn some of those lessons through the Dan and Carol Rivard Product Realization Center. (Carol is a Houghton native whom Dan met at Tech.) A gift to the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), the lab allows students to design, model, and fabricate new products. 

Excerpted from Michigan Tech Magazine, Spring 2009