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RIME for Work Prioritization: Median Time to Complete Work Orders

A Supervisor's Typical Morning

Its 7 a.m. and Rich's head is already spinning. He hasn't even finished his first cup of coffee and already three different customers have screamed at him. While the customers are from three completely different business areas, they have two things in common:

They each have an "emergency" that needs to be taken care of right now.

They each refer to themselves as THE most important person on site.

As a front-line supervisor and former journeyman pipefitter, Rich has always had a great understanding of how to quickly troubleshoot problems and keep customers happy. Unfortunately, things have changed drastically over the past few years.

He used to have mechanics ready and waiting to address "emergencies," but cutbacks and retirements have cut his crew size in half. To make matters worse, every time he personally takes care of an emergency, his manager chews him out for breaking into his maintenance schedule.

With limited manpower, Rich doesn't have enough mechanics to address all three "emergencies." Even if he could, how would he ever get the rest of the work on his schedule executed?

If you were Rich, how would you handle this situation?

Would you stay the course and execute your scheduled jobs to keep your boss happy?

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Would you try to address one of the "emergencies" to keep one of your customers happy?

If you choose to address one of the "emergencies," how would you know which one to pick?

Logic versus Emotion

At Merek, a pharmaceutical company, we face similar situations. To help our maintenance personnel make these tough decisions, we are utilizing a tool known as the Ranking Index for Maintenance Expenditure (RIME), as shown in Figure 1. The RIME index was created as part of the implementation of SAP for plant maintenance and was developed by the Global Reliability Engineering Team in conjunction with the Global SAP Plant Maintenance Implementation Team. RIME helps replace emotion with logic. As we all know, most of our maintenance decisions are based on who is yelling the loudest and not what makes the best business sense.

Using RIME is very similar to using a multiplication table. You simply pick a column and a row, and where they meet is the answer. The rows correspond to the work request priority and the columns indicate the asset priority. Therefore, if you pick a work request priority and an asset priority, you can easily select the correct work order priority.

To make this more tangible, let's work through an example. Assume we are having a problem with a pump that is part of a manufacturing process. Because this pump is a process-oriented pump, we will need to use the column labeled "Process Equipment" within RIME (see Figure 2).

Assume the pump is still running, but is no longer providing the throughput required to optimally run the production line. As a result, we are still making product, but not at the desired rate to meet customer demand.

In this situation, we would use the row labeled "Reduced Production," as shown in Figure 3.

When you connect the row and column, you will see that they meet at work order priority #1 - complete within two days (see Figure 4).

Work Order Priority Codes
0 = Complete within 1 Day
1 = Complete within 2 Days
2 = Complete within 7 Days
3 = Complete within 30 Days

The Ranking Index for Maintenance Expenditures (RIME)

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Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

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Figure 4

Where Would We Be Without RIME

Before we started focusing on adherence to RIME, work orders were seldom completed by their designated due dates (see Figure 5).

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Figure 5: Median Time to Complete Orders: June 2011

When we dug deeper into the situation, we realized we were not following RIME 100 percent of the time. It was at this point that we decided to focus our efforts on proper work order prioritization. Each week, we would review work orders that were created and measure adherence to RIME. We did our best to provide praise to those who followed it and guidance to those who did not.

Within six months, we achieved our goal of 80 percent adherence, as indicated in Figure 6.

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Figure 6: RIME Index Adherence By Month

So What Does This Get Us?

While reviewing our progress to RIME adherence, one of our senior supervisors asked, "This is great, but what does it really get us?"

It is an excellent question.

Is all of this simply administrative work? Are we a better maintenance department simply because we code work orders properly?

To answer these questions, we had to go back and determine if we got any better at completing work orders by their designated due dates.

As can be seen in Figure 7, RIME adherence actually got us a great deal. By prioritizing work properly, we were able to achieve a two to three week improvement in response time for each work order priority.

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Figure 7: Median Time to Complete Orders: August 2012

Another nice benefit of focusing on work order prioritization is that our schedule compliance rose from 63 percent to 77 percent. As people began to put more thought into their work order coding, they were less likely to "break-in" to their existing schedule to get work done.


This issue definitely illustrates a paradigm in the maintenance industry. When you "feel" like you are providing the best customer service, you are actually doing quite the opposite. This became evident by our original data (Figure 5), where we acted on emotion and were unable to meet our deadlines.

When we replaced emotion with logic and RIME (Figure 7), we were able to truly meet customer demands and do so two to three weeks faster.

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