4. Drive the right lubricant consolidation
1. Implement a proactive program: Gap analysis
An optimized lubrication program can go a long way. It can significantly reduce maintenance cost, add to machinery lives, optimize energy consumption, eliminate unnecessary production stops, reduce lubrication stock & expenses and improve maintenance team productivity. Below we are summarizing for you 9 steps that could help guide you through implementing a Best In Class lubrication program.
Do an overall assessment on the "as is" process, find out your current best practices and gaps / issues. Document the gaps in details and align remediation plans with clear ownership. Produce a cost benefit analysis of implementing a proactive lubrication program and engage with senior management to ensure you have the right support.
Oil contamination is a major driver of machine failure and reduces equipments life. There is also a big risk of error or mixing oils due to the complexity and number of lubricants used in a plant. This could be prevented by implementing the 5S best practice model (Sort, Straighten, Scrub, Standardize and Sustain). Below are some of the practical things that could be implemented to enable this.
- Ensure the storage area is clean and dry.
- Ensure you are using the right containers
* Only use fully sealed containers that will not generate
* Install air breathers to all containers to stop
- Ensure that the lubricants are easily identifiable. Implement a best in class sorting system: Lubricants could be broken down to types (Chain oil, synthetic gear oil, coupling grease…),
Assign a color for each category, Use different shapes for
different robustness and viscosity (triangle, circle...).
3. Implement "best in class" lubricant storage and handling
9 STEPS TO BEST IN CLASS LUBRICATION
Ensure you have a solid analysis plan including regular lab samples analysis and In house sampling. Make sure you set up targets, alarms and limits (e.g. per type of equipment, set targets for cleanliness, water levels, viscosity, acid number, oxidation, contamination levels...). The targets should include green, caution and critical levels with potential actions as needed.
Relying on a bi annual lab analysis to spot issues is a risk. There are some aggravating factors that could accelerate the lubricant deterioration dramatically (e.g. water, heat causing low viscosity or quick oxidation, contamination through air due to a failed breather...). There are a few tests that could be done more often, on site. See below some examples:
- Use a hand held moisture tester to visually detect water in oil
- For viscosity, use a "visgage" for a simple flow comparison
against new oil sample of the same brand and viscosity.
- Buy a budget microscope, with 40 to 60 magnifying power.
This could provide a good idea about oil contamination.
Alternatively use a microscope with a digital camera to have
digital photos of the oil and be able to compare trends.
- Use visual analysis through sight glasses in pumps. They allow a quick contamination check looking at the color and clarity of the lubricant.
- Use the smell test. It could also be useful to detect
7. Leverage in-house oil analysis
6. Implement the right oil analysis sampling process
To control contamination, and beyond the storage related actions, there are two aspects that need to be considered:
- Avoid contamination when adding lubricants: Using the right
tools would make the difference (e.g. grease guns should be
color-coded to ensure that the right lube gets in the right
- Avoid the contamination of lubricants inside the equipment:
Online and offline filtering systems are used to clean up the
oil. Air breathers ensure no dirt is getting in.
Examples of actions taken to control contamination:
- 3 micron particle filter and water removal installed on the
most expensive gearbox in the plant.
- All critical gearboxes and hydraulic tanks fitted with
supply return quick connects.
8. Control contamination
Set up key metrics, track performance and report on a regular basis. See below examples of key metrics to consider:
- Tracking of the delivery of overall planned savings and
lubrication cost reduction.
- Tracking of compliance to scheduled lubrication.
- Tracking of number of lubrication-related equipment failures.
- Tracking of oil cleanliness levels.
2. Set up lubrication performance tracking
Lubricants consolidation could have multiple benefits if done correctly (e.g. stock optimization, cross contamination & error risk reduction). It is also an opportunity to review the current lubrication program and reengineer it as needed.
This should be approached carefully to get full benefits without impacting negatively on the operations.
- Use a lubrication specialist to develop a detailed lubrication
specification per machine or fine-tune existing ones,
- Group similar lubricants into categories with robustness being the only variable.
- The two steps above could be simplified for non critical
equipments by consolidating the lubricants to categories
based on type and performance e.g. ISO VG 460 EP Gear Oils.
- Choose one lubricant by category with an adequate
robustness (viscosity, ability to release water, dispersancy...) & the right price.
- Ensure there are no incompatibilities. You need to look for:
* The risk of mixing two incompatible lubricants in a rolling change over or not fully draining the old lubricant.
* The risk of having incompatibility between the new
lubricant and the equipment.
The right lubricant at the right time in the right place is key for the lubrication program success. This is achieved through managing the activity using a lubrication management software (e.g. LUBRILYS). The software will provide the ability to produce lubrication schedules, will manage alerts and adhoc activities. It will also support knowledge management. Other functionalities include the delivery of cost detailed analysis, activity peaks forecast and management, which will enable better productivity.
To enable this you will need to go through the following:
- List all equipment in the plant and lubrication points.
- Calculate volume and Frequency of lubrication (e.g.
frequency on motors 8 weeks, pumps and fans 4 weeks...).
- Assign a lubricant to each equipment.
- Upload the data to the software.
Simplify and automate your lubrication management
The next level of efficiency could be achieved through automation. You can automate using single point lubrication or centralized systems. There are a variety of designs and systems with different investment levels and pros and cons to consider. A cost/benefits analysis would determine the best approach for your site. Critical equipment or items that have a high frequency of lubrication are a priority.
Lubrication automation could have the following benefits:
- Lubricating the points more frequently and with smaller doses will ensure that lubrication stays at an optimum level.
- Automation reduces manual intervention leading to reduced contamination and the elimination of human error.
- The above will ultimately increase equipments' lives and reduce costly production stops.
- Automation could also help reduce lubricants waste with more precise dosing.
- Automation could improve maintenance team productivity,
- Finally, Improving safety could also be a consideration for difficult to reach lubrication points.
When automating, Please consider the following watch-outs:
- Depending on the automation system adopted, it will only be able to handle specific lubricants characteristics.
- Make sure there is a proper monitoring of oil levels in the automated systems. Accidentally pumping air into the system could impact
- Automation should not eliminate manual and visual inspections.