MRO Magazine

Feature

Safeguarding against lubrication woes

Without a proper lubrication program, maintenance managers run the risk of lost revenue through downtime, repair and damaged equipment, in addition to poor reliability and high energy consumption due...


Without a proper lubrication program, maintenance managers run the risk of lost revenue through downtime, repair and damaged equipment, in addition to poor reliability and high energy consumption due to friction, noise and vibration. To maintain peak production efficiency, consider these simple steps.

1) Be informed about machinery lubrication. Lubrication products and techniques are changing constantly, which means you need to stay informed. Knowledge about your lubrication system is one of the most important ways a plant manager and staff can prevent costly downtime and repairs.

Many good suppliers offer half-day, one-day, or two-day seminars in machinery lubrication practices. Some are designed for mechanics, operators or others who have direct and daily responsibility for lubrication. Others provide a best practices overview for managers and supervisors who don’t require technical expertise but need enough information to plan, organize, staff and support those who do.

From introductory courses that cover the fundamentals of friction and the basics of lubricant selection, storage, handling and dispensing, to advanced courses that teach oil analysis, contamination monitoring and control, and wear debris monitoring and analysis, the top lubricant suppliers offer training classes on- or off-site to help you achieve best practices.

2) Implement an oil analysis program. Essential to extending the working life of lubricants is the implementation of a thorough oil analysis program that tracks critical wear-related characteristics of oil in service by comparing the results with previous reports and noting the trends.

Such a program helps identify contamination, lubricant degradation, abnormal machine wear, and problems with sampling. It also can transform a lubrication program from time-based to condition-based, eliminating unnecessary changes.

3) Find a qualified lubricant specialist. A good lubricant supplier should provide the training and tools needed to properly maintain your production line, in addition to offering a comprehensive product line that fills all your lubrication needs.

Maintenance managers should expect a comprehensive suite of services from their supplier to facilitate their lubrication management. If your supplier does not offer seminars in machinery lubrication or an effective oil analysis program, find one that does.

With a working knowledge of the basics of machinery lubrication and careful attention to the applications and conditions of their lubricants, maintenance managers can be well-equipped to prevent the costly damage caused by poor lubrication.

4) Find the right lubricant for your application. A frequently cited study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) estimates that six to seven per cent of the Gross National Product of the United States — about US$240 billion — is spent repairing factory machinery damaged from wear caused by poor lubrication. We can extrapolate that figure to about C$24 billion each year for Canada.

It’s a figure that is at once astounding and completely understandable. Given the enormous number of lubrication solutions available to plant engineers, the job of choosing the right lubricant can be daunting.

To ensure you have the right lubricant for your application, it is often best to consult a well-qualified lubrication supplier, whose expertise helps maintenance professionals avoid mistakes in lubricant selection and application that can shorten equipment life and stop production.

A supplier should be keen to ensure you are treating your lubrication process in the most efficient way. This allows both the lubricant supplier and the customer to reap the benefits of high-performance lubricant products.

For example, high temperatures in air compressors accelerate reactions between compressed oxygen and impurities, resulting in rapid oxidation and a sudden increase in viscosity and lubricant failure.

Mineral oils in air compressors generally last only 1,000 hours. By comparison, a synthetic compressor oil specially formulated for air compressors can last about 12 times as long.

The suppliers best equipped to meet requirements for diverse lubricating solutions offer a complete line of industrial lubricants, not just a “wide range” of products. Fluids for high-volume applications include hydraulic, compressor and vacuum pump, gearbox and chain, and multipurpose oils. Specialized industrial compounds such as greases, pastes, anti-friction coatings and dispersions must be added to the mix. In addition, a wide range of base stocks is essential.

Synthetics provide excellent resistance to emulsification and last longer to extend maintenance intervals. Ultra-high purity mineral oils also resist emulsification and promote improved additive performance, which results in longer life than conventional mineral oils. The full-line supplier must also be able to draw on functional additive technologies, including anti-oxidant, anti-wear, and extreme temperature additives.

In a complex manufacturing operation, selecting the wrong lubricant can compromise productivity and profitability. Working with a lubricant expert can help manage and enhance a key maintenance function by cutting costs and extending the life of equipment.

Phil Grellier is global solutions development manager, eBIG, for Dow Corning Molykote. He can be reached by e-mail at phil.grellier@dowcorning.com.

Learn more about lubrication

Look for the Summer 2006 issue of our biannual supplement, Industrial Lubrication, which was included with this issue of Machinery & Equipment MRO. It includes an article on applying high-temperature greases, a case history on how a new lubricant strategy boosts compressor productivity, a report on using a special hydraulic hose for a gearbox oil cooling system, a feature on estimating grease life for lubricated-for-life deep groove ball bearings, and more.