MRO Magazine

Training and lubrication are key to reliability


June 1, 2005
By PEM Magazine

The bearing and power transmission industry continues to change at a rapid pace. To keep in step, bearing manufacturers are working hard to provide users with improved product performance and upgraded customer-service packages, including training. At the end of the day, it’s all about reliability and reducing costly equipment downtime.

Scarborough, Ont.-based SKF Reliability Systems, Inc. a division of SKF Canada Ltd., offers a detailed training program through its Reliability Maintenance Institute. A variety of courses are available, including bearing maintenance and service, root-cause bearing failure analysis, practical applications in bearing lubrication, bearing reliability in fan applications, bearing reliability in centrifugal pumps, dynamic balancing of rotors, vibration analysis and in-plant training services.

The bearing maintenance and service course is designed to provide pertinent information to maintainers and other plant staff to improve the performance of rolling-element bearings, which enhances the reliability of rotating equipment. Upon completion of the course, participants will understand:

  • The function of a bearing;
  • The factors affecting the performance of rolling-element bearings (bearing quality, operating environment, installation and maintenance practices);
  • Components, terminology and types of rolling element bearings;
  • The bearing numbering system and significance of prefix and suffix characters;
  • Proper bearing mounting and dismounting procedures;
  • Importance of proper lubrication and lubrication practices; and
  • Causes of bearing failure.

Rigoberto Moreno, division manager, SKF Reliability Systems, says the industry’s main focus is reliability, especially when it comes to condition monitoring and training. “It’s important to offer training courses to help plants eliminate machinery problems and achieve maximum reliability and productivity. We do this by using the very latest in precision maintenance techniques," he says. “It’s crucial for those in the industry to take information and turn it into knowledge. For us, this means that we provide more than bearing technology. It’s about education, training and customer service."


To improve bearing performance, John Melanson, application engineering, SKF Canada, says lubrication plays a critical reliability role. “If you consider bearing failures, the main cause is lubrication," he says. “This could mean too little, too much or the wrong lubricant for the job. We specifically look at different lubricants for a variety of applications. It’s important to factor in lubrication decisions with bearing life."

Greg Babcock, director of marketing for Mississauga, Ont.-based NSK Canada Inc., says that proper awareness, storage and installation will extend bearing reliability life. “Bearings tend to get noticed when there’s a problem. For example, you may have a grinding noise with a gearbox. The bearing, however, usually isn’t the root cause of a failure—it’s something else," he says. “To improve bearing reliability you have to start with the proper handling of the product. A bearing is a precision instrument. You just can’t toss a bearing on a shelf or expose it to dust or water, while it’s being stored.

“During installation, it’s important to ensure that the site isn’t contaminated. Thirty-percent of bearing failures seem to happen from the point of storage to installation. This is huge when tracking bearing performance. Bearing manufacturers talk a lot about lubrication, yet the topic is least understood and adhered to. Some greasing schedules don’t have anything to do with the bearing application. Every Monday morning, someone will apply grease until they see it flowing outside one of the seals. This is wasteful and harmful to the environment. It can also shorten the life of the bearing."

Marcus Wickert, P.Eng., manager of technical resources (engineering) for Mississauga-based NTN Bearing Corp. of Canada Ltd., is another strong proponent of proper bearing lubrication. “Sometimes, there are preventive maintenance or lubrication cutbacks. Lubricants are well-engineered, but they have to be used appropriately with the bearing," he says. “Lubrication isn’t black and white—we see a lot of gray out there. A few people try to get away from not lubricating at all. This can lead to equipment failures and shutdowns.

“Proper care is also needed for the handling, shipment, receiving and storage of bearings. Getting back to the basics is a good place to start. Companies need to emphasize lubrication and bearing maintenance fundamentals. There are rules to help make the bearing last. It’s one reason why bearing manufacturers are working with the industry."

Evan Boere, sales manager (Canada) for Mississauga-based Canadian Timken Ltd., says that some bearing users are becoming more sophisticated. “They’re focusing on preventive and predictive maintenance. Users also have greater expectations of bearing performance," he says. “This is when condition monitoring comes into play. Another factor is the proper installation and removal of bearings. It’s imperative to replace bearings on the user’s terms instead of waiting for the product to say it’s time.

“By and large, users don’t know a lot about lubricants. We often have to provide information on the right lubricant to use. We’re actually putting our own formulated lubricant into the pre-grease assembly. This can get around any lubrication compatibility issues."

Robert Robertson is PEM editor. You can reach him by email: