MRO Magazine

Cut Costs Not Corners: Lubricants have significant impact on energy, labour and equipment costs


May 22, 2012
By PEM Magazine

How important can the right lubricant be to your company’s bottom line? More than you might think. Because lubricants typically make up only one percent of a company’s total operating costs, many lubrication programs do not receive the attention they deserve. However, the surprising truth is that the lubricants a company chooses can have a significant impact on high-visibility and high-value line items such as energy, labour and equipment costs.

Price versus cost
Identifying the true cost of your lubricant program is the first step in optimizing your plan to positively impact your bottom line. When analyzing your current lubrication program consider how much lubricant you’re using, how often you relubricate, and how much time that relubrication takes. If you already have a handle on these numbers you’re well ahead of the game. If you don’t, take some time to establish a baseline so that when considering alternative products you can conduct an “apples to apples” comparison. By tracking these variables you will come to realize that the true cost of your program includes much more than the price per kilo or price per liter of your lubricants.

Now that you have a firm grasp on the true cost of your company’s lubrication program, the next step is to evaluate where savings are possible. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the factors involved.

Increased productivity
Facilities are constantly pushed to increase productivity while reducing maintenance and operating expenses. Any time your equipment is idle, you’re losing productivity. While some maintenance, including lubrication, can be completed while your line is in operation, some has to be conducted during downtime. This is not a huge inconvenience if you have regularly scheduled downtime that coincides with your relubrication schedule. However, if you have to bring a machine down once a shift specifically to relubricate, that’s money taken away from the bottom line every shift. What if you were using a lubricant that extended that relubrication interval to once a month?


Reducing maintenance costs
If your plant is like most, there is probably a wish list of maintenance projects just waiting for the manpower and time to get them done. While even the best lubricant can’t create time, an optimized lubrication program can help free-up resources to accomplish those tasks. If your lubrication specialist is able to extend relubrication intervals through the use of synthetic, newer-generation products, you can do more with the same staff and with the same time. In our case study, the facility had the potential of reallocating almost 1,500 man-hours annually.

Used-lubricant disposal is also a variable in calculating the costs of your lubrication program. Extended lubrication intervals impact these figures. If you’re using less lubricant, you’re disposing of less lubricant — another savings to the bottom line. And don’t forget your spare parts inventory. Proper lubrication can help your machinery and its components last longer which means less money spent on repairs or rebuilds. Your equipment is a major investment and should be maintained accordingly.

Another factor to consider is how much energy a company can save by utilizing highly efficient gear oils. The right lubricant can reduce the coefficient of friction resulting in less power loss. In other words, the right lubricant requires less energy, leaving you with a lower energy bill at the end of the month.

Lubricants on your line affect your bottom line
In order to avoid the pitfalls of purchasing lubricants based solely on price, evaluate your current program and then request a comparative cost benefit analysis from a supplier. Simple calculations can reveal significant savings that aren’t always evident in the initial cost of a lubricant.  n

Kimberly Eldridge is a North American market manager with Klüber Lubrication. For more information, visit