Importance of Lubrication Management as a Foundation to Any Preventative Maintenance Program
A review of the benefits of a robust lubrication management program.
BY Ian Miller
When it comes to developing a robust preventative maintenance program, the first consideration for any facility should be would this facility’s current lubrication management program be considered best in class?
The typical response when this question is posed to most facilities is, lubrication management is the least of our problems. This may be true, at least at first glance. However, once you start digging into the root cause of equipment failures, you will probably find what others have come to realize.
In fact, an ExxonMobil case study found that, “less than 0.5 per cent of a plant’s maintenance budget is spent purchasing lubricants, but the downstream effects of poor lubrication can impact as much as 30 per cent of a plant’s total maintenance costs each year,” according to Jason Kopschinsky, Director of Reliability Services, Des-Case.
These findings should strike a chord to those responsible for managing a maintenance budget. The prospect of shifting 30 per cent of a facility’s maintenance budget toward proactive/predictive maintenance and facility improvements should be all the motivation needed to reevaluate your current program. The prospect of freeing up additional capital when combined with the ease of implementation and relatively low cost of executing a best-in-class lubrication management program should make this a priority.
What should you consider while building out a lubrication management program? The following is a great place to start:
• The number of lubricants currently used at a facility;
• Condition of new oil being supplied to a facility;
• Site storage and clean lubrication transfer;
• Condition of your operating lubricants; and
• Education/training and ongoing improvements.
The reason to make “number of lubricants used at a facility” the first consideration in building out this program is that, logically, the fewer products used, the easier it is to manage. It is also a great way to help reduce the instance of cross-contamination that can result from confusion or misapplication (human error). If a facility’s maintenance personnel have fewer lubricants on-site, the odds of cross-contaminating a piece of equipment are greatly reduced.
As a first step, consultation with the lubrication supplier is always recommended to identify if further standardization is possible at a facility. This is typically a free service, and one that has great value to any facility’s bottom line.
Next, the condition of new lubricants (with a special focus on oil) needs to be reviewed. Although most consider new oil to be clean, the reality is that it will only meet a bare minimum level of cleanliness. This level, typically provided in the ISO format, should be evaluated against the requirements for the equipment it will be used in.
After this review, most facilities will realize that new oil is not clean oil. The way to best combat this is to always transfer through filtration: from barrel to bulk storage, from bulk storage to temporary containers, and from temporary containers to equipment in service. This is also a great reason to evaluate the addition of kidney loop systems to critical assets and bulk lubrication storage.
Bulk storage and lubrication transfer is a critical component to a successful strategy and will be where the most time, effort, and money should be spent. If done properly, this is where the best payback on investment (both money and time) can be realized. It is also the most visual component of a successful strategy and one that will be a daily reminder to staff of the facility’s commitment to the program.
Areas of focus
• Bulk storage tanks and transfer equipment should be installed/stored in one clean area, with proper environmental controls. Controls that can minimize the egress of airborne contaminants, stabilize temperature variations, and control humidity. If possible, insuring this area is in a central location will also provide labour savings as a result of more efficient workflow patterns.
• Colour code everything: storage tanks, transfer equipment, and the equipment that you will be depositing the lubricant into. A great example to visualize is having a yellow hydraulic oil storage tank, yellow transfer containers, a yellow filter cart, and a yellow tag hanging on all hydraulic power units with the oil name and type clearly printed on it. Colour coding your lubrication distribution allows for an easy-to-use initiative system that also stands out as a daily reminder to staff of the importance of the program. This may seem a daunting task, but there are many great manufacturers that have ready-made solutions that can be quickly and easily ordered/installed.
• Invest in quality equipment. Doing this benefits a facility in two ways. First, maintenance personnel are more likely to buy into the program if they see the facility has made a considerable investment. Second, buying quality equipment upfront will also save a facility money over time.
• Use quality filtration and closed transfer points (oil and air). Quality filtration and breathers pay for themselves and ensure fluid integrity when it is most vulnerable. When discussing closed transfer points, this references the use of fluid quick couplers. Revisiting the hydraulic example, imagine using one inch quick connects on all bulk storage tanks, filter carts, transfer containers, and the fill ports of the equipment being serviced. This ensures clean transfer while further minimizing the instance of human error.
A mistake made by many facilities is focusing solely on new lubricant storage and transfer. Focusing on operating lubricants is just as important. Understanding the condition of a facility’s operating lubricants can substantially extend the life of equipment as well as give insight to potential issues down the road.
Things to consider
• Oil sampling and analysis. Many insights can be gleaned from regular sampling and analysis.
• IIoT. Consider adding sensors to monitor the conditions of your lubricants. Gone are the days of cost-prohibitive sensors like particle counters. The cost of such equipment has drastically reduced and now adding such things as particle counters, temperature, water saturation, conductivity, differential pressure, and flow sensors are far less cost-prohibitive than they were in the past. Finally, after a facility’s program has been developed and put into action, education and continuous improvement should be an ongoing focus.
Consider capitalizing on
• Investing in maintenance staff and providing them with the training needed to support this initiative. Consider getting some key staff certified: ICML (International Council for Machinery Lubrication), MLT I (Level I Machinery Lubrication Technician), or MLA I (Level I Machine Lubricant Analyst (ISO 18436-4, I).
• Use the data collected through IIoT and lubricant analysis to improve your filtration, lubricants used, and equipment in service where needed. Understanding this data is as important as collecting it.
• Stay current. New products are being released almost weekly, and knowing how you can leverage those new products could be the competitive advantage your facility needs.
A robust lubrication management program should serve as the bedrock on which you develop a facility’s preventative maintenance program. Investing time in this style of program will save your facility both time and money, and will ensure that your investments in maintenance reap the greatest return on investment. MRO
Based out of Calgary, Ian Miller, E.I.T., is National Services Business Development Manager at Motion Canada. He has over a decade of hydraulic and electrical experience in the field, including system design, troubleshooting, on-site installations, and technical