How proper lubrication can enhance your plant’s reliability

March 15th, 2017

Everybody wants a reliable plant with a predictable maintenance schedule – and a key part of achieving that goal is to ensure that your lubrication program is organized, well-funded and employing the best practices across the board. What are those, and how will they effect your plant's reliability?

Here are a couple of tenets to keep in mind:

Lubrication can't be the last priority

It's sadly common for lubrication technicians or oilers to land on the low end of the seniority scale or come last in managerial assessments of what's important. Make no mistake – they're actually incredibly important. Without well-educated, motivated and trained lubrication techs, your operation will literally grind to a halt. It's important to invest in education and certification for your people, so that they can excel in areas such as:

  • Storing and handling oil and lubricants
  • Learning the proper types and amounts of lubricant to use for various applications
  • Avoiding the pitfalls of over-lubrication
  • Regularly inspecting machines to ensure that proper protocols are being followed

When your technicians feel valued and their work is considered a core component of overall operations, your uptime will increase and repairs will go down.

Improper lubrication gets expensive – fast

Buying high-quality oil and grease and investing in training is expensive, sure – but not nearly as expensive as not funding them.

Des-Case conducted a study on the True Cost of Poor Lubrication, and found figures from ExxonMobil which showed "less than 0.5 percent of the average plant's maintenance budget is spent purchasing lubricants, but the downstream effects of poor lubrication can impact as much as 30 percent of a plant's total maintenance cost each year." The multiplier effect here is huge – just a small improvement in your lubrication program can have a massive positive impact on your overall reliability.

Overall, the study found that given annual maintenance costs of $9 million, about $1.62 million of those can be attributed to issues arising around poor lubrication, and $567,000 of those could be addressed immediately.

Overall, the study found that given annual maintenance costs of $9 million, about $1.62 million of those can be attributed to issues arising around poor lubrication.

The study also found that simple time-based predictive maintenance strategies were bound to fail, because of wide variations in the life of different bearings. One subcomponent might be perfectly healthy while another is on the verge of failure. That's why testing for contamination, setting aggressive targets and taking action as issues arise will eventually prove more effective.

Proper lubrication frees up technician time

There are only so many hours in a day – and this feels especially true in the demanding environment of round-the-clock plant operations. Every minute spent dealing with inefficient lubrication protocols or the consequences of under- or over-lubrication is time technicians aren't spending on other issues.

By ensuring that your program is optimized to maintain oil health and to reduce downtime, you create space in your maintenance staff's schedules to deal with other issues proactively. This gets you ahead of the game across the plant, ultimately improving your overall reliability and in the long term, lowering your costs.

Check out more of UE Systems' resources on lubrication technologies and techniques here.

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