Commercial plant equipment constantly undergoes wear-and-tear to maintain the desired production levels of operations. Moving components experience extreme stress, and bearings can begin to degrade. To ensure equipment reliability, bearing lubrication can prevent friction damage and eventual machine failure. Instituting the correct bearing lubrication practices, and avoiding the pitfalls when performing this task, can ensure that plant operations continue at full capacity.
Best Practices for Bearing Lubrication
Develop a Lubrication Program
Every component has different lubrication needs, types of grease used, and the different times to perform the bearing lubrication process. The very first step is to identify the needs of the application based on its use and the types of oil or grease that will be applied. The program should also outline the personnel training that is required for every new hire who will perform the inspections and lubrication processes.
Labeling and Storage System
When working with large industrial plants, many types of lubricants will be used. Containers will come in various sizes, as it can be easy to mistake one lubricant for another when grabbing a bottle to lubricate bearings. Creating a smart labeling system allows you to know what, and how much, grease and oil is available at all times.
In addition, how you store your lubricants is highly important. While totes and drums can be stored outside, they should be placed underneath protective cover so that bungs are not exposed to the elements as water can get inside. A temporary awning or partial enclosure is recommended for outdoor lubricant storage.
Invest in Ultrasound Software
While manually inspection allows for workers to spot visible issues, there may be hidden problems with bearings that can impact operations. Software has advanced significantly when it comes to monitoring bearing applications and providing real-time data regarding excessive wear-and-tear.
Ultrasound equipment using digital decibel metering and several alarm settings, such as lack of lubrication alarms and critical high alarms, can warn workers when there are any issues with the bearings at all hours of operations. These systems can also collect routine data and trend history so companies can better manage bearing maintenance schedules and lubricant supply levels.
Mistakes to Avoid
Too Much or Too Little Lubrication
When it comes to bearing usage, there needs to be the right amount of friction at all times. However, poor lubrication methods can throw this factor off. Too much lubricant causes the bearings to work harder. Dirt can also build up in the excess lubricant and the temperature starts to rise On the flip side, too little lubricant causes increases in the wear of the components. The machinery doesn’t operate efficiently or smoothly as components start to freeze up.
Lubricating Bearings on a Time Schedule
While having a maintenance and inspection schedule is ideal to service equipment, your workers shouldn’t rely on it to lubricate the bearings. Components will operate at different levels of use that may require lubrication before the set schedule, or may not need lubrication at that particular time. If workers go ahead and lubricate the bearings based on a time schedule to get the task out of the way, there could be too much grease added which will create other problems.
Developing the best practices for bearing lubrication maintenance will allow you to understand the needs of your equipment throughout its operations. Then you can continue to monitor base lines and track alarm levels using the right technology to prevent unexpected machine downtimes.