Managing a lubrication program may not appear complex—all you have to do is make sure components receive the right lubricant at the right time, right? Although those two factors are important, there is a lot more that goes into a successful lubrication program. Lack of detail is often where mistakes are revealed. Let’s dive into the 3 most common lubrication mistakes and how to fix them.
Pumping too much grease into a bearing is common for two reasons:
- It is difficult to be precise with a grease gun, especially if there are no condition monitoring instruments being used. For example, consider a bearing that needs to be relubricated with 2 grams of grease every week. With a standard grease gun, this would mean that the bearing should receive about 1.3 “strokes.” However, manually delivering 0.3 strokes is difficult. In reality, two strokes would likely be given. In other words, the bearing would receive 3 grams instead of 2 grams of lubricant each time.
- Maintenance staff believes there’s no harm in dispensing grease until it purges out of the seals. If this sounds familiar, don’t feel bad—it is an extremely common practice. However, common does not mean correct. Over greasing leads to higher operating temps, increased risk of contaminant ingression, and premature bearing failure.
Before you calculate the regrease requirements for all bearings onsite and determine the output of grease guns, there are a few concerns that must be addressed. For instance, the output of grease can vary between guns.
The best way to counteract this problem is to ensure a single type of grease gun is used across all applications so the output will be similar for each one. Grease guns should also be dedicated to a single type of grease and checked at least once a year.
With that said, grease guns will rarely achieve the accuracy and precision of an automatic lubricator. The OnTrak uses friction as its guide to determine the exact amount of grease needed as it automatically lubricates the bearing.
Lack of Procedures
Documented procedures are not only important for experienced maintenance personnel to refer to, but also crucial for new hires. If your most experienced lube technician retires or quits, will his or her replacement know how day-to-day tasks are performed? Will they know where new oil is tested and stored? How to calibrate a grease gun?
Unfortunately, this knowledge often fails to be passed down to new hires, resulting in a rather steep learning curve.
Detailed documentation of every task performed in the lube program is the most effective method for creating procedures. However, it’s important to note that best practices must be kept in mind. Start by determining what is working and what isn’t. If you’re looking to resolve premature bearing failure, you’ll need to assess your greasing methods and intervals before writing a thorough procedure. Once you can create best-practice lubrication procedures and document them accordingly, it’s easier to keep things running smoothly when turnover occurs.
No Labeling System
Labeling is a key part of any world-class lube program. Not only does it reduce the chance for cross-contamination by minimizing confusion as to which lubricants go where it also allows individuals who may not be as familiar with the lube program to top-up with the correct oil or grease. Labels can also be barcoded to facilitate automatic work-order generation within a plant’s CMMS.
Developing a labeling scheme takes time, but when done properly, it can provide a variety of information not only about the lubricant but also about lubrication intervals as well.
The best label design incorporates a color/shape scheme for each lubricant used. This offers a quick visual reference as to which lubricant is inside the machine. As mentioned previously, once a labeling system has been established, the labels should be applied to all lubricant storage containers and application devices.
These mistakes can be fixed with the right mindset, training, and tools. As the industry continues to change and evolve, it will become increasingly important to understand the problems being encountered and to look for new ways to solve them through the implementation of best practices. By applying sound problem-solving techniques and choosing technology to improve lubrication practices, you can start to make lasting changes for the better.