For Maintenance Managers, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a machine shut down and throwing off your entire operation. Whether it’s down for a few hours or a few days, any delays in your production schedule can negatively impact your bottom line, not to mention cause costly repairs to your machine. And with 43% of all equipment failures being directly attributed to the incorrect choice and usage of lubricants, it’s even worse when you know you could have prevented the failure from happening in the first place.
Lubrication problems can often be fixed – and even avoided – with the proper knowledge, processes, and foresight, especially when following the preventative maintenance best practices for lubrication. Fixing lubrication problems before they become equipment failures saves time, money, and headaches. In this post, we’ll explain some of most common lubrication problems managers face, and offer solutions that will help you stop these problems before they start:
Problem #1 – Relying too heavily on the “auto” of automatic lubrication systems
Automatic lubrication systems are often set to dispense a predetermined amount of lubricant at specific intervals. An alarm alerts the operator whenever the lubricant needs to be refilled; however, just because the alarm hasn’t gone off, doesn’t mean that all is well. Though these lubrication systems are designed to perform certain tasks on their own, someone still has to make sure that all the lines are connected, all parts are still working properly, and that there aren’t any leaks. The alarm may alert you whenever the tank is ready to be refilled, but the only way to find out if the other components are working properly is by having someone regularly check your system’s performance. Start evaluating for consistent lubricant volume consumption by keeping a record of refills. If inconsistencies develop between refill intervals, troubleshoot the pump, oil flow, and pump filter. In addition to consistent consumption monitoring, proactively schedule automatic lubrication system inspections to keep your automatic lube system in good working order.
Problem #2 – Lack of labeling on machinery, lubricant storage containers, and oil distribution containers
Using the wrong lubricant in the wrong machinery can spell disaster. An easy solution to prevent this from happening is to clearly and properly label your machinery, lubricant storage containers, and oil distribution containers to help employees avoid any mix-ups. Inadequate labeling can cause confusion that may result in cross-contamination, lubricant misidentification, stock rotation issues, and ultimately equipment failure.
Lack of employee knowledge and/or training is another component of this common lubrication problem. Implementing a solution – such as labeling protocols – is most effective when your team has adequate knowledge and training. Consider holding a “Lubrication: 101” training session to get your team up to speed.
Problem #3 – Incompatibility of greases
Though you might think that just any grease will work for your machine, it’s important to understand that not all greases are created equal. Incompatible grease thickeners can have adverse effects on your equipment. When thickeners are incompatible, the grease can either thin out or harden in the lubricated component. If the grease thins out, the grease can simply run out of the lubricated component. If the grease thickens or hardens, it can create an abrasive operating environment. In either case, the lubricating properties of the grease are not realized and can in fact cause a catastrophic failure due to lack of lubrication. When adding new grease, make sure the grease is compatible with the current lubricant in regards to thickeners and additives. You can do this by checking the packaging, or by consulting with the lubricant manufacturer or distributer to ensure that your lube is compatible.
Often, there are reasons to switch types of greases. When doing so, one should check with their lubrication supplier on compatibilities. If the two greases are potentially going to intermix, there are methods and procedures that can be applied to work with this situation including close monitoring, cleaning out of the bearing, and purge procedures, amongst others.
Problem #4 – Using a less-than-ideal lubricant for a particular operating environment or application
Thinking that lubricant selection begins and ends with OEM-recommended fluids can be a costly mistake when the OEM’s recommendation doesn’t take into account your operation’s particular needs and operating conditions. Before choosing the lubricants for your machinery, ask yourself:
- What types of loads, speeds, and operating temperatures will the machine be enduring that may be outside the range recommended by the OEM?
- Is the equipment utilized in an excessively moist, humid, dusty, or dirty environment?
- What is the application and is the fluid designed or fit for this type of operation?
- What type of fluid (conventional mineral oil, synthetic, specialty synthetic, or other) is the right fit for the operating conditions?
If your machinery is used in extreme or unique operating conditions and environmental factors, always consult with a knowledgeable lubrication expert who can help you determine the ideal lubricant for your specific needs.
Are you currently experiencing any of these problems? U.S. Lubricants can help! With over 60 years of experience and more than 1,200 dedicated associates, we have the experience and resources to not only help you solve your lubrication problems, but also give you a competitive edge. To learn more about our “Lubrication: 101” training or how U.S. Lubricants can help with your specific issue, please contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.