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Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™

Intelligent Lubrication Solutions™


Machine Reliability Data: What is it Worth?

Posted by Matt Mohelnitzky on Oct 20, 2015 8:42:00 AM


In our previous post, we discussed several key performance indicators managers in plants can use to measure machine reliability, as well as its impact on operational performance. As promised, we’re back with Part 2 to help you understand how you can put that data to good use.

As any good manager knows, the reason you analyze your machines, run tests, and collect data is so that you can improve your operational efficiency, extend your machine’s life, and ultimately increase your profitability. That being said, if you don’t know how to use that data to make those critical improvements, then there really isn’t much a benefit to conducting the tests in the first place.

To help your plant turn its machine reliability data into measurable, positive results, this article will show how you can use the data to prioritize adjustments to your lubrication and maintenance activities that will get you the most bang for your buck.

Prioritizing Risk

Depending on your operation, you probably have a number of different machines in your plant. Once you’ve analyzed reliability metrics and calculated the associated operating costs of each, how do you decide where to start taking steps to improve? Which machines should you focus on first? One measurement you can’t overlook is machine risk.

Machine risk is a quantified guess of how much money each machine could potentially lose in a given year and helps Plant/Maintenance Managers decide how much focus should be given to a particular machine. To perform a “criticality assessment” of your assets, calculate each of your machines’ risk by multiplying the cost of failure (operating cost of downtime) by the chance of an occurrence (projected failure) to get an estimation of how much money each machine could potentially cost you per year. For example, let’s say your operating cost of downtime is $1,500,000/year, and in the 10th year of your machine’s life, it also has an 85% projected failure rate:

Risk ($/yr) = Operating Cost of Downtime ($) x Projected Failure (/yr)
Risk ($/yr) = $1,500,000 x 85% = $1,275,000 per year

Maintenance tracking software can be useful to criticality assessments because it can identify the most frequently replaced parts (valves, pumps, etc.), which helps highlight problem areas and define criticality from the standpoint of cost of overall replacement.

Condition Monitoring and Prevention Measures 

Once you’ve performed the criticality assessment of your assets, you will be able to set priorities for making improvements. Regardless of what you prioritize, however, condition monitoring practices, such as consistently taking oil samples, and taking samples from the proper location and in the proper manner, can help identify failures before they happen. This accomplishes three things:

1. Allows you to analyze your lubricant’s current health
2. Allows you to analyze your machine’s health
3. Makes you aware of improvements to make

By evaluating your lubricant’s current health, you’ll know at a glance whether or not your lubricant needs to be replaced, and you can make the adjustment so you aren’t putting your machine at risk. Likewise, by analyzing the physical state of your lubricant, you can determine what adjustments need to be made so you have the perfect formulation for your operating conditions. For example, is your oil experiencing oxidation issues and decreased viscosity? This could be a sign that your operating conditions are too hot for your current lubricant, and you might need to reformulate it.

Additionally, proper sampling frequency and practices can help identify componentry problems within the lubrication system, allowing you to address these indicators before catastrophic break down occurs and extend the overall life of the componentry.

Precision maintenance activities, like oil particle filtration, are another part of a “chance reduction strategy” to increase reliability. Precision maintenance is different from standard maintenance activities in that it takes a proactive approach that helps lower the chance of a failure from the start. Make sure you implement a lubrication management plan to help your plant stay organized and on track, and follow the tips in our blog, A Proactive Maintenance Approach to Gearbox Contamination for more information about how you can stop machine breakdowns before they happen.

Benchmarking KPIs and Costs

As with anything that warrants measuring, it’s good to have a baseline against which you can track progress. Make sure you record the mean time between failures (MTBF), failure rate, availability, operating costs, and risk associated with each machine, so that when you start making adjustments to your procedures and lubricants, you will be able to track and prove the ROI of your maintenance activities. If your new lubricant decreases your machine downtime by 25%, for example, you want to make sure you’ve attributed the change to that, so you keep using that lubricant in the future. If you don’t know how anything impacts your performance and bottom line, you’ll simply be taking shots in the dark, and could unknowingly switch to a less effective lubricant because of it. 

At U.S. Lubricants, we can help your company evaluate your current lubrication and maintenance procedures, and find better-performing alternatives that will help improve your efficiency and profitability. No other lubrication provider will work as closely with your team to determine your exact needs, and our knowledge and expertise in the lubrication field is unrivaled. To learn more about U.S. Lubricants can help your company find the ultimate lubricants for your machinery, please contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.

Machine Shop Lubrication Cheat Sheet

Topics: Machine Reliability