If you’ve been following our blog lately, you know that we’ve been discussing the benefits of optimizing your plant’s lubrication program. We’ve told you how custom-blended lubricants, coolant management tools, and preventative maintenance procedures can help extend the life of your machinery, increase efficiency, and save money, but this blog series is a little different. This time, we have the numbers to prove the value of these optimized programs, and we’ve partnered with Precision Lubrication Services, Inc. to help you create and manage the ideal lubrication management program for your company. In this Part 2 of our 3-part Lubrication Cost-Saving Series, we’ll explain how a comprehensive approach to developing a lubrication management program can help you maximize your short- and long-term cost-savings.
In the first part of our 3-part blog series, we left off by describing PLSI’s comprehensive lubrication program assessment process, The 6 Steps to Reliability Centered Lubrication (RCL). This thorough assessment is what helps them discover your plant’s specific lubrication needs, and it also lays the groundwork for what an effective lubrication program requires: a holistic point of view that addresses every important lubrication activity.
Optimal results and cost-savings occur when machine lubrication activities, routines, processes, and programs address each aspect of an LMP in a comprehensive manner. You can’t just make decisions based off which lubricant has the lowest initial price point, for example. Instead, you should always opt for lubricants that will provide the best sustainable long-term results, minimize wear, and maximize asset availability – all of which help contribute to cost-savings. The lowest cost lube may or may not be the best solution. And while many plant managers see the value of creating a custom LMP, they often lack the resources and knowledge to do so. To help your company establish the ideal LMP that maximizes your cost-savings, this post will serve as a tool that offers both a comprehensive overview and resources to assist with strategic planning, tactical implementation, and goal setting.
Begin with an End Goal
Before you go around making changes to your operation, figure out exactly what you want those changes to accomplish. Some of the most common reasons companies implement an LMP is to prevent unplanned downtime and equipment failure, increase output and productivity, improve profitability, and reduce their carbon footprint. A plant survey will help uncover problem areas and acts as the backbone for the program. Once you’ve pinpointed exactly what needs improvement, you can implement a plan that targets those problem areas and solves the problem using the right fluids for the appropriate challenges. And to implement that plan, you should break it up into two parts: short-term program initiatives and long-term program initiatives.
Short-term program initiatives are the day-to-day actions you need to take that can have an immediate impact on your operation, such as confirming you have the right fluid for the job, making sure it’s in the proper condition (via visual and analytical testing) and ensuring it gets replaced and refilled with the proper amounts at the right time. If you can focus on doing these small, yet crucial tasks in the short-term, it will help you enjoy long-term success down the road.
Long-term program initiatives focus on the overarching goals you set out to accomplish from the start of the LMP process. For most companies, this means increasing asset availability while minimizing production downtime, resources used, and component replacement costs.
Four Aspects of an Optimized Lubrication Management Plan
Once you’ve determined what you want your LMP to accomplish, and are starting to strategize how you can get there, it’s important that you focus on the following four aspects of an optimized LMP in order to maximize your cost-savings:
1. Accurate Lubricant Selection
The first step in developing an optimized lubrication management plan is making sure you have the right lubricant for your machine’s operating conditions. Choosing the wrong fluid type and grade can decrease your efficiency and lead to increased wear on your machine, so it’s important to factor in important operating conditions like load, environment, temperature, and speed into your lubricant selection.
Load – What is the designed load for your specific operation? For example, if the weight of a product that’s carried on a conveyor changes, the load on the bearings, idlers, and motor will also change.
Environment – What kind of environment does your machine operate in? Is it excessively dusty, humid, or dry? Make sure you use a lubricant that’s best suited for your specific environment.
Temperature – What temperature does your machine operate at? Oil has different viscosities and performance characteristics at different temperatures, so it’s important that you choose the right one for your operating conditions.
Speed – More speed means more friction, and if you don’t have the proper lubricants to handle this friction, you’re only putting yourself in a bad position. Picking the correct viscosity fluid will reduce or eliminate the cause of friction due to speed.
2. Accurate Replenishment Frequency and Volume
Determining your oil refill volume and frequency is one of the trickiest parts of optimizing your lubrication management plan. If you order too much or too often, not only will it eat up storage space in your plant, but the longer it sits, the more susceptible it is to contamination and degradation. If you order too little or not frequently enough, however, you risk having to use old oil in your machine until a fresh stock arrives. In order to maximize your cost-savings with your oil ordering process, you should try to automate and schedule as much of your lubricant ordering as possible. Figure out how much oil you expect to run through in a given order cycle, and schedule recurring orders to be sent on a regular basis. You can make minor changes to your order as needed, but an automated ordering schedule will help you stay consistent and save a significant amount of time compared to manually filling an order every time.
If your plant utilizes bulk tanks, incorporating remote monitoring will keep your tanks filled appropriately and optimize your ordering process resulting in reduced operating costs, elimination of outages and easy reporting.
3. Effective Lubricant Condition Control
In order to prevent contaminated oil from causing damage to your machine, it’s essential that you regularly check your oil’s condition and follow the proper proactive maintenance program. It costs 10 times more to remove a contaminant than it does to exclude it, so it’s always in your best interest to use lubricant filtration systems, seals and breathers, sampling ports, and other preventative tools. Though these contamination prevention systems and predictive techniques might have a higher upfront cost, their long-term value for preventing damage, wear, breakdowns, and repairs is well worth the added expenditure.
4. Effective Machine Condition Analysis
If you want to make sure your machine is operating at its highest level, you have to make sure that you regularly monitor and analyze its performance. The best way to do this is by using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). By using a CMMS, you can track your machines’ performance and oil usage, and set it to perform certain tasks at certain speeds under certain operating conditions. By having an automated system keeping your machines running at optimal performance, while also gathering data and monitoring your machine’s health, you can greatly decrease the amount of wear on your machine, and maximize your output – providing significant cost-savings.
Knowledge Breeds Reliability
Regardless of how well your LMP looks on paper, it won’t be successful unless you properly train your staff on how to execute it. High performance lubricants at any price are much less valuable without the proper application, so it’s extremely important that your employees understand the ins and outs of your LMP. In fact, a proper understanding of lubrication fundamentals can reduce maintenance costs by more than 30%, just by making sure you follow the proactive procedures and the plans laid out in your LMP. Make sure you include continuing education and training in your LMP, and make sure your employees have a full understanding the product, equipment, and lubrication storage conditions, as well as the proactive maintenance procedures and oil analysis testing process.
Of course, none of that is an easy task, which is why we partnered with AMRRI to form PLSI creating the most reliable, efficient, and profitable LMP for your company’s needs. If you don’t have the internal resources to establish and manage an optimized LMP, you should consider hiring a third-party to serve as your lubrication team. U.S. Lubricants and PLSI offer on-site, dedicated lubricant technicians who will come to your plant and determine everything your company needs in terms of a lubrication management program, so you can focus on your plant’s important non-lubrication needs.
Want to learn more about how U.S. Lubricants and PLSI can help you create the ideal LMP while maximizing your cost-savings? Contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.