Lubrication maintenance can be a lot like dieting sometimes. Whenever you first start a diet, for example, that’s when you have the most dedication and commitment to following it. However, as time goes on, it’s easy to let some things slip, and after a while, you’re barely following it at all. When it comes to following your lubrication maintenance plan, we often see the same type of declining dedication to following the proper maintenance processes and completing tasks. Just like a diet, lubrication maintenance requires focus and discipline, and it’s tempting to cut corners and look for ways to make things easier. However, easier doesn’t always mean better, as some things like diets and lubrication maintenance produce better results when there are clear guidelines in place.
If it’s been a while since you’ve implemented or reviewed your plant’s lubrication processes, don’t underestimate the value of taking a step back and looking for areas that you could improve. Lubrication audits are necessary for bringing awareness and attention to the processes occurring within a plant, so that the team that manages lubrication can address any existing or potential problems and provide the most efficient and reliable and machinery. With a lubrication audit, your lubricant supplier or contract lubrication service will come to your plant or shop and conduct a thorough evaluation of your entire lubrication program—from your ordering and storage procedures to analyzing the oil in your machines. Depending on the size of your program, this may occur in several stages, but at the end, you’ll receive direct feedback on how to improve your program and maximize machine life.
Feeling like your lubrication processes could use some updating or review? Here are 5 warning signs that you might need a lubrication audit:
1. You Aren’t Sure What’s Causing a Problem
If you aren’t sure what’s causing a problem in your machines, start the investigation by evaluating your lubrication practices for that particular system. For example, maybe your machine has been prone to overheating in the past 6 months, but you’re not sure why. This could be a sign of using the wrong lubricant or not changing it at the proper frequency. Check to make sure you’re using the right lubricants in that system, following the proper refill procedures and intervals, and conduct an oil analysis test to see if you can determine what’s causing your machine to overheat.
2. You’re Replacing More Parts Than You Should (Especially Pumps or Valves)
In the past 6 years, let’s say you’ve gone through 2 pumps that were supposed to last 8 years each. You thought maybe the first pump was to blame for being replaced early, but after replacing the second early as well, you know it has to be an operational issue. With 43% of machine failures being attributed to improper lubrication, there’s a good chance faulty lubrication practices are to blame. An oil analysis test can help you determine what’s causing the increased wear, but make sure you review your storage, refill, and maintenance procedures as well.
3. You Witness Improper Handling Procedures Firsthand
This one doesn’t require much explanation. If you witness another worker habitually using improper fluid handling procedures, you know it’s time for a review of the proper techniques. Chances are they aren’t the only ones doing something wrong (nor is it the only thing they’re doing wrong), so if you notice something that needs addressing, don’t hesitate to ask for a lubrication audit to uncover all potential problems.
4. Oil/Lube Technicians Can’t Tell You Why a Specific Fluid is Being Used in an Application
This might seem like another no-brainer, but if your workers can’t tell you why a fluid is being used in a particular system, it’s a sign that your workers aren’t educated enough about lubrication maintenance, or that additional training would be helpful. Either way, if your maintenance team doesn’t know what they’re doing out there, a lubrication audit is necessary.
5. Employees Don’t Know Who the Point of Contact is to Get Questions Answered
If your employees don’t know who to go to when they have lubrication maintenance questions, you can’t expect them to know the right answers. Part of a lubrication audit involves setting up a system that can maintain successful lubrication in the future, and a part of maintaining that system involves setting one person as the main point of contact for lubrication questions (or one person per subject matter area).
Of all the things you can do when it comes to lubrication audits, ignoring your problems completely is the absolute worst. Though a lubrication audit might seem costly upfront, it’s certainly not as costly as the maintenance expenses and downtime caused by improper lubrication in the long run. Furthermore, if you’re worried about what a lubrication audit might reveal about your performance, don’t be! The main purpose of an audit is to ensure the proper products and procedures are being utilized in your lubrication program; not to single out areas of poor performance. We also recommend follow-up audits and reviews on a regular basis to ensure everything stays up to standards, and to catch any new problems that might arise.
Want to learn more about how U.S. Lubricants and PLSI can help conduct a comprehensive lubrication audit for your plant? Contact Tony Springer at TSpringer@uslube.com or by phone at (800) 490-4900 ext. 8823.