Plant lubrication management plays a critical role in asset reliability. This involves areas of inventory management, storage, and lubrication practices. Good lubrication management provides a positive impact to the bottom line in regards to improved equipment health and lubrication costs. Storage, labeling and lubrication practices are key elements to this.
Management starts with ensuring good organized storage and labeling practices. Lubricant storage should include good housekeeping and environmental controls. The environment should keep products free of contamination and minimize extreme temperature changes. There should be no open containers of stored products to prevent contamination. Storage should be organized according to product type and application. Sometimes color coding helps with this. All product containers should be clearly identified. Replace worn or missing product labels. Spill cleanup equipment and material should be organized and readily available. Leaking containers should be replaced, and any size of spill or leaking material should be cleaned up as soon as possible. Where ever possible consolidate inventory by reducing the number of different products stored on site. Your lubricant supplier can assist with this.
New lubricant deliveries should receive some level of inspection. Packaged product should be inspected for packaging integrity and labeling. Prior to using new packaged product when first opened, a visual inspection can occur. Rule of thumb, if it does not look right it probably should not be used and your lubricant supplier should be contacted. A sample should be taken for bulk deliveries in both the initial piping outlet for any residual product from a previous load and from inside the bulk tank carrier for overall product inspection. It is a lot easier for plant personnel and the supplier to return product before it is off-loaded than after it has been transferred to the on-site bulk storage.
Good lubrication practices ensures the correct lubricant for application. Avoid cross-contamination by using dedicated pumps and fill apparatus. Equipment should be properly labelled for lubrication requirements. Take the time to document and standardize consistent lubrication practices. Poor or inconsistent lubrication practices can lead to over lubrication or under lubrication of reservoirs, sumps, and grease applications, which will negatively impact equipment health and reliability. Automation, including software solutions, can greatly enhance consistent and optimal equipment lubrication.
Reservoirs, filters, breathers, and site glasses are items for a regular inspection list. Lubrication activities should include inspection schedules for inventory and storage, min/max quantity for storage and reservoir/sumps. Installation of level indicators for inspection are helpful, if not necessary in some applications.
Investing in personnel training will provide ownership for good lubrication management and practices. The lubrication technician is a vital component. Persons responsible for lubrication activities should feel empowered and knowledgeable to do their job properly. This can include investing in industry related certification and gaining knowledge at conferences.
A key facet for effective lubrication management and equipment reliability is using an effective third party testing laboratory to compliment onsite inspections. Dedicated sampling ports installed in optimal locations provide convenient and representative samples for laboratory testing.
David Doyle, CLS, OMA I, OMA II