Maintaining equipment is an important part of any organization, and lubrication management is a critical aspect of that maintenance. It involves the careful selection and use of lubricants to help equipment run more efficiently and safely. By keeping your machines well-lubricated, you can avoid costly repairs and downtime. In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of lubrication management, what it is, the benefits, and how you can implement it in your organization.
What is Lubrication Management?
In lubrication management, lubricants are added to machines to keep them running smoothly. Nevertheless, it goes far beyond lubrication alone. It encompasses all of the systems and processes required to support and maintain proper lubrication. It is one of the most important parts of any maintenance plan. Furthermore, maintaining proper lubrication is a critical aspect of keeping your assets in good working order and extending their lifespan.
Why is Lubrication Management so Important?
All moving elements in a machine, including rotating parts like gears, require lubrication. Depending on the additives, lubricant can have a wide range of uses. Nevertheless, the lubrication of equipment has a few overarching objectives. These objectives include:
- Lowering friction
- Removing dirt or contaminants from components
- Lowering the operating temperatures
- Avoiding unnecessary component wear
- Preventing equipment failure to avoid unplanned downtime
- Reducing the risk of part seizures
- Preventing corrosion
- Reducing the impact of shock or vibration on components
The Basic Steps of Lubrication Management
You can break lubrication management down into three simple processes. The right lubricant, applied in the right amount at the right time, and routine inspection and monitoring. We’ll dive deeper into each of these categories below.
The Right Lubricant
The most common lubricant categories are oil and grease, although even within those categories there are several variations. The oil comes in a range of viscosities and can be either synthetic or mineral-based. Because oil is the base mixed with a thickening agent, grease has as many, if not more, variations as lubricating oil. Not to mention the wide range of additives available to better align the lubricant to specific applications. When choosing the right lubricant, you have to make sure it checks all the boxes for your asset and its specific operating conditions.
The Right Amount, Application, and Timing
You must complete every step of the distribution and application of lubricants with caution for proper lubrication management. In reality, nailing the amount, application, and timing of lubrication starts in the lube room. It matters how you handle, arrange, label, and keep your lubricants. Extreme conditions in your lube room, such as temperature variation or dust and dirt exposure, can lead to contamination of lubricants. Additionally, improper labeling or organization can lead to the contamination of one lubricant by another or the use of the incorrect lubricant on an asset. There are many best practices to follow to ensure your technicians use the right amount, application, and timing every time.
A Plan for Continuous Improvement
Without some type of continuous inspection and analysis, no preventive maintenance plan is complete. It is crucial to perform regular inspections and track lubricant and asset health. When it comes to lubrication management, this includes oil analysis and other condition monitoring strategies. It will give you the information you need to be able to see the health of your lubricant and assets.
A Deeper Look at Your Lubrication Management Plan
The basic steps listed above are a great high-level overview of lubrication management. However, a comprehensive lubrication management plan has many more components.
Supply Chain Logistics
For your lubrication management program, take into account providers who can offer a broad range of products and services, including lubricants, lubricating systems, lubricant analysis, failure analysis, and more. The ideal arrangement is to find not just a supplier, but a partner.
Development of Standard Procedures and Technician Training
For a lubrication management program to be successful, it is necessary to implement specialized training on the application of the lubricant, the consequences of poor application, and effective inspections. Training is a vital tool in the continuous improvement of your lubrication management program. Tracking employee training and making sure that only qualified personnel carries out lubrication tasks are crucial components of training.
Lubricant Storage and Handling
Of course, the lubricant storage room should be a safe, controlled environment that complies with all health and safety standards, including equipment for fire suppression and spill control. However, you must also use best practices to reduce cross-contamination of other lubricants and lubricant contamination with dirt, dust, debris, and water. First, you need to properly label lubricants and instruments to avoid cross-contamination. Second, you can implement storage and filtration best practices to clean new lubricants and keep them clean before use.
Planning and Scheduling Lube Routes
All maintenance tasks require planning and scheduling, but it is even more important for lubrication management. It is best to start with charting your lube routes. Then, make sure the plan includes every detail necessary to complete the lubrication task. This would include the locations, the lubricants required, the frequency and quantity needed for relubrication or changing the lubricant, as well as the people and processes required to carry out and document the specific lubrication task.
Proper Lubricant Application
Your lubrication technicians must be equipped with the correct equipment, safety gear, and written procedures for every lubrication task. They ought to be able to choose the ideal lubricants for the task at hand and apply them properly with the aid of your labeling system and the necessary instruction.
Contamination and Cleanliness Control
One of the easiest ways to optimize your lubrication management is to make sure you only use clean lubricants in your assets. So, you must have a procedure for filtering fresh oil before use, guarding against contamination, and eliminating impurities from oil that is already in use.
Condition Monitoring and Lubricant Analysis
As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s where condition monitoring and lubricant analysis come in. For best results, you should outline your lubricant sampling procedures and analysis for each critical asset, including primary and secondary testing. It is crucial to keep an eye on the results and search for patterns. Also, it is important to take samples in a consistent manner. To do this, it is crucial to have written policies and procedures that specify the sampling position and method, the temperature of samples, and other best practices.
To ensure adherence to environmental regulations, a clearly defined system for handling and discarding spent lubricants is required.
How Lubrication Management Software Can Help
Industrial machinery’s reliability can be increased in a number of ways with lubrication management software. Many businesses that rely on equipment have a variety of assets that need lubrication, often numbering in the hundreds. Your technicians will benefit greatly from mapping out your lubrication routes with lubrication management software. Additionally, it enables you to organize resources utilizing the same lubricant for a lubrication management strategy that is more effective.
Every lubrication point in your plant may be mapped and organized more efficiently with the help of lubrication management software. On the floor, in the field, or when traveling, all of this information is instantly accessible via a mobile device. Additionally, it enables you to:
- Develop a thorough lubrication management strategy.
- Simple implementation of your lubrication program.
- Improve the precision of managing your lubricant inventory.
- Access real-time data instantly.
- Gain insights and visibility that are unavailable from paper or spreadsheet-based systems to increase overall reliability.
Lubrication Management: A Worthy Investment
Maximizing your lubrication plan will pay off given the various advantages of proper lubrication. The return on investment consists, among other things, of savings from less downtime, increased output, prolonged component life, and safer operations.