Optimize the design of your lubrication program


One of the most common barriers to improving reliability is securing the resources to support our initiatives. In the real world, most of us don’t have unlimited dollars and hours of work to solve our problems.

Therefore, we need to use our existing resources in the most efficient way to get the best value for our precious money. As we develop a strategy to increase the reliability of our machines, we need to take a critical look at each machine, group of machines or process in order to define and justify the most appropriate resources to apply to each.

Identify machines

One method that can be used to effectively reduce labor requirements for lubrication is to identify machines, based on criticality and reliability history, where we can eliminate planned maintenance activities.

For example, we probably shouldn’t waste time and money performing a vibration analysis on an exhaust fan in the break room. After all, what is the penalty for failure? Is the reliability of the asset acceptable? Will monitoring the condition or preventive maintenance of the ventilator improve the reliability or safety of the installation? Probably not. While this example may be unrealistic, it certainly gives the point.


Figure 1. Optimizing the investment

There are applications in most industries and factories where the best maintenance strategy is a reactive strategy. For these applications it is appropriate to use maintenance-free components such as sealed bearings or sealed-for-life reducers and motors.

While it is possible to extend the life or improve the reliability of these applications through preventive or predictive maintenance, it may not be cost effective, or worse yet, it may come at the expense of the reliability of the application. more critical assets.

To decide which strategy is optimal, we need to analyze the component lifecycle cost. By tracking the initial cost, reliability history, maintenance expense, and making some assumptions, it shouldn’t be difficult to choose the most appropriate course.

When determining which components should be included in the oil analysis program, we must once again decide how to get the best return for our dollars. I’ve been told more than once “we do oil analyzes on everything once a year because that’s all the budget allows”.

While the best strategy might be to get the right allocation, this might not be possible. The next best action would probably be to apply an effective oil analysis to the number of machines allowed in the budget, starting with the most critical.

If it is really about getting the funds to use oil analysis properly, then applying an efficient program to a number of machines will likely generate significant returns in a short period of time. which should go a long way in garnering the support needed to develop. the program.

An effective oil analysis program includes proper sampling equipment and techniques, proper test lists, laboratory quality assurance, and effective data management, including alarms and limits. Unfortunately, many will randomly perform oil analyzes and other predictive maintenance functions, which diminishes or eliminates the value of the program.

Because of this, it’s easy to understand why some view oil analysis and other condition-maintenance tools as an expense rather than an opportunity to improve production and quality and reduce maintenance costs. .

Eliminate activities

Another important goal should be to eliminate activities that are of no value. By optimizing the frequency of lubrication tasks using a condition-based relubrication strategy or properly setting a frequency based on lubricant quality, the type of application and operating conditions can help eliminate waste.

I once worked with a group that changed the oil in all gearboxes every month in an effort to improve reliability. Although I can appreciate their efforts, it was not a good strategy. In fact, they were probably more likely to reduce reliability than increase it, because if you work on a piece of equipment enough times, you risk breaking it.

Overgreasing is another common problem that not only wastes time and resources, but also causes significant damage to bearings, especially in electric motors. I often see bearings that should be greased annually and are greased monthly instead. Imagine that there are a thousand of these points in a plant and do the math. This adds to a lot of wasted time and damage caused by over-lubrication.

Developing a world-class lubrication program is no easy task, and investing money and effort blindly is likely to generate more frustration than real improvements. It is essential to develop a detailed plan by identifying which tactics should be applied to which machines, optimizing the frequency of PM activities, creating good lubricant specifications and defining program objectives.

With an appropriate game plan, the program should be executed logically starting with the most critical components. The final step is to define and follow the appropriate metrics to identify and document the success of our efforts. Armed with this data, it should be easy to create support for continuous improvements.

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