Q: In your view, what factors are critical in ensuring proper lubrication to enhance equipment reliability?
A: Great question, and you’ve hit on the main goal as well: increasing equipment reliability. To help make this happen with lubrication, there are a few main points. It’s important to follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommendation; however, it’s just as important to make sure it’s applied in the correct manner, including the right amount and at the right time. Finally, regular monitoring helps to ensure the lubricant is still protecting properly. This can be done with an oil sample analysis program, as one example.
Q: Those are great ideas — but what can an organization do to make sure a program is implemented?
A: To make sure a well-developed lubrication program is implemented, it’s important to have the various stakeholders involved from the beginning. Klüber Lubrication helps with this by providing on-site training, assistance with lube mapping, labels for equipment, single point lubricators or recommendations for lube systems, advising on best practices, and also, by analysis on current lubricants in use. Before a recommendation can be made, the entire tribobological environment needs to be taken into account, sharing knowledge through all of the above ensures that the importance of this is understood by everyone.
Q: What about training?
A: Training is imperative and many of our customers have seen the benefits of having a more knowledgeable staff when it comes to lubrication. We try to implement an ongoing train-the-trainer style program with our customers. This program allows knowledge sharing to become a practice even after the training ends.
Lubrication is a science – and it takes time for operators on the factory floor to become knowledgeable in all of the pertinent aspects. That’s why we regularly emphasize training and its benefits to our customers. The front line for predictive maintenance is the user of the equipment (the operator). So, we do proactive training so that if problems arise, they’re caught early enough to avoid catastrophic failures leading to significant downtime.
Q: As a lubrication manufacturer, what else do you bring to the table?
A: We can assist in developing lubrication schedules and identifying correct procedures for storage, sampling and applying lubricants. One example of a best practice procedure is to have lube points labeled clearly. Doing this helps to prevent mixing food grade and non-food grade or even different types of chemistries that may not be miscible, potentially harming equipment.
Q: What are the important factors to consider when storing lubricants?
A: Not all lubricants are the same. Even some that may look similar in color or consistently can act completely different inside an application. A common misconception in the food industry is that color is some sort of indication on whether a lubricant is food grade or not. Because of this, we recommend several best practices to help to keep the lubricants separate and ensure that the same lubricant that’s specified for an application actually makes it to the machinery lube point. These practices can include recommendations for bulk storage, proper use of transfer containers, dedicated grease guns and hoses, etc.
Q: I imagine that it’s also important to keep a regular lubrication and maintenance schedule on the shop floor.
A: It’s extremely important. You need a regular maintenance plan in place that’s understood by the operators as well as the mechanics. Having it is just one piece of the plan; a checks and balances type structure is important to ensure that the program is being completed. Having a well documented procedure understood by all operators ensures that, even if roles change, the equipment receives the same high level of regular attention prescribed.
Q: Looking ahead, what are new lubrication practices that customers should be aware of?
A: Many customers have begun implementing what’s known as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). The strategy and implementation may vary. But a common theme is the ongoing transfer of lubrication practices to the operators and line workers of the machinery. One benefit is that the staff working on the equipment has a closer connection to the typical operating conditions and can more easily recognize anything out of the ordinary. This can improve the predictive maintenance and decrease the sometimes lengthy downtime that occurs when problems go unnoticed.
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