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Lube Tip

5 Common Lubrication Problems and How to Fix Them

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One of the greatest opportunities I have as a technical consultant is the chance to walk through various plants around the world. I have visited power plants, food-processing plants, refineries, manufacturing facilities and a long list of others.

During these trips and audits, I have discovered several recurring lubrication issues that seem to be widespread throughout the industry. The following is a list of the most common problems and how they should be resolved.

1. Lack of Procedures

Great lubrication programs are only as good as the people who do the work, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In many of my most recent projects, the retirement of technicians has been the problem of greatest concern.

As Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age and subsequently retiring, they are taking with them a great deal of personal experience and knowledge of how they do their jobs.

For some plants, the lube-tech position may have been held by a single person for decades. These professionals are the masters of their domains and know every sight, sound and smell of their machines.

It is imperative to pass down this type of dedication and understanding to the next generation of professionals. Unfortunately, all of this knowledge usually is not passed down. This results in problems and a steep learning curve.

Documented procedures can lessen the blow and help new personnel understand the proper way a task should be performed.

While countless articles and books have been published on the best way to write procedures, once written, the procedures must be implemented for their full effect to be realized.

The Remedy

Thorough documentation of every task performed in the lubrication program offers the best method for creating procedures.

You want to write a procedure not only for the application of lubricants (oil changes, regreasing, etc.) but also for how lubricants are handled in storage, decontaminated upon arrival and even disposed of after use.

Procedures should be developed with best practices in mind and may not represent what is currently being done in your plant. For instance, if new oil is arriving and being put into service without any testing or decontamination, this is far from best practice.

Instead, new oil should be sampled upon delivery to confirm its properties and tested for contaminants. If necessary, the new oil should be decontaminated before being released for service or put into bulk storage containers.

The same holds true for inspections, top-ups and every small task in the lubrication program. It is not enough to simply document what is currently being done. You must design procedures in a manner that enables the program to reach a world-class level.

2. Improper Sampling Points and Hardware

If used correctly, oil analysis can be extremely valuable tool. It allows you to monitor not only the health of the oil but also the health of the machine, as well as catch failures before they become catastrophic. In order to obtain all the benefits of oil analysis, you first must have the correct sampling points and hardware.