5 Critical Components of a Lubrication Management Program

Being asked to do more with less can mean a lot of things, setting up a lubrication management program is part of an overarching solution to the reliability puzzle.


Lubrication Excellence by Trico

Your Path to Lubrication Excellence

The reality is that lubrication management programs often work best when operations staff can be included into the regimes. This is for a number of reasons. Operations involvement or ODR (Operator Driven Reliability) might take the form of regular inspections which don’t need to be certified or may be cost prohibitive based on the value of their tasks. Reducing overall reactive maintenance in a plant requires all parties to take steps to work together. Operators are fantastic data reporters and can do simple inspections and log data, seeking changes which would in time occur beyond set or noticeable limits. Operations professionals are also most likely to spot trends based on the data where maintainers may be overwhelmed with daily tasks and not necessarily be able to put the pieces together as they come together. If maintainers embrace operations they win by being able to react to trending data vs. down equipment.

Where do I start?

Implementing a lubrication management program starts with a criticality assessment. This is a great way to determine which equipment in the plant is critical. Critical equipment typically means that when down production stops or is significantly impacted or safety and environmental concerns are present. This equipment assessment generally includes agreement on potential failure modes, probability, and impact. Once these assumptions are made assessment of the potential frequency and impacts of downtime are entered into the overall equation providing a picture of which pieces of equipment are most critical.
Once criticality is determined, reliability programs can be developed which focus on treating potential causes, understanding how failures can occur, and what limits in condition in the array of possibilities looks like. The priority for a maintenance task should be determined by the level of risk associated with not performing that task. The level of risk associated with not doing that task is determined by both the consequences of the potential failure that may result if the task is not performed and the likelihood of that failure occurring if the task is not performed at the particular point in time at which that priority is being determined. Oil analysis is key in any sort of reliability program in that through proper limit setting and ferrography you see what’s going on inside the equipment. Setting proper oil analysis limits is critical and a good partner will help you in terms of finding or setting limits.
Typically a risk assessment matrix can be utilized to visualize the aggregate data while predictive tasks are in progress to keep within the limits set.

What should I do with the data?

The difference between meaningful conversations and excuses is sometimes as simple as having the data or sharing the data in a timely way. I can think of several examples of ideas that have changed people’s lives and the only thing that made them happen was someone wrote them down.
Data that can be logged and stored is valuable…that is only if it can be used to understand specific things related to the equipment in question. This is where operations excels when compared to maintainers, so as maintainers start to understand the value of data in PDM. Data will first provide limits in terms of vibration, particulates/moisture/oxidation in the lubricant, and other things like heat increase over time and power consumption. The best data is that which is consistently representative and shared freely amongst all parties who have ownership in the reliability efforts.

Internal competencies

Understanding how a particular piece of equipment runs and is meant to run is only half the battle. Getting maintainers and operations staff online with best practices and how they are implemented is a critical component in qualifying in-house teams. Internal competency can assist your program by reducing costs involved in outsourcing as well as understanding limits and how those limits affect the equipment. Understanding what is about to happen in the equipment when limits are met is also a key factor, in some ways this can only happen based on experience so as your teams change over time always seek experienced maintainers and operations employees.
Outfitting the equipment
Lubrication management programs require tools of the trade. Lubricators, vibration monitoring equipment, sample ports for pulling oil samples, and other things may be required to get the equipment in the right condition to be properly maintained and monitored. I cannot be more animate when it comes to the role of oil analysis in any program or piece of equipment, set it up to pull representative samples, and be religious about doing it.

Trust the data

Many times when we start using pure data to make decisions there can be a difference in how we perceive what the data is showing us and what has actually transpired. The oil sample shows added ferrous particles, yet the temperature is actually falling slightly. Typically more metal in the oil could mean more wear which really should point to higher temperatures. We didn’t realize that the ambient temperature was falling and so by virtue of not having that data we assume it’s not. When you don’t trust the data and go on gut feel having all the data is useless and the adjustments which are required to maintain the program are missed, thus making the program fail to provide the reliability it was designed to support.

At the end of the day, your organization will have to make the criticality assessment or audit and then make a decision on how far to go with the results. Thinking in terms of “good, better, best” is a good start to make heads and tails of where your reliability program is in terms of where it should be and where your goals lie. Sometimes we look at reliability programs on a scale of 1 – 10 and we fail to put a program in place because we could only hope to reach being a 5 vs. being a 10. Not every plant needs to have a world class program to provide a bottom line boost in reliability. Sometimes being a 5 moves the needle and provides a framework for building next steps. All of the items don’t need to be done all at once either, using a graduated or hierarchical approach could also be the solution that works best for your organization. Trust me when I say that if you can document moving the needle from increases in reliability you will have all the buy-in necessary to get to the next level and beyond.
We’d love to hear about your experiences in lubrication management programs and what has or hasn’t worked. If you’d care to share your examples, contact me directly at rmccormick@tricocorp.com , lets chat.

Warmer Weather Effects on Lubrication

When weather changes, so does your strategy against wear.

The northeast U.S. has probably had one of its worst winters on record. The upper mid-west as well. The entire western U.S. was warmer than average with very little moisture.
It seems as if the weather has finally started to warm up, maintainers should be conscious of this change in that it will have an effect on their battle plan against the machine killing wear they fight every day.

Lubricants have a working range in temperature. The viscosity changes drastically with extremes in temperature and to have a working understanding of what this means can save you countless hours, money, and resources.

Increases in temperature has a degrading effect on the lubricant and any additives present. Some additives may release themselves by evaporating completely, others may simply degrade and lose their qualitative properties in part or in full. Lubricants degrade faster as temperature increases which may require additional change out and/or machine inspections. Increased temperatures can also have a negative effect on seals, causing them to degrade or leak. Grease applications change because grease can separate into its parts (oils from thickeners), and become useless. When temperature increases significantly tars and gums can form inside equipment. The biggest enemy of lubricants is oxidation, which occurs twice as fast for every 18°F increase in temperature.
Understanding heat signature recognition and the fact that machinery running at typical operating norms have a stable and working temperature, what happens to the equation when increases in ambient temperature occur naturally?

This short list of action items could help you to combat the increase in temperature and subsequent potential for additional wear.

  1. Flush equipment at each oil change – any old oxidized lubricant will mix with the fresh oil immediately and will simply speed up the oxidation process in the new lubricant.
  2. Use the right oil for the job – changing seasons may mean changing lubricants, know the best oil for the operating temperature by creating temperature charts for each piece of equipment and following them.
  3. Use your oil analysis program – every world class maintenance plan has oil analysis as one component, when the weather changes, use this analysis to monitor the condition of the lubricant and document those changes. Knowing your oil on this level means everything, you’ll see changes which will allow you to adjust lubricants and optimize against the threat of oxidation increases due to rising temps.
  4. Control the storage climate – Lubricants degrade with temperature even in storage, where possible store lubricants in a climate controlled area to lessen these negative effects.

This short list could help you to properly maintain working lubricants even in the most extreme conditions, while some of these items seem trivial and others impossible, they will make a difference.

When temperatures increase, you can be ready to make the most from your lubricant and protect your equipment as well as possible.

For more information about lubrication management or to have a Trico team member provide answers to any of your questions, don’t hesitate to call us directly at 800.558.7008


Contamination Control is Critical | War on Wear

Contamination kills oil, machinery, and morale.

Wild Rock GolfIt’s a great day today, you think as you get out of bed at 8:00am on a Saturday. You’re happy because for the first time in about 8 months, you’re going golfing. Somehow you have this weird knot in your stomach because you know a pump at work has been making a high pitched noise lately and you know what can go wrong. It’s now 9:15 and you pack the car your buddy Mike calls and says he’s ready to go but you have to go and get him. You open the car door, then hit the garage opener and your phone goes off. It’s the office and so your mind goes into panic mode wondering if you should even answer the call…if you don’t answer the call…this call…it will be something bad…if you do answer it it’s probably going to be someone looking for a tool that magically only you know the location of. You answer it, it’s the Plant Manager. “John, I need you here quick!! The pump just quit and we cannot go down today!”


Has this already happened to you?

If not, consider yourself lucky.

The chances of a weekend ruining critical equipment failure is more likely than you can imagine. Know why? Less than 20% of all manufacturing facilities in the US and even less outside the US have implemented a real life lubrication management program that meets best practices.
This example, which is probably pretty normal, doesn’t have to happen. Contamination could be the culprit in as many as 80% of critical failures in any given scenario. Once contamination is in your oil, it must be filtered out, even new oil must be filtered. Contamination degrades viscosity, degrades surface area, and in the story above, degrades weekend fun.
Whenever performing an equipment audit, poor breathers such as J-Tubes are consistently installed in equipment. I have encountered these open breathers in all sorts of equipment from units operating in moist conditions such as steel mills, paper mills, even systems operating outdoors. Seems to me it makes more sense than ever to ensure the most critical of equipment is functioning correctly. Practices which will help to eliminate breakdowns as much as possible in order to continue making products or servicing clients. The lesson here is that it is less expensive to keep contamination out of machine systems than removing them after they get in and already cause damage, if not machine failure.

Contamination comes in three types:

  • Particulate Contamination
  • Water/Moisture Contamination
  • Heat Contamination

Built in particle contamination describes both the contaminants which are in new fluid and contaminants which are in new (or rebuilt) systems from either the manufacture or improper care for the storage of machine components. Typically lubricants are pre-contaminated due to storage and handling practices which allow infiltration of moisture and particulate. Improper storage and handling can occur at various places such as the transportation, blending facility, and distribution chain. From one end to another, the lubricant is pumped into tanks, barrels, trucks, through pipes, pumps, and back again. If any of these areas are not flushed and cleaned properly the fluid could be cross contaminated or worse, for instance, what if the transporting tanker was just carrying used gear oil out of one plant just before transporting your new hydraulic fluid to your plant? Elemental Analysis such as spectroscopy or FTIR (Fourier Transform Infra-Red), Viscosity, Particle Count and TAN can determine the quality of the “new” lubricant, and provide a baseline for what you need to do to condition it for use.

Built-in contamination in new machines and maintenance generated contamination can be in many forms. These issues have simple solutions. All new equipment before it is put in to service should be cleaned if possible then thoroughly flushed with a lighter oil in the same family as what it is going to be used. For maintenance generated contaminants, after a rebuild and before storage on the spares rack, the equipment should be flushed out much the same way and then all open ports and area should be sealed using clean material such as a compatible plastic film. The storage area itself can be the problem; most often these areas are dusty, dirty, maybe even humid and wet. If a clean room is not possible then sealing the equipment as much as possible and flushing the component before use would be recommended.

While in-service machines can bring contaminants into the system in various ways. The most common way that contaminants enter machine systems are through breathers which can be J-tubes, screens, or even just small holes. Gearboxes, pumps and reservoirs will ‘breathe’ some way or another when the air expands and contracts, as well as, when incoming fluid displaces air or air is drawn in when internal parts move around. Each time the unit breathes in; it brings with it everything in the environment. In order to eliminate contaminants entering the system, you must know the enemy. Understanding what might be in the ambient environment will tell you what can possibly get into your equipment. Spin on filters make great breathers because they are made to trap particles, the type and size can differ greatly. Steel mills, paper plants, oil production facilities have three different operating environments. You must know and understand what’s out there, in the air. Spin on filters are not the best option when eliminating water and as the pores get blocked by built up debris the machine can build up pressure and seals can fail. If water is your primary contaminant, then a desiccant breather may be used which has the same issue; possible pressure build up. Closing the system and adding expansion chambers is probably a better option in these cases, no-pressure build up and closed to ambient conditions kills two birds with one stone.

Watchdog Desiccant Breather on Gearbox

Watchdog Desiccant Breather on Gearbox

Gaining popularity for smaller to medium sized pumps and gearboxes is sealing the systems with the use of expansion chamber(s) and a closed system oiler. The expansion chamber is a bladder type pressure balancer that contracts and expands which allows the system to breathe, but entirely eliminates all contaminants from entering. Closed system oilers have a pressure balancing line allowing the fluid level to change by venting to the closed system, as opposed to, the atmosphere.

Another way contaminants can enter machine systems is through poor seals. Taking a critical asset down to replace a non-leaking seal is probably never going to happen. It would be nice if hydraulic and lubricant circulating system reservoirs were located in a clean controlled environment, reality is they are not. In most plants, opening the cover would probably expose the system to more contaminants than a faulty gasket could. Reservoir gaskets should be inspected during fluid changes and replaced as necessary. Hydraulic cylinder seals are another great way for contaminants to enter; the cylinder extends, gets covered with debris and when it retracts it brings the debris in with it. This type of debris can be limited with the use of protective boots designed for cleaning the ram.

Keeping contamination out of your machines is the goal for your lubrication contamination control program. Particulate, water, and heat combine to accelerate the degradation of the lubricant. Removing these factors, as much as we practically can, will extend the life of the lubricant, and increase the reliability many fold. Once we understand our enemies, we can win the war!

Trico Products Can Help

In a world where you cannot control the environment, you can still keep your lubricant clean. Using desiccants, filtering new stock, and closing your systems will do just that. Contact a Trico distributor for more information and to order trico products.