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.

Operations

Lubrication Excellence by Trico

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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.
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