By Dr. Lube, aka Ken Bannister
I’m responsible for implementing a formal lubrication program. Our site uses many different lubricants and delivery systems, and has a warehouse full of half-opened lube containers. With almost no documentation and no ID on the reservoirs, I have little to go on regarding what lube goes where. How should I proceed?
Many maintenance departments abdicate their lubricant decisions to plant purchasing departments, which often base their decisions on lubricant class (hydraulic, gear, air tool, automotive, etc.), viscosity and, most important, COST. This lack of control spawns the type of warehouse environment you described. What’s worse, products in these lubricant smorgasbords are often incompatible with others of the same class and viscosity—a situation that leads to the primary cause of cross-contamination premature failures.
Standardizing lubricants will drastically reduce your purchase and usage costs, free up real estate, reduce maintainer decision time, virtually eliminate cross-contamination issues and put your program on a firm footing moving forward.
First, identify and record ALL lubricants (both oils and greases) in ALL storage locations. This list, along with purchase records from the previous year or two, can be used to invite your lubricant suppliers of choice to develop proposals for a lubricant-consolidation program.
To minimize the number of lubricant types and brands required to meet your facility’s needs, bidders should audit your current lubricants and all applications requiring lubricants. They will probably perform this audit at no charge in expectation of a long-term, single-source supply contract for all your lubricants.
With a consolidated lubricant contract in place, you must purge all lubricants that are not on the list from the plant in a responsible manner. At that point, using the consolidation list, you can begin to identify and “tag” all reservoirs, including bulk storage tanks and transfer equipment, with their new lubricant specification details.
I recommend investigating the use of QR codes to tag your equipment: Any PDA device can read them and be linked into many different informational fields, including lubrication-management software. (As a low-tech alternative, you could zip-lock or wire a laminated, business-card-sized information tag to the reservoir, lube system pump, etc.)
This prescription will help set up the foundation from which to formalize your lube program and commence building specific lubrication PM tasks.
Good Luck! MT
Dr. Lube, aka Contributing Editor Ken Bannister, is among other things, a Lubrication Management Specialist and author of Lubrication for Industry and the Lubrication Section of the 28 Edition Machinery’s Handbook (both from Industrial Press). E-mail your lubrication checkup and training questions to email@example.com or call 519-469-9173.