Achieving desired goals requires an honest assessment of the status quo.
By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor
While physicians can diagnose health issues and recommend appropriate treatments, patients can often help themselves get better by changing some of their personal habits and/or lifestyle choices. Mike Gauthier of Trico Corp. (tricocorp.com, Pewaukee, WI) stated that the same holds true with equipment-lubrication issues. As he put it, most industrial operations “could gain a gold mine of benefits” through better management of lubricants and lubrication practices associated with critical equipment. “But only if they really want to change.”
According to Gauthier, if your plant is like countless others, with thousands of lubrication points spread out across multiple areas, the idea of changing its lubrication mindset, including simply getting started, might seem daunting. If that describes your situation, Gauthier suggests taking a graduated approach based, in large part, on an understanding of your organization’s current lubrication practices. He offers several tips for moving forward with this approach, along with sample questions from a 13-page self-assessment form that could help facilitate needed changes.
A graduated approach
“Sometimes,” Gauthier explained, “sites look at reliability programs on a scale of 1 to 10, and then fail to put a program in place because they could only hope to reach a 5.” The good news, he said, is that personnel don’t have to solve everything at once. Moreover, not every plant needs to achieve world-class status to realize a bottom-line boost in reliability.
A graduated approach can be a better option. It begins with identification of your most critical assets and the problems associated with them, establishment of key performance indicators (KPIs), and setting goals. If you can document the benefits of incremental reliability improvements, this typically creates all the buy-in necessary to get to the next level. “Start with one production line, building, or area,” Gauthier advised, “then build momentum from there.”
Before you can set reasonable goals and a plan to achieve them, however, you must fully understand your current practices. That’s why an honest self-assessment is an essential first step. To that end, Gauthier suggests taking a moment to consider your site’s current maintenance strategy. How would you characterize it?
1. (Poor) Reactive—running-to-failure and fixing things when they break down
2. (Fair) Preventive—preventing breakdowns by performing regular maintenance
3. (Good) Predictive—periodically inspecting, servicing, and cleaning assets
4. (Excellent) Proactive—predicting when equipment failure might occur
5. (Optimum) Condition Monitoring—continuously monitoring assets while in operation.
Once you’ve come to terms with the overall maintenance strategy, it’s time to dig deeper into how the site tackles lubrication. To simplify the process, Gauthier recommends going through a detailed, lubrication self-assessment exercise. Sample questions include:
1. Storage, handling, and disposal: What system best represents your current visual aid for lubricant management?
• We have adopted a color-coding system or a similar system using shapes.
• We only use one grease, one hydraulic fluid, and one gear oil. A color-coded visual-aid system is not necessary.
• No color-coding or labeling visual-aid system has been adopted.
• Not sure.
2. Lubrication and re-lubrication practices: How are equipment-oil changes determined in your facility?
• Oil changes are initiated based on oil analysis provided by a commercial partner or independent oil-analysis laboratory.
• Oil changes are initiated based on oil analysis conducted in the plant by certified lubrication technicians.
• Oil changes are performed based on a visual assessment done by our lubrication technicians.
• Oil changes are done on a calendar-based interval.
• Oil changes are done on an as-needed basis, due to a failure, a rebuild, or replacement.
3. Contamination control: What is the most common method for excluding contamination from sumps and reservoirs in your facility?
• Breather or vent originally installed by the OEM on the component.
• Normally closed, desiccating, and particulate-filtering breathers.
• No breathers of any type installed on any equipment.
• Standard, normally opened, disposable desiccant breathers.
• Standard particle filters on breather ports.
• Not sure.
4. Sampling technology: What location best describes where most oil samples are taken from your oil-lubricated equipment?
• Static oil reservoirs or sumps through the vent or fill ports.
• Turbulent zone in a representative location.
• Long runs of straight pipe.
• Downstream of system components and upstream of system filters.
• Not currently taking oil samples from any component or system at a regular frequency.
5. Lubrication-analysis program: Who is responsible for setting oil-analysis alarms and limits for the majority of your equipment?
• Not currently using oil analysis as a condition-based maintenance tool.
• Lab owned by our lubricant supplier sets all alarms and limits.
• We have not set any alarms or limits.
• We worked closely with a commercial laboratory to help define the most appropriate alarms and limits to help us achieve our reliability and production goals.
Often, according to Gauthier, the hardest part in improving management of lubricants and lubrication practices at a site is for personnel to be honest enough among themselves to acknowledge/admit to their current situation. “But if an organization is serious about changing its lubrication mindset,” he said, “this type of self-assessment will put it on the path to success.” MT
Mike Gauthier is director of Global Services for Trico Corp., Pewaukee, WI. To access the complete lubrication self-assessment described in this article, click here.
Increasingly sophisticated machines and operations require more than legacy PM approaches.
By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor
The term “time-based maintenance” is well understood in industrial operations. The premise is simple. A regular maintenance/lubrication event is scheduled on the basis of a calendar anniversary, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, or other interval, or on a machine’s run-time clock, i.e., 100, 250, 1,000 hr., or some other specified number of hours. Foundational to legacy preventive-maintenance (PM) programs, this type of event scheduling has served industry well for decades.
Plant equipment systems and processes, however, are becoming more complex and demanding by the day. In turn, they are requiring increasingly sophisticated maintenance approaches. Going forward, if they haven’t already done so, sites will need to adapt to an integrated, proactive-maintenance approach that maximizes machine availability and reliability. The economic justification is simple.
In a legacy time-based event, a forced machine downtime is usually scheduled to perform maintenance or lubrication, e.g., oil change. Older equipment designs usually dictate that a machine must be shut down and locked out to determine its status and conduct scheduled activities in a safe manner. This method obviously has an impact on an operation’s throughput capability.
Given today’s fast-paced operating environments, a forced two-hour downtime to change oil on a calendar schedule—whether it needs to be changed or not—is no longer acceptable. We still need to change oil, but we need to treat that oil as we would any asset and maintain it over an extended lifecycle. That means changing it only when conditions warrant change. This type of monitoring strategy reduces machine intervention and increases production throughput, as well as reduces costs related to the purchasing, handling, and disposal of lubricants at a site. It also fits perfectly in any corporate asset lifecycle or sustainability initiative.
Moving from a time-based to a condition-based lubrication program is an ideal change-management vehicle for transforming and improving an operation’s state of lubrication. Successful design and implementation of a condition-based lubrication program can manifest itself in different forms, depending on a plant’s industry sector and current state of lubrication. Several “conditional” strategies can help your site gear up for this move with little effort and expense.
Implementing conditional strategies
Two basic elements underpin a condition-based lubrication program. The first speaks to the integrated, proactive-maintenance approach through involvement of operators as the primary “eyes and ears” in performing daily machine condition checks. The second element assures consistency and accuracy in the execution of value-based condition checks and lubrication actions.
Some maintenance personnel might argue that the old PM job tasks stating “Fill reservoir as necessary” or “Lubricate as necessary” are perfect condition-based instructions. Not so fast: Those instructions, unfortunately, rely solely on maintainer experience. They will not deliver consistency and accuracy without controls that dictate how we assess a machine’s condition and take appropriate actions built into the “necessary” part of the work-task equation. That’s where implementation of the following conditional strategies pays off.
Strategy 1: Reservoir-fill condition
If a lubrication system is to deliver peak performance, it will require an engineered amount of lubricant. In re-circulating and total-loss systems alike, designated minimum and maximum fill amounts aren’t always clearly indicated on the reservoirs. In such cases, the first step is to ensure that a viewable sight gauge is in use, complete with hi-lo markers for manual checks.
For critical equipment, an advanced approach can utilize a programmable level control to electronically indicate the fill state to operators and maintenance personnel. Some equipment, of course, is designed with reservoirs inside the operating envelope that require machine shutdown to perform checks or fill up. These systems can be inexpensively redesigned with remote “quick-connect” fill-lines piped to the machine perimeter that will allow the reservoirs to be filled to correct levels while the machine runs. (For additional tips, see this article’s “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)
Strategy 2: Oil condition
When the term “condition-based” is used, oil analysis often comes to mind. The first stage in controlling the oil’s condition is to ensure the product is put in the reservoir at the correct service-level of cleanliness and that a contamination-control program is in place. This will require a number of things: an effective oil-receiving and -distribution strategy, operators and maintainers working together to keep the lubrication system clean, use of desiccant-style breathers, and remote, “quick connect” fill ports that can be hooked up to filter carts outside of a machine’s operating envelope. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)
The second stage is to monitor the oil’s condition for contamination, oxidation, and additive depletion through the use of oil analysis. Extracting oil samples for testing purposes is predominantly a manual process that can be conducted outside of a machine’s operating envelope through a remote-piped “live” re-circulating line or by using a remote-piped sight-level gauge with a built-in extraction port.
Based on a condition report, the machine’s oil can be cleaned by using a filter cart, with no downtime, or replaced at a conveniently scheduled time. An advanced alternative is to use an inline sensor to monitor and electronically indicate pre-set oil cleanliness and water-presence alarm levels. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)
Oil-temperature condition is important wherever ambient temperatures fluctuate and an oil might become too viscous to be pumped through a system. This situation can create a bearing-starvation effect. In environments where this could happen, a thermostat-controlled automotive block heater or battery blanket heater can be incorporated in the system to ensure lubricant usability and machine uptime.
Strategy 3: Machine condition
The ultimate lubrication-control is based on equipment running condition. Effectively lubricated machinery will require less power to operate and bearing life will be extended by as much as three times that of ineffectively lubricated machines. Correctly engineered and set up, automated, centralized lubrication-delivery systems ensure the right amount of lubricant is applied in the right place, at the right time. If your plant’s equipment is predominantly manually lubricated, investigate converting to automated systems that require less maintenance and return their investment in weeks or months. (For additional tips, see the “Learn More” box at the bottom of this article.)
Automated systems are highly adaptable to new IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) protocols. The capability now exists to install bearing-heat sensors (that set temperature ranges of different bearings) for monitoring, amperage metering (needed because friction demands an increase in motive power that translates through amperage draw), and sensing of oil levels and cleanliness.
Condition signals can be sent to an automated system’s lubricator to turn on and off for a timed or actuation cycle, or to indicate an alarm state. These conditions can be monitored with software tools and used for computer-based automated decision making to reset a lubricator program based solely (and precisely) on condition needs of a machine within its ambient operating environment.
Condition-based lubrication respects and treats the oils that a site relies on as integrated assets in equipment and process uptime. The condition-based approach is an excellent first step for a site that wants to shift its focus from legacy PM approaches to integrated, proactive-maintenance strategies. Regardless of industry sector, this type of maintenance is what plants of today and tomorrow require to be competitive. MT
Condition-based lubrication and system design are among the topics covered in contributing editor Ken Bannister’s 2016 book, Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities–3rd edition (Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA), co-written with Heinz Bloch. Contact Bannister at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 519-469-9173.
Don’t set up a lube program without one or more of these multi-taskers.
By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK)CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor
The ability to control contamination is an important aspect of any lubrication-management program, especially where lubricant cleanliness is concerned. A constant supply of clean oil is essential to lubricant life and, more important, bearing life.
One of the most efficient and practical tools available to ensure lubricant cleanliness is the portable filter cart. In a typical industrial environment, portable filter carts are used to transfer and clean all types of lube, gear, and hydraulic oils. The carts’ three principal applications in a lubrication-management program are:
• transferring oil from its original container into a machine reservoir
• pre-filtering and cleanup of virgin stock (new) oil in preparation for machine use
• reconditioning and cleanup of oil currently in service.
In addition, use of specialized filters on the outlet side can extract any free and emulsified water present in the oil.
The primary function of any filter cart is to filter fluids. A typical cart design will employ a two-stage filtration approach in which a gear pump is connected to both filters. The inlet, or suction, side is the first-stage, low-pressure side (approximately 5 psid) designed to capture larger contaminant particles exceeding 150 microns in size.
Oil is pumped through the inlet filter to the second-stage, high-pressure (approximately 25 psid) outlet (or delivery side) filter designed to capture much smaller particulate matter that can be filtered to less than 5 microns in size, depending on the filter rating used.
Listen to the latest in a series of monthly lubrication-related podcasts with Ken Bannister. The May podcast focuses on the selection of and best practices regarding portable filter carts.
How clean should your oil be?
Oil cleanliness is universally measured using the ISO 4406 cleanliness code rating system. This is a standard that quantifies the number of contaminant particles, 4, 6, and 14 micron in size, that are present in a 1-ml lubricant sample and compares them with a particle concentration range, resulting in an ISO-range number value.
For example, a 19/17/14 lubricant sample value (typical of new oil) translates to the presence of 2,500 to 5,000 particles >4 microns in size, 640 to 1,300 particles >6 microns in size, and 80 to 160 particles >14 microns in size present in the oil sample.
When new or virgin stock oil is received from the supplier, many sites believe they are receiving a “ready-to-use” product. This is not always the case, as depicted in the table. New oil is typically received around a 19/17/14 ISO cleanliness level that may only be suitable for non-critical gear systems. All other applications will require the oil to be cleaned and polished by passing it through a filtration system prior to use in service.
The table also notes that “In service” oil dirtier than 19/17/14 is unsuitable for any lubrication or hydraulic system. Such oil will require replacement or cleanup using a kidney loop set-up with a portable filter cart.
The number of passes through the filter cart to achieve the appropriate cleanliness level will depend on the “start” and “finish” cleanliness level and the filter types and rating in use. Oil analysis will be required to establish cleanliness levels. Choosing a suitable combination of pump and filter size/type will require consultation with the filter-cart manufacturer who will need to understand your working environment and type/viscosity of oil(s) you use.
The rate of cleanup (speed) will depend on the reservoir size, pump flow rate, and the cleanliness-rating delta. What can be measured immediately is the time to perform one complete filter pass through the cart, as calculated using the following formula:
(Reservoir size x 7)/filter-cart flow rate = time for a single-pass filtration
Example: 60 gal. x 7/10 gpm = 42 min. for a single-pass filtration (1 x filtration of reservoir capacity)
If the plant’s lubricants are consolidated and cleanliness levels are known, a matrix can be developed to determine how many passes are required to filter to an acceptable cleanliness level.
As in all other facets of maintenance, there are a number of best practices associated with the use of portable filter carts:
• Work with the filter cart supplier to determine the right pump and filter choice for your plant requirements.
• To eliminate cross contamination of lubricants, each filter cart must be dedicated to a single lubricant use for transfer and cleaning of lubricants. Pilot the filter cart program with the most-critical and/or most-utilized plant-lubricant type.
• Always clean the unit after each successful transfer operation, paying particular attention to the wand ends and open drip tray under the filters and pump area. Open oil is a dirt attractant and can be transferred unwittingly if the cart and its components are not kept scrupulously clean.
• Unless specified, most filter carts are sold with open-end transfer wands fitted to the delivery and suction hose ends designed to slide easily into the reservoir openings of the donor and recipient reservoirs. In a program designed to filter contaminants from the oil, this type of delivery fitting can allow moisture and dirt contamination into the respective reservoirs during the transfer process. To combat this, and ensure a contamination-free transfer process, fit the filter cart delivery/return hose ends and reservoir fill/drain ports with quick-lock-style couplings. As the reservoir is now airtight, it will also require a quality desiccant-style breather to be fitted and, in the case of larger capacity reservoir, a closed-loop expansion tank.
• Specify kink-resistant flexible suction and delivery hose to prevent pump cavitation. Clear hoses allow a visual reference of the oil flowing through the lines.
• The cart’s electric motor will require access to electricity. Ensure that an electrical outlet is within easy reach of the unit’s electrical cord. If the cord is short in length, consider mounting a retractable electrical cord caddy on the unit with enough cord length to reach the nearest electrical outlet.
• Paint a lined box similar to a lay-down area as close as possible to the oil reservoir that’s to be serviced. This allows a cart to be positioned and used quickly without obstruction, and within reach of its hose and wand assemblies.
• Place the cart on a preventive-maintenance (PM) check program prior to every use to ensure the unit’s filters don’t go into bypass mode from being too dirty. MT
Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc. (Innerkip, Ontario), he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact him at email@example.com, or telephone 519-469-9173.
Your gauge of choice can have a significant impact on your PM efforts.
Clean lubricants increase the life and performance of bearings and ensure the success of your operations.
By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor
I am astounded by the number of companies that continue to believe bearing failure and its associated replacement and downtime costs are an acceptable part of doing business. In my experience, this point of view is most apparent at sites with severe and semi-severe operating conditions, wherein water, heat, and fine particulate matter (dust, dirt, and manufacturing debris) are present.
If a machine has any form of replaceable/washable filter, screen, or breather as part of its fluid-management systems—lubrication, hydraulic, and pneumatic-air systems—we can assume the OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) machine designer/engineer expected the equipment and its operators/maintainers to contend with and manage fluid- and air-borne contaminants. These built-in sacrificial filtration elements are specifically designed to provide an inexpensive method of managing and controlling potential contamination issues—externally and internally—to protect delicate, close-tolerance, machine-bearing surfaces at work under a range of operating conditions.
In the majority of operating conditions, effective levels of contamination control and avoidance are achievable with minimum effort when the requirements and basic relationships of and between a machine, its operator(s), and maintainer(s) are understood.
The fact that a piece of equipment begins to run a process or make a product indicates the OEM has done its part: supplied a machine that’s adaptable enough to work in an array of different operating environments or, if the end user is fortunate, one designed and built specifically for a unique operating environment. This means the machinery is fitted with a number of built-in contamination-control/filtration devices that are ultimately designed to fail in their own right. (They also require monitoring for condition and cleaning and/or replacement when their filter media is close to being exhausted.) These devices offer secondary protection through their ability to trap and control the ingress of contaminants into lubricating oil(s), grease(s), and air-flow systems.
When two precision-bearing surfaces interact, they rely implicitly on a lubrication film devoid of particle or water presence to separate—and protect—themselves from each other. The filter is designed to trap and extract any particles or moisture before these contaminants can enter the lubricated zone(s) and cause surface damage.
Almost exclusively in contamination control, filters incorporate a passive surface-attractant medium, designed to work in the direct-flow path of the lubricant and capture any dirt particles (contaminants) held in colloidal suspension as the lubricant, or lubricated air, flows through or across it. Depending on the working conditions, particle size, and fluid-flow rate, the porous filter media can be constructed of a variety of materials, including simple wire-mesh gauze, wire wool, pleated paper, cellulose, porous metal, fiberglass, diatomaceous earth, or felt. Due to higher fluid viscosity and line-delivery pressures, grease systems use heavy-gauge coiled wedge-wire or wire-mesh filters to attract large solid contaminants that may be introduced from a dirty grease-gun nozzle.
Enclosed, sealed gearboxes and reservoirs require breather devices to equalize pressure and control solid and moisture contamination. Old-style breathers constructed of wire wool can only prevent large solid contamination (40+ microns in size), and are now regularly replaced with newer-style breathers that employ desiccant-like silica gel hydrophilic media.
This media type allows the reservoir to breathe and prevent airborne particulates (3+ microns) from entering the reservoir. It also wicks and captures moisture from inside the reservoir, while preventing outside moisture from entering the reservoir or gearbox chamber.
Heavy water contamination usually enters a system as a result of maintenance or production personnel using oil that has been incorrectly stored in the outside elements, or through production-process-water spillage or high-pressure machine-cleaning (prevalent in food-manufacturing machinery).
Ironically, while contamination avoidance is the primary strategy for reducing and eliminating premature bearing failure, it is absent/avoided in many lubrication programs. A good contamination-avoidance program requires little-to-no capital outlay, fits perfectly into any preventive-/predictive-maintenance (PM/PdM) program, involves cooperation of operators and maintenance personnel, and will drastically reduce the reliance and maintenance requirement of what essentially become secondary contamination-control systems.
In simple terms, contamination-avoidance means taking actions to ensure that contaminants don’t come into contact with a machine and its bearing-protection systems. Success relies, largely, on a good relationship between operations and maintenance personnel and a healthy respect for the machine and components in question. The following points outline the foundational requirements of any contamination-avoidance program:
Good housekeeping. Ensuring that dirt does not accumulate on equipment surfaces is preventive maintenance 101 and the responsibility of operator and maintainer. Implementing a simple 5S program will facilitate this element. This applies to the machinery and the lubricant-storage area and transfer equipment.
Lubrication training. Understanding the effect and consequence of failing to arrest contamination is mandatory. Use processes and procedures that ensure consistent effort.
Lubricant storage and transfer engineering. Using dedicated, color-coded, and closeable storage and transfer equipment protects lubricants from the elements and cross-contamination exposure. Make sure all grease guns and nipples are cleaned with lint-free rags before and after use.
Condition-based oil changes. Performing oil/filter changes too frequently risks exposure to contaminants. Performing them too infrequently risks exhausting filtration media and, in turn, lubricating-fluids degradation. Condition-checking allows operators and maintainers to become more familiar (or in tune) with a machine.
Lubricant cleanliness. Testing new lubricants and bulk fluids to verify their cleanliness and additive-package formulations before they’re put into use is a must. This is the only way to ensure that they’ve been delivered in a clean state and meet referenced specifications. In addition to the above behavioral changes, the following equipment and workspace changes can be put in place if the production process and workplace environment warrants:
Room-ventilation system. Positive or negative room pressurization or exhaust-air ventilation can be used to reduce or eliminate airborne contaminants.
Machine design. If the production process involves water or sand, mechanical deflector shields can be used to protect, divert, and channel contaminants away from bearing and lubricant-reservoir areas. Fill-cap and drain-port plugs can be replaced with positive-lock fill/drain connections that hook to closed-system transfer carts. Conventional breathers can be replaced with a closed-loop expansion tank on larger reservoir systems.
Taking small contamination-avoidance steps will significantly reduce your site’s lubricant-contamination-control requirements. The savings from these efforts can then help fund your world-class lubrication-management program. MT
Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the soon-to-be-released Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for EngTech Industries (Innerkip, Ontario), he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 519-469-9173.
With a 20-yr. history in the industrial sector, and $2.2 billion in capital raised since inception, IGP has extensive experience building global manufacturing businesses. According to the company, it concentrates on leading niche manufacturers of engineered products used in critical applications, and partners with their management teams to pursue strategic initiatives focused on achieving long-term shareholder value.
Founded in 1983 when it brought the first desiccant breather to market, Des-Case now provides an array of fluid-cleanliness products, services, and training that improve equipment reliability and extend lubricant life in industrial plants around the globe. It, in fact, has enjoyed the growth-opportunity benefits of private-equity investments since 2013, when it was acquired by Pfingsten Partners L.L.C.
In 2014, Des-Case announced its own acquisition of the visual-oil-analysis line of ESCO Products Inc., the well-known, family-owned, Houston-based manufacturer of various fluid-monitoring technologies and distributor of Copaltite and Dow Corning products. The acquired portfolio included ESCO’s 3-D BullsEye Viewport, oil sight glasses, indicators and level monitors.
“I am honored and excited to be a part of writing the next chapter in the Des-Case growth story alongside our valued customers, partners and investors,” noted company president and CEO Brian Gleason. “IGP has over two decades of experience investing in the industrial sector with a proven track record of building world-class global businesses. We are looking forward to the partnership.”
Other than the report that Des-Case’s management team has retained a substantial ownership stake in the company, terms of the July 6, 2016 transaction haven’t been disclosed.
For more information on Des-Case, CLICK HERE.
To learn more about Industrial Growth Partners, CLICK HERE.
Despite years of concerted efforts by industry experts and suppliers, some dangerous lubrication myths continue to swirl around many maintenance operations. Motion Industries lubrication specialist Chris Kniestedt takes a down-and-dirty approach to debunk six of them.
Myth 1: All lubricating oils are the same.
From hydraulic fluids to gear lubricants to motor oils, each lubricant, be it synthetic or mineral-based, is uniquely formulated for its application with a specific viscosity; additive package; physical, chemical, and performance properties; and regulatory requirements. Various products may or may not be compatible with each other (see Myth 6).
Myth 2: If a little is good, more is better.
Take grease, for example. Over-greased bearings are a major cause of equipment failure. Blown seals and overheating are just two negative results of using too much grease. A general rule of thumb for normal- or high-speed machinery is that it’s better to err on the side of caution and to always check the OEM’s recommendations.
Overfilling gearboxes will also lead to problems, including failed shaft seals or increased operating temperatures. A gearbox that has too much oil will have to work harder to move through the lubricant, subsequently generating more heat or churning the oil into foam.
Myth 3: Blue, red, or black grease is better than white or clear grease.
Color is not a key factor in selecting grease for an application. There’s no standard for doing so. Instead, pay attention to base-oil viscosity (based on speed, load, and expected operating temperature), thickener type to mitigate incompatibility issues and consistency, and/or how well a product will pump at operating temperatures.
Myth 4: Tacky and stringy greases and oils offer better protection than non-tacky products.
It’s important to understand that lubricants are only 10- to 20-microns thick at the point of contact. Moreover, film thickness is a function of base-oil viscosity at operating temperature and speed (to a lesser degree, load). Thus, always use caution when applying tacky lubricants or greases with higher percentages of thickener at high operating speeds.
Myth 5: Food Grade (NSF H-1) products are never as good as Non-Food Grade (NSF H-2) products.
Advances in base-oil technology and additive chemistry have made Food Grade H1 products stronger than ever, particularly with synthetics. There are many applications where a correct, strong Food Grade H1 product will work as well as a non-Food Grade H2 mineral-oil-based equivalent.
Myth 6: All products are compatible.
Consider greases. In addition to their base oils and additive packages, greases are formulated with various thickeners (lithium, lithium complex, aluminum complex, calcium, polyurea, bentone, and silica gel), which aren’t necessarily compatible with each other. Always exercise caution when changing greases. Laboratory compatibility testing will clear up any doubts. If incompatibility exists between old and new products, purge bearings before changing to the new one. Oils aren’t always compatible either, especially with the new generation of synthetics. Finally, mixing Food Grade H1 lubricants with Non-Food Grade H2 will create contamination issues, which will cause you to lose H1 designation. MT
Chris Kniestedt is lubrication specialist for the San Francisco Division of Birmingham, AL-based Motion Industries. For more information visit www.motionindustries.com.