Archive | Lubrication


6:23 pm
July 12, 2017
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Change Your Lubrication Mindset

Achieving desired goals requires an honest assessment of the status quo.

Oiling Gears Close-up

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. (, 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.


4:54 pm
July 12, 2017
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Move from Time- to Condition-Based Lubrication

Increasingly sophisticated machines and operations require more than legacy PM approaches.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

With plant equipment and processes growing more sophisticated and demanding by the day, so must everything that keeps them up and running, including approaches to machinery lubrication. Integrated, proactive-maintenance technologies and strategies are key for fast-paced industrial operations that want to be competitive, and are easily justified in economic terms.

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.

Remember this

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, or 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“All Sight-Level Gauges Aren’t Created Equal”

“Control and Avoid Lubricant Contamination”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”

“Implement an Oil-Analysis Program”

“Practical Oil Analysis: Why and What For?”

“Tune Your Lubrication-Delivery System”


7:18 pm
June 25, 2017
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Satellite Lubrication Room

1706mtprod03pThe Satellite Lube Room is a full-featured storage solution that supports all the essential features of an OilSafe lubrication setup and packages them into a self-contained, regulation-compliant structure. The structure can be loaded onto a flatbed truck and moved with a forklift. The storage solution protects lubricant quality and lifespan by reducing handling errors and controlling the operating environment.
Rockwall, TX


5:41 pm
June 23, 2017
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Real-Time Lube Intelligence System

1705mtprod01pSensei real-time lubrication intelligence system wirelessly transmits oil level and ambient air temperature to a customizable, web-based dashboard. The system includes three components. An oil sensor measures oil level, oil consumption and ambient temperature. A gateway/router receives data and transmits it to the cloud. The gateway accommodates as many as 64 sensors at a radius of 250 ft. Repeaters expand the network as needed. The third component is an intuitive, web-based dashboard for real-time intelligence with no need to install software. The dashboard is customizable with displays for oil level by device, daily alerts, and other functions.
Trico Corp.
Pewaukee, WI


6:17 pm
June 16, 2017
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Help Your Air Compressors Beat the Heat

Atlas Copco USA - Spring Cleaning

Special summertime attention to several maintenance items can help keep compressed air systems up and running efficiently despite increased heat and humidity.

Summertime: The word conjures up images of relaxing on a beach with peaceful waves lapping at the shore. Most people equate summer with some degree of fun in the sun. For facility mangers, though, it can be a stressful time, given the unscheduled “vacations” that air compressors like to take during summer months and an associated rise in maintenance and energy costs.

With often-extreme temperatures and substantial increases in humidity, summertime presents textbook conditions for unexpected compressor shutdowns. Failure of this equipment can result in high repair costs and, more important, a disruption in production schedules that can lead to more costs and, ultimately, less revenue.

What can your operations do to battle the effect of summer on these systems? Beth Morgan of Atlas Copco Compressors (, Rock Hill, SC) points to the following items that deserve special attention in terms of summer maintenance.

—Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

Sufficient and temperate airflow is crucial to compressor performance. During the sweltering months of summer, confirm there is nothing prohibiting air from flowing freely around the unit and that the recommended ambient temperature is maintained. Repair loose foam or panels and remove any obstructions in or around the unit.

A compressor’s oil isn’t protected from the consequences of hot weather. Sweltering heat can decrease oil life expectancy, leading to damaging repercussions on the unit’s element. Using the correct oil (replaced at proper intervals, of course), and keeping oil filters clean will help ensure that your compressors run cool and consume less energy.

Inspect the quality of compressor coolers. Clogged or blocked coolers can cause an air compressor to overheat. Be sure to examine the cooling fan for dust and residue that can prevent it from working properly. A neglected cooler may become blocked, requiring removal for a deeper cleaning.

Summer’s humidity can lead to greater levels of condensate from a compressor than what you would see in cooler months. Make sure drains are working properly and capable of handling the extra water. Confirm that the condensate is filtered properly to prevent oil from being released into the drain.

When air filters become dirty, airflow is inhibited. If that happens, the compressor must compensate for the drops in pressure, which leads to higher running temperatures. Oil filters are another matter. Oil quality deteriorates at higher temperatures, leaving behind greater deposits in the filter. Be sure to replace your units’ air and oil filters at the beginning of summer. Your compressor systems will run cooler, and use less energy with clean filters. MT

Beth Morgan is a manager with the Compressor Technique Service (CTS) division of Atlas Copco Compressors LLC, Rock Hill, SC. For more information, visit


8:12 pm
June 15, 2017
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Manage Used and Waste Oils Wisely

Heed these tips to simultaneously befriend your budget and the environment.

This storage area for used and waste oils is problematic.

This storage area for used and waste oils is problematic.

By Ken Bannister, MEch Eng (UK), CMRP, MLE, Contributing Editor

There was a time when the terms “used oil“ and “waste oil” meant the same thing and could be used interchangeably. Not anymore. Federal, state, and local environmental regulations have effectively redefined both terms as distinct oil states that must be dealt with in very different ways. Because legislation differs among authorities and jurisdictions, it’s the responsibility of plant owners/operators to contact appropriate authorities for clarification on regulations under local law regarding the definition, management, and disposal of the used and waste oils at their sites.

Identifying ‘used’ oil

Used oil is generally defined as a product refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and, as a result of such use, is contaminated and unsuitable for its original purpose due to the presence of impurities (water or dirt) or the loss of original properties (through loss of additives).

Like virgin stock oils, used oil should be thought of as a resource that can be reprocessed in situ with an industrial filter cart to clean and polish the oil while it’s in the machine reservoir. Or, it can be shipped to an oil recycler where it will be treated using settling, dehydration, filtration, coagulation, and centrifugation to remove contaminants and, if needed, refortified with its required additive package and placed back into service—all at a fraction of the cost of new oil, with no disposal management and associated fees.

Alternatively, used oil can be re-refined into lubricant or fuel oil products that can legally be sold as new oil. Re-refined products must be processed to meet the same stringent requirements and standards set for their virgin-oil counterparts. Once the re-refining is completed, the products are considered brand new oils.

Less expensive to manufacture and purchase, re-refined products conserve virgin-oil stocks—10 barrels of crude are conserved for every barrel of re-refined new oil made from used oil—and minimize the negative environmental impact of oil disposal.

Typical used-oil candidates for re-refining include:

• compressor oil
• electrical insulating oil (except that likely to contain PCBs)
• crankcase (engine) oil
• gear oil
• hydraulic oil (non-synthetic)
• industrial process oil
• neat (undiluted) metalworking fluids and oils
• refrigeration oil
• transfer oil
• transformer oil
• transmission oil
• turbine oil.

In some jurisdictions, used oil is allowed as a fuel oil and can be burned for heat.

Although used oil is generally considered a commodity, in a handful of states it is viewed as a hazardous material and, as such, must be treated as hazardous waste when stored for disposal. Plants must check with their local authorities in this regard.

Identifying ‘waste oil’

Waste oil differs from used oil in that it reflects new oil that has become contaminated and, consequently, is deemed no longer useful for service. In the view of many jurisdictions, such oil is a hazardous waste. Used oil, cross-contaminated with chlorinated products or other chemical products, must be treated as a hazardous liquid and disposed of accordingly. Once again, it’s imperative for facility personnel to check with their local authorities to understand the legislative definitions and requirements.

Management tips

Collecting used and waste oil on site is a natural occurrence in any industrial plant and allowable in all jurisdictions. There are, however, regulations regarding its labelling, storage, spillage, and disposal.

The photo above reflects a typical outdoor storage area for the collection of used and waste oils in a plant. Although it shows a designated area, it exposes a very poor—and expensive—oil-management approach that contravenes most of today’s regulations in the following ways:

Used- or waste-oil tanks must be clearly labelled and accessible.

The tanks in the photo are grated pits that would be classified as confined spaces and not allowed in many jurisdictions. Only one of these two restricted-access pit tanks is labelled as “Waste Oil,” a fact that’s partially obscured by the barrels.

Given the proximity of the two pits to each other, poor access to the rear one, and their uncontrolled exposure to outside elements, most regulatory agencies would probably classify oil pumped from both of those tanks as hazardous waste, requiring costly disposal procedures.


• Decommission the pits.
• Install two above-ground steel tanks in accordance with regulations, designating each separately for used oil and waste oil. For correct tank sizing, work with your oil-disposal company to ascertain its minimum and maximum haulage capability.
• Clearly label each tank in accordance with local regulations.
• Move tanks into a controlled indoor space or cover the area  to protect from outside elements.
• All tanks are to be bunded (placing the tank inside a leak proof bermed concrete, asphalt, or steel/plastic catch-basin control area. The bund must equal or exceed the volume of the largest tank in that bunded area.
• Padlock tanks shut when not in use.

Dedicated oil-transfer containers must be used to control cross-contamination.

In the photo example the company has a variety of different-sized open pails containing non-descript oils and what appears to be a white chemical product. Once again, all of those fluids are exposed to the elements and to each another. That automatically makes all of them hazardous waste. The only way to be sure used oil does not become contaminated with hazardous waste is to never mix it with anything else and store used oil separately from all solvents, chemicals, and other incompatible products.


• List all oil and non-oil products used in the plant and work with your oil-disposal partner to decide which products are to be treated as recyclable used oil, waste oil, and hazardous materials (chemicals and non-oils).
• Use closed, dedicated containers for used oil, waste oils, and other products stored in the same area.
• Log any bulk transfer of oils into the tanks.
• Record all products being held in the area on a manifest and log their release to the disposal company.
• Retain all records in a accordance with the company’s record-retention schedule.

Spill controls are mandatory.

Although the photo above also shows evidence of a contained spill around the oil pallet, the contaminated spill material hasn’t been removed and is itself an uncontained, contaminated oil product.


In accordance with most safety legislation, every oil-storage facility will generally be required to have and keep the following information and equipment up to date:

• spill contingency plan and procedures
• spill-control equipment
• fire plan
• emergency-evacuation plan.

If a site’s oil-storage building is indoors or in a closed area, it will require ventilation as regulated by local building codes.

The cost of doing business

Disposing of hazardous waste can be time-consuming and costly. Research local oil recyclers and hazardous-waste haulage companies to determine what they charge for their services. Some will handle both oil reclamation and disposal of hazardous waste. Such organization should be able to work with your site to set up a value-based program that adheres to all local regulations. MT

Editor’s Note: Recycling and disposing of old oil is closely associated with lubrication-consolidation efforts in a plant. This feature addresses that topic with insight from Des-Case.

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), Bannister specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and development of training programs. Contact him at or telephone 519-469-9173.

learnmore2“Store and Handle Lubricants Properly”

“Put Portable Filter Carts to Work”