By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
Who among us is not familiar with Aesop’s Fables? One of my favorites is “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs,” a poignant tale of greed and ignorance that has major implications for industrial operations.
The story involves a farmer who was fortunate to own a goose that produced one solid-gold egg every day. In his myopic quest to accumulate even more wealth, the man decided to kill the bird and plunder the treasure source that he believed was in its belly. As he eventually discovered, however, the golden treasure was actually in the eggs themselves, and could only be increased by keeping the goose alive. (The English may have summed up the moral of this story best with the following well-known idiom: “Do not perform a short-sighted action that might destroy the profitability of an asset!”)
Analyze this fable deeper and you will recognize that the farmer ignored the fact that the goose he cared for was the asset that made him profitable: Alas, without the goose, there are no eggs.
With regard to physical assets—like a site’s production machines that are expected to reliably “deliver the goods” per their design specifications, day in and day out—we must care for them on a daily basis. After all, they are really the “golden goose” of a production facility! But are we tending them adequately?
In December 2014, this publication shared the first scorecard for the state of lubrication practices in North American industries. Results were disappointing, with the response indicating a score of 43 out of a possible 100. If accurate, that means, in real terms, that mechanical losses due to ineffective lubrication practices could have cost North America’s plants $1 trillion last year! That’s an unacceptable price tag when virtually every facility is looking internally to cut costs. Plant management, regardless of sector, should be angry about the economic impact of these losses—especially when they are so easily preventable, and with little or no capital outlay.
Lubricants are the life-blood of industrial equipment systems. They should be viewed as a critical component that plays a principal role in the uptime, throughput and rate of quality success of any facility’s operational machinery.
I have toured hundreds of plants over the course of my career and am amazed by the cavalier and reckless attitude toward lubrication that I continue to see. Too many managers remain ill-informed regarding: 1) the benefits of effective lubrication; 2) the staggering cost of ineffective lubrication; and 3) how inexpensive it is to implement an engineered lubrication-management program.
Management can take this to the bank: Placing unmarked grease guns full of unmarked lubricants into the hands of untrained personnel and telling them to manually fire at will into remote bearing points does not constitute an effective lubrication program. Instead of saving money, this type of shortsighted approach will destroy the profitability of a plant’s assets!
The “wheels of industry” today rely on lubricant films mere microns in thickness. Thus, it is essential that management of our operations becomes better informed about good lubrication practices and the fact that they must be deployed daily to protect our “golden geese.” Good Luck!