Bulk lubrication storage offers several advantages

New containers make the 55-gallon drum obsolete, and can improve safety and reduce risks in the process

06/19/2013


Figure 1: A lubrication bulk storage system provides color-coded lubrication management. Courtesy: Oil-SafeEfficient lubrication management reduces downtime, increases efficiency, and improves operating profitability.  This extends to the storage of your lubricants as well.

In the past, 55-gal drums were the simplest and most efficient way to deliver product. However, storage of lubricants in drums can increase the risk of contamination and human error, and reduce safety.

Maintenance managers are using modern, single-solution bulk storage systems that centrally store, label, transfer, and dispense lubricants easily, efficiently, and accurately. There are three key factors that make bulk storage system a better choice. 

Visually intuitive

Drum labels can be hard to read. The variation across lubrication brand labels often makes it difficult to locate critical data such as fluid name, viscosity, manufacturer, date code, equipment application, and so on. Labels fade easily, can be damaged, or can fall off thus rendering the drum unreadable. This can leads to the wrong oil ending up in the wrong application. Without clear visual identification, the overall risk of mistakes and safety hazards dramatically increases, which can lead to costly, dangerous, and potentially devastating errors.

In bulk storage systems, the color-coded system makes the lubrication management process more visually intuitive, eliminating the guesswork from the maintenance process, as well as the potential for cross-contamination. The labels are easy to read and consistently placed and protected. This helps ensure the right lubricant goes to the right place at the right time. A visual identification system also is a critical step in 5S and Poka-yoke lean concepts.

Eliminating contamination

One of the largest misconceptions is that new oil is clean oil. When initiating a lubrication management program, it’s critical to look at all ways contamination can enter your system. Not only may the fluid not meet the ISO code your equipment requires, but contamination may have entered during the life of the fluid within a 55-gal drum.

Contamination is caused by many factors. Product expiration occurs when first-in, first-out inventory control is not followed. Drums are often left partially open and used, exposing the oil to the environment and encouraging a breeding ground for contamination. Contamination can also occur from improper storage environments, leading to temperature fluctuations and additional exposure to moisture, dirt, and dust.

There also is no clean, safe, ergonomic method to dispense oil out of a 55-gal drum, and the lack of proper filtration or contamination prevention causes the drum to be a huge contamination risk.

Bulk storage systems act as a centralized hub for the proper storage, transfer, and dispensing of lubricants, which promotes accurate and reliable fluid transfer. A modular, stackable design makes bulk systems more compliant with cleanliness and reliability.

Bulk storage systems are self-contained and allow for safer fluid transfer, which eliminates the risk of environmental contaminants and cross-contamination. Systemized processes clearly communicate lubricant information and application, which removes the risk of contamination often seen in unorganized, compromised 55-gal drums. With a bulk storage system, your facility sees the unparalleled benefit of a more organized, cleaner lubrication process. 

Safety and reliability

Large drums present several serious safety hazards. A full drum can weigh anywhere from 350 to 500 lbs., so moving, stacking, and storing them can be dangerous. Drum cradles make it easier for workers to move drums, but the mere process of tilting them can lead to back and repetitive stress injuries.

The drums present potential tipping or spill hazards. Lubricant drippings and small spills occur during drum storage transfers, increasing the risk of leakage and eventual accidents. Managing proper spill containment with 55-gal drums can be cumbersome and costly. Even minor spills present a major safety hazard, which can lead to huge, costly accidents.

Conversely, bulk storage systems eliminate the risk of safety hazards; the units are the only clean, safe, and ergonomic way to store and dispense lubricants. Bulk storage systems reduce the risk of worker injury caused by moving and stacking drums, and they promote ergonomic storing and dispensing. Lubrication technicians can easily manage the ins and outs of fluids with all lubricants stored in one organized and streamlined central hub for fast, efficient, and safe transfer and storage.

Standardized bulk systems have labeled dispensers and a large spill pallet that traps any leaks or spills, helping reduce drippings and downtime. The nature of the centralized bulk system simply eliminates the safety hazard caused by tipping and insufficient spill capacity, promoting a safer lubrication process. The safety and reliability offered by the bulk storage system solution is unseen in lubrication processes using 55-gal drums. 

Conclusion

It’s critical for maintenance managers to realize the importance of following best practices, not just common practices, for their lubrication storage and handling process. Without them, human error, contamination, and safety hazards will continue to be a pain point for maintenance managers, and maintenance costs will continue to rise.

Patrick Fasse is director of sales for Fluid Defense.

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