Industrial lubricant storage: Six common mistakes

Understand how to avoid contamination and confusion.

06/10/2016


The best place to store your industrial lubricants is inside in a dry, clean area at ambient temperature. Image Courtesy: AcculubeIndustrial lubricants aren't something most manufacturers think much about. However, industrial lubricants affect many of the most costly areas of a manufacturing operation: machine downtime, disposal costs, parts failure and labor costs.

As industrial machines have become more sophisticated, lubricant requirements have become more stringent. Any amount of contamination found in a machine's lubricant often results in downtime and increased product and labor costs as the lubricant is dumped and recharged. Plus, parts may potentially need to be replaced.

But these unexpected instances can happen less often—even not at all—by avoiding these common mistakes.

Common mistakes

Here are six common mistakes in storing industrial lubricants:

1. Using contaminated containers

The most frequent mistake companies make is transferring industrial lubricants in dirty containers. Dust and debris from the container immediately contaminate the lubricant. The dust and debris are then transferred to the machine where it acts like sandpaper, damaging the machine and surface finishes.

Reusing the same containers without thoroughly washing them can also contaminate industrial lubricant. Hydraulic oil and gear oil may look the same, but the components that comprise each oil are different. When combined, the oils can counteract and damage each other. You see the effects of contaminated lubricants when a residue called varnish appears on the machine's parts. If severe enough, it can damage the hydraulic systems and gearboxes. One company unknowingly added contaminated lubricant to its system, damaging the servo valve and pumps. The contamination caused the pump to fail twice in six months. It wasn't until they reviewed their lubricant-storage practices that they realized the pump failures were unnecessary.

2. Storing lubricants outside

Never store your lubricant outside. Temperature changes cause the air volume in the storage container to change. As temperatures fall, air condenses and can pull in moisture if drums are stored vertically outdoors. This puts your lubricants at an increased risk of oxidizing before being put into service. The best place to store your industrial lubricants is inside in a dry, clean area at ambient temperature.

3. Not using color-coded, transparent containers

The best system for industrial-lubricant storage is to use sealed containers with color-coded lids. Each color represents a type of lubricant. This prevents accidental cross-contamination.

4. Not identifying fill points on the machine

To ensure that the correct product is used, fill points on machines should be color-coded as well, matching the color of the storage units. This is especially vital for machines using many products with multiple fill points. One manufacturer didn't mark the fill points in its machines properly. A new employee went to fill a way-lube reservoir. The employee didn't realize there was more than one fill point and only filled one. The machine ran out of way lube, which caused damage to the ways. Color-coded fill points could have prevented a $10,000 repair.

5. Failing to flush the line after a contamination

If you're replacing all the fluid in a machine, use a dedicated pump and hose. If you don't have a dedicated pump or hose, then you need to flush the line out before using it. Flushing requires double the volume the line can carry. If it can carry two gallons of product, then flush four gallons through it. (But never use the same pump with oil-based lubricant and water-based products.) One crane company mistakenly filled a hydraulic reservoir with antifreeze coolant and pumped it through a $1 million machine. They drained the reservoir and refilled it with brand-new hydraulic fluid. However, when they started the crane, it was further damaged because there was a mix of lubricants and antifreeze in the cylinders. Why? Because they didn't have a dedicated pump and hose.

6. Not using the oldest purchased lubricant first

You know how the grocery store always put the oldest food in the front of the shelf? You should practice the same with stored lubricant. This saves you money from having to throw out expired industrial lubricants. Most lubricants have a shelf life of two to five years. By using proper storage containers and implementing a few simple, inexpensive processes, you can prevent costly and unexpected downtime from lubricant contamination.

Chris Fisk is vice president and general manager at Acculube, a Dayton, Ohio-based fluids supplier to U.S. manufacturers and service providers.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
IIoT grows up; Six ways to lower IIoT costs; Six mobile safety strategies; 2017 Salary Survey
2016 Top Plant; 2016 Best Practices on manufacturing progress, efficiency, safety
2016 Product of the Year; Diagnose bearing failures; Asset performance management; Testing dust collector performance measures
Future of oil and gas projects; Reservoir models; The importance of SCADA to oil and gas
Big Data and bigger solutions; Tablet technologies; SCADA developments
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
What controller fits your application; Permanent magnet motors; Chemical manufacturer tames alarm management; Taking steps in a new direction
Tying a microgrid to the smart grid; Paralleling generator systems; Previewing NEC 2017 changes
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on preventing compressed air leaks and centrifugal air compressor basics and best practices for the "fifth utility" in manufacturing plants.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
click me