Oil's well that starts well

Plant Engineering's June cover story looks at the importance of a sound lubrication plan


In today's increasingly competitive environment, maximizing productivity is a must, especially for small and medium-sized machine shops. Typically, these businesses cannot match the overall production capabilities - in terms of volume - of their larger rivals. Furthermore, larger competitors often have more equipment, more people and more resources than small or medium sized businesses.
Whether your company specializes in producing simple bolts, complex gear sets or high precision valves, keeping your machinery running efficiently is the key to your profitability.
After all, in a machine tool, the active physical interrelationship taking place in the equipment requires that your lubricants work together effectively. Your slideway oil must work seamlessly with your choice of cutting fluids.
In a machine tool, mixing oil with the coolant is unavoidable.
Some way oils may not separate readily from the coolants and result in excessive "tramp oil." Excessive tramp oil will compromise the effectiveness of the metal working fluid by shortening the effective life and altering cutting performance. Excessive tramp oil can also lead to bacterial growth in water soluble coolants resulting in foul odor, short coolant life and potential employee health and safety concerns.
To avoid these issues and help ensure that your equipment runs smoothly over the long haul, choose a high performance lubricant. In today's increasingly competitive environment, maximizing productivity is a must, especially for small and medium-sized machine shop businesses.

Implement a proactive strategy
One of the most valuable things any company can do is to incorporate a proactive maintenance approach as opposed to a reactive maintenance platform.
A proactive maintenance strategy is what many of the most successful companies in the industrial sector, large or small, utilize.
This strategy regards equipment maintenance not as a cost, but as a strategic investment. Utilizing this maintenance philosophy, companies recognize that when they invest in protecting their assets (equipment) they can yield significant payback in terms of exceptional equipment durability and efficiency, as well as maximized performance and productivity.
For many smaller companies specializing in machine shop applications, this maintenance mindset is essential. After all, for many machine shops, a few pieces of specialized equipment often represent a significant portion of the entire company's operations. Without that equipment running efficiently, a company's productivity and bottom line can be severely impacted.
The most essential and cost-effective component of a successful proactive maintenance strategy is the implementation of a comprehensive oil analysis program.
Oil analysis is a series of tests that help determine the condition of internal hardware and in-service lubricants. With this information, you can extend the useful lives of both, identify early warning signs such as contamination and wear, and minimize unscheduled maintenance.
Among the areas covered in a good oil analysis include:

• Updating equipment registrations and select analysis options based on their equipment or maintenance needs;
• Track the status of samples at the lab;
• Direct actions based on analysis results, request sample kits; and,
• Share critical results with colleagues in a secure, password protected environment.

Streamline inventory management
Another great way for small and medium-sized machine shop businesses to maximize productivity is to maintain an efficient inventory management strategy.
When addressing inventory management, there are several factors you should consider. Perhaps the most important is recognizing that inventory costs will include the initial purchase price of materials plus costs associated with handling and storage.
Other items to consider when developing an inventory management strategy include, estimating the replenishment quantity, and determining appropriate times to submit reorders.
A key component in determining proper reorder quantity and timing is for the business owner or maintenance manager to accurately gauge how much available space can be dedicated to storage. Typically, most machine shops owners/managers do not want to utilize valuable space to store excess inventory.
Thus, a good best practice to follow is to work closely with your suppliers to develop an effective cycle fulfillment process, through which, deliveries are received just as previous order supplies are about to be drained.
Finally, another key best practice is to periodically examine the products and supplies they use, especially lubricants.
One common way for machine shop owners to efficiently utilize inventory space is to review the list of lubricant it is using. Lubricants take up a significant amount of storage area and, often times, the number of products can be consolidated to a lower number of high-performance lubricants.
By following the tips provided above, you can help your businesses enhance its overall efficiency, lower inventory management costs, and, most importantly, maximize productivity.

Glen Sharkowicz is global industrial products offer advisor for Mobil Industrial Lubricants, www.mobilindustrial.com .

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