Among the many tasks and conditions plant engineers must contend with on a daily basis are maintenance and downtime. When these two aspects are minimized, production can be enhanced and the impact on the bottom line can be reduced. Following some simple guidelines to keep equipment lubricated properly are the first steps to preventing unscheduled maintenance and costly downtime.
“A lubrication survey is a catalog of all the machinery in your facility,” said Jim Girard, vice president and chief marketing officer of Lubriplate. Surveys typically include the name of each machine in the plant, with the points of lubrication, the suggested frequency of lubrication and a recommended lubricant, he explained. They can also include special notes about each piece of equipment.
“We supply surveys on a disk so it can be shared; it can be part of a company’s interactive program,” Girard continued. “And that’s important, because the maintenance people can go to one place and look at all the machinery in the plant and how it’s lubricated.”
But, Girard stresses, there’s more to completing the survey than just having the lubricant supplier go around to each machine and make recommendations. And there are no cut-and-dry solutions, either.
“A lubrication survey is only beneficial if it is conducted in the presence of a maintenance employee,” Girard stated. “(The maintenance employees) know the ins and outs of their equipment. They know the tolerances, they know how frequently all the machines operate.
“Listen to what they don’t want, what they need, what they think they need, listen to what they think they want,” Girard continued. “You just can’t take the survey out of the file cabinet and say, ‘Okay, here’s our survey for the beverage industry, or here’s our survey for the steel industry.’”
After the survey is completed, users can cross-reference how many lubricants they have been using with what the survey recommends. Girard mentioned that it’s not uncommon for a plant to have several varieties of lubricant that serve similar, or in some cases identical, purposes on different machines. These lubricants can often be replaced with a single lubricant, saving money and eliminating mistakes.
“(Once the survey is installed), you see that you can get rid of a lot of the lubricants in the warehouse,” Girard said. “The other issue here too is, the more you can consolidate, the less disposal problems you have. When you consolidate your lubricant inventory, you save money, and you also help eliminate the chance for costly misapplication,” he said.
In-plant training is another critical factor when conducting a lubrication survey or considering a lubrication program. It’s the most effective means of communicating to the lubricant supplier exactly what the plant needs.
“Have the lubricant supplier go into the factory and sit with all the maintenance staff and the engineers and talk about that industry,” he explained. “Talk about the machinery in that industry and talk about the lubricants that are used in that industry.
“What you hope to get in the in-plant training is the beginning of a dialog with the maintenance employees of that company,” he said.