Oil’s well that starts well

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 b...

By Glen Sharkowicz, Mobil Industrial Lubricants June 1, 2009

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.

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 — use.

This strategy regards equipment maintenance not as a cost, but as a strategic investment. Using 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 mind-set 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

  • 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 use 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 use inventory space is to review the list of lubricants 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.

      An effective lubrication program goes beyond making sure parts are being properly lubricated. It also includes effective inventory and supply chain management.

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

      Better lubrication procedures, tools lead to improved bearing health

      By Paul Michalicka, SKF USA Inc.

      Managing the life cycle of rolling bearings with expert maintenance procedures and tools designed specifically for the job can help to increase plant equipment uptime, cut energy costs and reduce component replacement expenses. The strategy works in virtually every manufacturing industry, and has particular relevance in the food and beverage, steel making, chemical processing and mining sectors.

      A typical bearing’s life cycle divides into distinct stages, including bearing installation, alignment, lubrication, condition monitoring and dismounting. Each stage directly impacts bearing performance and life expectancy. According to reliability studies, lubrication-related errors, such as selecting the wrong grease or under-lubricating bearings, account for 36% of premature bearing failures. The remaining 64% of failures originate at diverse points in the bearing life cycle.

      Following accepted maintenance procedures and using the right tools at each life cycle stage can avert failures and improve bearing health and performance.

      Bearing installation

      The choice of installation method depends mainly on bearing size. Small and medium-size bearings are often mounted cold, with mechanical force. Makeshift tools, such as sections of tubing or pipe, should not be used to drive bearings onto shafts, as they can transmit force to the bearing’s rolling elements, damaging the bearing before it becomes operational.

      Bearing fitting tools are the recommended option. A fitting tool consists of an impact resistant ring and sleeve. Available to accommodate a range of bearing sizes, fitting tools distribute mounting forces evenly to a bearing’s inner and outer rings, preventing damage during mounting.

      Larger bearings can be mounted using hydraulic force. An Alabama-headquartered mining company now employs a hydraulic nut to install bearings in mineral processing and handling machinery. A hydraulic nut consists of a threaded steel ring with a groove in one side face, and an annular piston that rests in the groove. When oil is injected, the piston is pressed out, providing sufficient force to mount large bearings. Using hydraulic methods, the mining company succeeded in reducing installation-related problems and associated downtime, valued up to $5,000 per hour. Installation time was slashed by 50% or more per bearing.

      Temperature mounting using induction heaters is another option. Induction heaters accommodate bearings weighing just a few pounds to more than 80 pounds, provide a safe, controllable heating cycle and complete the heating process in minutes. An added benefit: certain induction heaters, including those supplied by SKF, automatically demagnetize bearings following heating.

      Shaft and belt alignment

      After bearings are installed, shafts should be properly aligned.

      Misalignment can increase vibration and friction, damage bearing seals and lead to breakdowns. It can also increase energy consumption.

      To improve the operating performance of its bakery machinery, a major Ohio-based food manufacturer now makes use of a laser-equipped shaft alignment tool. The tool delivers greater accuracy than the previously used manual method, which employed straight edges. Since the change of alignment method, the manufacturer has increased bakery machine reliability and reduced labor costs related to alignment-related issues. Total annual benefits are estimated at $9,000.

      Laser-equipped alignment tools are also available for belt-driven machinery, where pulley misalignment can increase wear on pulleys and belts. Highly effective laser belt alignment tools are those which align the pulley grooves in which the belts run, instead of aligning pulley faces. These tools increase alignment accuracy regardless of pulley type or thickness.


      Bearing lubricants prevent metal-to-metal contact between bearing components, guard against corrosion and stop contaminants from infiltrating bearings. Because speed and performance requirements vary in different applications, a single all-purpose lubricant is not usually the best solution. Instead, lubricants should be selected based on application-specific criteria such as bearing type and size, speed, load and operating temperatures.

      Most bearings are lubed with grease and require periodic relubrication. It can be difficult, however, to judge the optimum amount of grease when relubing. Automatic lubricators address this issue by supplying a consistent, regulated flow of grease to bearings, eliminating the labor and guesswork involved with manual relubrication. One popular type of single-point lubricator employs a gas cell that generates a large-molecule inert gas. When activated, the gas pushes grease from the grease canister at a predetermined rate. These units are also available with oil.

      There are also multipoint lubricators available that pump grease from a centralized cartridge through feed lines measuring 15 feet or more. Grease can be supplied to eight or more separate lubrication points.

      Condition monitoring

      Monitoring bearings during operation enables plant management to assess both bearing and machine conditions. Hand-held data collectors can be used to gather data on parameters such as operating temperature and vibration. The data can be analyzed and trended, allowing companies to identify problems in advance of failure and schedule maintenance for planned shutdown periods.

      Dismounting bearings correctly is as important as properly installing them. This holds true even when the bearings being removed will not be reused because improper dismounting can damage components that are often reused, such as shafts and housings.

      Specialized tools such as bearing pullers simplify safe dismounting. When using pullers, always apply the withdrawal force to the bearing ring with the interference fit. Three-armed pullers, which offer greater stability than two-armed varieties, are recommended. Induction heaters and hydraulic methods are useful when dismounting larger bearings.

      Maintenance audits

      Companies seeking to improve their bearing maintenance procedures should consider the benefits of a comprehensive maintenance audit. These audits, usually conducted by expert rotating-equipment technology companies, such as SKF, or by consultants, review current practices in depth and suggest ways to improve them. They address relevant issues at each stage of the bearing life cycle. For more information contact your bearing supplier or authorized rotating-equipment distributor.

      Paul Michalicka is North American area sales manager for maintenance products, SKF USA Inc., based in Kulpsville, Pa. He can be contacted at Paul.Michalicka@skf.com ; phone: 416-299-2894.

      Ensuring parts are properly lubricated can extend the life expectancy of bears and other motor parts.

      A laser shaft alignment tool provides more accurate measurements than manual alignment methods using straight edges.