Small maintenance changes for significant productivity increases in manufacturing
by Brian Easton, Director of Sales and Ridgeline Lubricants Ambassador, Parkland Corporation
Brian Easton is Director of Sales and a Ridgeline Lubricants Ambassador for Parkland Corporation, providing lubricant maintenance advice for manufacturing settings.
Time is money, and equipment malfunctions can cost you both. During my 15 years in the lubricants industry, I have seen that maintenance practices are lead indicators for operational effectiveness.
Improperly caring for equipment can create non-productive time (NPT). NPT is one of the main contributors to increased costs and decreased revenue. For example, my team performed a plant study for a potential customer experiencing bearing failures in a critical piece of equipment. This malfunction and resulting investigation led to a plant shutdown until the issue was resolved. The costs of the failure and the NPT associated exceeded over $1 million a day. Ultimately, the breakdown was directly related to the lubricant being used.
How do you avoid a total shutdown?
Build a Lubricants Maintenance Program
Three critical components should be part of your lubricants maintenance program: lube charting, routing and compliance.
Lube charting is the first step in building a solid lubricants maintenance system. It is the process of documenting what products are going into what equipment.
Lube routing takes it one step further by documenting how often, in what order and by whom applied the lubricant.
Lastly is compliance. This step includes assessing and recording whether the equipment was lubed correctly and on time.
This system takes the guesswork out of maintenance by tracking every action taken regarding lubrication. The process provides accountability and insurance that the maintenance team follows OEM and factory guidelines.
Should a breakdown happen, you can quickly determine whether it is a lubricant issue.
Set a Schedule
Following OEM guidelines for the recommended maintenance of each piece of equipment is best practice.
To supplement that best practice for oil maintenance, rely on condition-based oil analysis rather than time-based systems. Changing oil based on time should only be done for small and relatively inexpensive assets. The condition-based analysis will be more accurate at gauging the status of your oils and gives you a better picture of the health of your equipment.
For lubricant risk audits, a full audit every three years is recommended. You should divide your lubrication program into categories for that three-year audit. To ensure you are catching minor problems before that timeframe, the audit team should evaluate one category yearly on a rotating basis.
Make Small Equipment Additions
Even with a maintenance program and schedule, problems will arise. I’ve found that supplementing your maintenance systems with the following equipment additions is a minimal investment that can provide a significant return.
Add a desiccant breather that strips the surrounding air of contaminants to maintain the integrity of your lubricants and keep them running clean and dry. Ensure your filters are the proper micron rating and your sight glasses are properly marked with low-level points for quick visual checks.
Install sight gauges and temperature alarms on essential equipment to let maintenance teams and those working the floor know when immediate attention is required. For critical componentry, set temperature alarm limits that will immediately shut down the equipment so it doesn’t cause further damage.
Without proper lubrication, equipment life will be short, and unexpected failure will be high. Adequate lubrication is essential for overall equipment effectiveness.
Lubricant maintenance is a worthy time and capital investment because, ultimately, you will end up paying the cost. It’s up to you whether that is preventative or reactive costs.