Make Your Machines Work Better through “Precision” Lubrication

Much as the quality and quantity of a person’s blood determines his or her overall health and ability to act and navigate and function in the world, so does oil quality and quantity affect industrial machines and their performance capacities.

While it’s not always been thought of this way, the science of lubrication continues to evolve and develop focus, and the best practices or “precision” applications of oil and grease are now being heralded as the best way to increase productivity, lengthen the lives of machines, and therefore maximize profits while reducing machinery downtime. Grease and oil, it turns out, make the mechanical world go around. We already knew this, of course.

As Jane Alexander, the managing editor at Lubrication Technology magazine reports it, “precision” lubrication – once called “world-class” or “best practices” lubrication – is the technical art of using the correct lubrication solution, at the right time and in the right amount, while managing its quality via contamination control and oil analysis. By practicing this program of precise lube management, costs are reduced both in terms of lubrication expense as well as machinery repairs, and productivity is maximized due to reduced downtime and increased throughput. It’s not rocket science, but it does require attention and awareness.

Her recent article on the Lubrication technology web site, “Optimize Machine Health with Precision Lubrication,” features an interview with lubrication expert Jarrod Potteiger of Des-Case. In the article, Potteiger explains that ‘precision lubrication’ is basically a four-step program.

First, there’s the selection of the appropriate lubrication for the job at hand, including not assuming that the highest quality lubes are always needed – as these are more expensive and may not be necessary.

Second, determine the correct amount of lube needed as well as the frequency of its application – OEM instructions should always be referred to here for correct oil quantities, as overuse of the oil or grease lubrication can actually inhibit the best performance of the machinery.

“Oil-replacement frequencies can also vary,” reports Alexander. “Typical recommendations are conservative because, to be on the safe side, the OEM must recommend for harsh operating conditions. Actual, useful oil service life, however, can vary dramatically. Factors such as high operating temperatures, wear debris, moisture and sludge can shorten oil life. In a given application, the severity of these items, or lack thereof, can alter useful service life by an order of magnitude. Nonetheless, most oil-change frequencies for similar equipment can fit into neat periods, such as three, six or 12 months, and should only be scrutinized when severe conditions exist. Use of oil analysis allows for oil to be replaced based on actual conditions, which, in turn, removes guesswork.”

Third, lubrication contamination control is of vast importance, as what’s in the lubrication or what gets into the grease or oil can be quite destructive. As Potteiger explains it, “Many maintenance professionals don’t realize they have a problem with lubrication-related failures because they don’t properly characterize the failure or root cause. Most equipment failures are, in fact, lubrication-related.” The article goes on to report that about 80% of mechanical wear in machinery is caused by particle contamination in the oil. Thus, screening-out contaminants that arrive with the lubrication as well as preventing site-specific contamination after arrival is tantamount for the success of mechanical operations.

Lastly, continued and ongoing oil analysis is essential to keep lubrication at the “precision” level. Like other technologies, to get the most from lubricant science, repeated monitoring and testing is required to manage the finite qualities inherent in lubes and greases and to ensure that these lubrication resources continue to perform at optimum levels. Awareness, coupled with this four-step process, will eventually bring your lubrication operations to the “precision” level in the years to come.

Learn about diverse industrial oils and other lubricants that are available from Stevenson Oil.

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