Upgrading to advanced lubricants from Mobil distributors can be a good step in improving the reliability and efficiency of your machinery, but achieving lubrication excellence involves more than just using the right product. Here are some tips that may benefit your lubrication strategy:
1. Have everything you need
a) Foster a new attitude
Fundamentally overhauling a lubrication strategy needs ongoing commitment from management and technicians. People generally resist major change, and the temptation may be there to slip back into ‘business as usual’. You may need something akin to a cultural change to get everyone fully on board, so you should have a cohesive and well-designed plan for what you wish to accomplish, and you need to be aware that it may take time to fully implement it. Emphasize the need for this change, so everyone can understand why it is so important and get fully behind it.
b) Don’t underestimate training
Investing in better quality oils and tools for their efficient delivery and maintenance is important, but don’t overlook the training your team may need to put your procedures into practice. Training and practical skills are important for your programme, so they should be commended, praised, and reinforced whenever possible.
Education can also bring a team together with its common goals, and senior members can act as coaches for their less experienced counterparts. Good maintenance skills are also important for improving machine reliability and reducing unscheduled downtime.
c) Consider your lubrication needs
Think carefully about which lubricants and services you need, preferably in coordination with your Mobil distributor. Buying cheaper oils is often a false economy, and it may cost you more in the long term due to more frequent oil changes, lower efficiency, and greater downtime. That said, better lubricants do not necessarily help remedy poor lubrication practices, so make sure you put the horse before the cart in this regard.
Machinery also needs a sustained supply of a suitable lubricant, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that any oil or grease will do. It’s possible, however, that some of your oils and greases can be consolidated into a fewer number of products to simplify the supply and handling process. This is something you should discuss with the machinery manufacturer and your Mobil distributor.
It’s also possible that oil viscosity specified in the service manual is not necessarily the optimal choice for a piece of machinery. Operational conditions sometime wary widely from the designer’s original intentions, and using a different viscosity, under guidance from the manufacturer or other qualified entity, may improve performance and reliability. In short, do not just assume the recommended lubricant is always the best choice.
When it comes to upgrading to synthetic oils, this can bring great benefits, but it should be matched to machinery needs for optimal results. If you’re transitioning from a mineral-based oil, you should also be prepared to flush the system to prevent any possible incompatibilities with residual oil.
2. Handling lubricants
Top-class lubrication is not a complex notion; you simply need to have the correct lubricants where they are needed, when they are needed, and in the quantity they are needed, all while keeping them dry, clean, and cool.
a) Have a well-designed lube room
Having lubricants lying around an industrial environment is asking for trouble, so a well-designed room especially for them is often a pre-requisite for lubrication excellence. This room should be safe and clean with room for expansion, and you may wish to control access so only qualified personnel can use it.
As well as storing lubricants, you will also need equipment to safely dispense them, such as filtered pump systems and transfer containers. You may also want to install some kind of climate control to maximise the effective life of your lubricants.
When oil drums and other large containers arrive at your facility, they should be inspected for damage before being carefully transported to the lube room. Any damage in the container can lead to leakage and allow contamination to enter the oil.
b) Use lubricants on a first-in, first-out basis
Both oils and greases can have a limited shelf life, and they may be less effective or even useless once this expires. Using lubricants on a first-in, first-out basis will help prevent products from expiring, and your lube room practices should be oriented towards this.
c) Create simple guidelines
It’s easier to maintain lubrication excellence if you have simple guidelines that are easy for your team to follow. For example, something as straightforward as colour coding your transfer containers, matched with corresponding labels on machinery, will greatly assist your team in locating the correct lubricant and prevent a variety of lubrication errors.
Different technicians often have their own ideas about what constitutes best practice, and these can sometimes very considerably from industry-defined best practices. You therefore need to define what the best practice for your case really is and ensure that everyone applies it uniformly.
d) Use portable filter carts
Portable filter carts can help ensure that new fluid is clean before it is introduced into a system. It should never be simply assumed that a new oil is clean; there may be initial contamination in the oil, or water and particulate contamination may have occurred during storage and handling.
A portable filter cart is not limited to removing contamination during the transfer process—it can also condition existing fluids in systems. It also has other applications, such as flushing fluids following a repair and rebuild, and draining a reservoir.
e) Ensure proper lubricant disposal
Good lubricant handling is not just about putting it into service. Every oil will eventually exceed its usable life, and at this point, your team should ensure it is collected and disposed of in a safe way that will avoid harming the environment.
f) Consider if an oil heater is needed
Low ambient temperatures sometimes prevent oils from remaining fluid, so depending on the machinery, an oil heater may be needed. Oil heaters can sometimes be counterproductive for both lubricants and the machinery, however, so seek professional advice before installing one.
Tomorrow, we’ll have a look at more ways to make the most of your lubrication practices.