Following on from yesterday’s blog post, here are some more suggestions for how to enhance your lubrication strategy:
1. Oil analysis
Oil analysis can be an invaluable tool in predicting failures and formulating proactive interventions, but only when it’s applied correctly.
a) Get your sampling methods right
Taking reliable and repeatable samples is vital for gaining value from oil analysis. With inconsistent data from varying samples, you will have trouble trying to gauge when something is amiss.
b) Don’t forget your senses
Oil analysis and other tools provide high-tech ways to monitor the condition of machinery, but don’t forget about your eyes, nose and ears. Your basic senses can tell you a lot without the need for technological tools and the training to use them. Most operators are familiar with the machines they use on a daily basis, so they sense when a machine is making an abnormal sound, emitting an unusual odour, or making an odd movement. A technician can then be called in to investigate the problem further.
c) Use oil analysis to schedule oil changes
Rather than scheduling oil changes based on calendar months, let the actual oil condition, as determined through analysis, inform your decisions about scheduling changes. On the one hand, this can reduce the number of oil changes needed, saving you money in terms of the amount of oil you need to order from your Mobil distributor and minimising scheduled downtime. On the other hand, it lowers the risk of delaying an oil change for too long, which in turn can damage equipment and lead to failure.
d) Oil analysis is as much about presentation
The raw data from oil analysis isn’t necessarily informative, so be sure to use suitable computer software to get it in a presentable, easy-to-understand form, possibly with the use of multimedia formats.
e) Have your oil analysis lab routinely checked
It’s tempting to think of your oil analysis lab as being steadfast and reliable, producing reports that are beyond refute, but it can malfunction just like any piece of equipment. Have it checked on a regular basis so you can depend on its findings.
f) Consider off-site testing
If you prefer not to invest in your own oil analysis lab, think about using an off-site testing service instead. Even if you have your own lab, off-site labs may be able to offer more comprehensive testing. If you source your oils through Mobil distributors, you could consider joining the Mobil Serv programme, which uses QR codes on pre-printed sample bottles and the machinery being evaluated, combined with smartphone technology, to eliminate the need for manual labelling. The results of the subsequent off-site analysis can then be checked online later.
g) New oils may need testing too
There is a real risk of receiving incorrect lubricants, so it’s a good idea to test new oils on receipt to ensure they meet the required specification rather than put your equipment at risk.
h) Trending data can also help
Looking at a snapshot of oil condition at just one point in time tells you only part of the story. If you look at the trends over multiple oil reports, you can make better predictions about when the oil condition will become unfavourable.
i) Use multiple sampling locations
It’s common for hydraulic and circulating systems to have primary and secondary sampling locations. When samples are taken from both, it helps in tracking the problem to the right component.
2. Machinery practices
Using high-quality lubricants can help extend change intervals, but this will not happen if oil quickly becomes contaminated once it’s deployed. Some good practices can help improve this.
a) Identify the correct oil level for new machinery
When new machinery arrives at your facility, work out the correct oil level and make sure it is clearly indicated in the field. This will help avoid the problems of over filling or under filling later on.
b) Keep leaks under control
Keeping on top of leaks will save you money in terms of lubricant requirements, but it will also improve the reliability and safety of equipment. There’s generally a reason why a system is leaking, so analyse the whole thing and root out the cause of the leak.
c) Don’t overgrease, and take it slowly
As well as costing you more in wasted grease that needs to be reordered from your Mobil distributor, overgreasing can have negative effects, just like undergreasing, so it’s best to stick to the prescribed amount of grease for a particular activity. You’ll also want to apply a constant force when applying grease, because an overly rapid action can cause oil to bleed in the feed line, or grease to leak through labyrinth seals.
d) Don’t run overheated hydraulic equipment
Just like continuing to drive your car when the temperature warning light comes on, running a system with overly hot hydraulic fluid is sure to end in failure. Whenever you notice that a hydraulic system is over temperature, shut it down as soon as possible and remedy the source of the problem.
e) Take extra care with machine-critical equipment
Any changes in the lubrication decisions for machine-critical equipment should only be done under the most skilful consideration.
f) Be aware of the type of the bearing being lubricated
It’s important to know the type of the bearing being greased; for example, shielded bearings can be regreased, but it needs to be performed slowly to avoid over-pressurising the cavity. In contrast, you cannot regrease sealed bearings.
g) Minimise air in systems
While you’ll never entirely eliminate air from a lubricated system, you should try to reduce it as much as possible. This should help improve the system performance, as well as extend oil life and reduce wear.
h) Be wary of water contamination
Water can be a very dangerous contaminate, and it should certainly be routinely monitored in important, mission-critical equipment. Note that while many people believe that water reduces the viscosity of a fluid, a sufficiently large volume of it can actually be whipped into the oil to form a stable emulsion, sometimes leading to a dramatic increase in viscosity.