Lube Tech Manages Armstrong’s Oil Sampling Improvements

Tags: lubricant sampling, preventive maintenance, gear lubrication, oil analysis, lubrication programs

Name: John Edgar

Age: 58

Title:  Lubrication Technician

Years of Service: 22 years

Company: Armstrong World Industries

Location: St. Helens, Ore.

In 1989, when Armstrong World Industries opened a new facility in St. Helens, Ore., John Edgar was part of the plant start-up. Over the years, he has held numerous positions in the production side of the plant, been involved in the plant maintenance helper program and even had the opportunity to go to Shanghai, China, to support the plant start-up there. Since 2005, he has worked as a lubrication technician in Armstrong’s building products division, tracking and sampling oil in 27 machines.

Q What types of training have you taken to get you to your current position?

A My initial training came from the Lubrication Institute in Kansas. I currently hold a Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT) Level I certification from ICML, and I’m working on a Level II certification. I’m fascinated by the analysis side of lubrication. Eventually, I would like to work toward Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) certification.

Q What’s a normal work day like for you?

A A typical day for me starts with a short meeting of the on-shift maintenance group. We always start the meeting with safety and usually discuss a specific safety topic. Then we go over events of the last 24 hours, covering in detail any downtime occurrences, discussing the production plan for the day and looking ahead for any potential problems that might occur. Next, I head out into the plant to cover the daily one-minute inspections (OMIs), then print out and execute the preventive maintenance (PM) for the day. I finish my day cleaning up, modifying any PMs that need to be updated and entering data from the day’s events that need to be documented.

Q What is the amount and range of equipment that you help service through lubrication/oil analysis tasks?

A At our plant, we have roller chain running with drip oilers, chain running in a high-temperature environment, gearboxes in a wide range of sizes, hydraulic units and a host of bearings (large and small) running at low speeds, most in fairly hostile environments (with slurry and dust).

Q What lubrication-related projects are you currently working on?

A In 2005, we were sampling oil in approximately four machines. Due to my current project to expand, increase and reach our oil cleanliness targets, I’m now sampling and tracking 27 machines. When I came on-line with lubrication, there was no consistent historical data to tell me where we stood as far as equipment condition or oil condition. I started out by creating a spreadsheet that identifies all of the gearboxes in the plant and when the last drain and fill occurred. For the last three years, I have been using available time making sure the gearboxes are sealed up, have magnetic drain plugs and have highly visible oil sight glasses along with breathers or desiccant breathers, if necessary. That continues even today.

Q What have been some of the biggest project successes in which you’ve played a part?

A There are two that come to mind. Approximately nine years ago, I participated on a team whose task was to reduce downtime and the cost of lubricant for the big oven chain. When the team completed the assignment, we had reduced the cost by 40 percent. Since then, we have had zero downtime related to lubrication.

The other is a project I just completed on one of our large gearboxes. The bottom of this gearbox is buried in concrete, and the drain is on the bottom of the box. For its entire life, there has been no way to flush, completely drain or clean it. Additionally, the filtering system was inadequate. Today, we have an off-line filtering system dedicated to it and are using full-flow, beta-rated, correctly sized filters for the machine. I have changed the semi-annual oil sampling to quarterly in order to track and justify the improvements.

Q How does Armstrong view machinery lubrication in terms of importance and overall business strategy?

A Our company considers lubrication to be a very important part of the business strategy. Several years ago, we recognized the value of oil cleanliness through a study that originated at one of our plants on the East Coast. From there, we developed the American Building Products (ABP) Lube Network and put in motion standards and practices used throughout the company.

We have a monthly call with the domestic plants. We start the calls with a safety discussion from each plant, and each plant shares a success story.

We set some very aggressive oil cleanliness targets as well. At our plant, I work out of drums rather than bulk storage, so I sample and filter all of the oil that comes into the plant to achieve those targets. I also keep “just-in-time” inventory levels to avoid long-term storage.

Q What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication and oil analysis field?

A I believe the trends in lubrication have a lot to do with the trends in industry. Manufacturing is asking equipment to work harder in smaller spaces and with less cost. Environmental responsibility is also very important. So, the changes in additives to improve performance while being environmentally friendly and getting the maximum life out of lubricants are where I see the industry going. It stands to reason that oil analysis supports that. Oil analysis and ferrography reporting are great predictive tools.

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