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We all know that transforming a lubrication program from average to world-class can be a difficult endeavor. For most, this transformation means changing the methods used to lubricate machinery as well as making modifications to the equipment to accommodate the new practices. There are several common road blocks to implementing an excellent program, for example, procuring the necessary resources. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told “I know we need that, but my boss will never approve it.”
For those who don’t have a blank check book, acquiring these resources often requires some creative salesmanship. Perhaps the person holding the check book has no understanding of the benefits or what is required for a sound lubrication and oil analysis program. It may be difficult to explain that new oil is actually dirty or that the most damaging contamination cannot be seen. Therefore, it may be helpful to illustrate some of the secondary, more easily understood benefits of the common tools and accessories employed in a world-class lubrication program.
Portable Filter Carts
By now, most users are aware of the need for controlling lubricant cleanliness. In many cases, this means using portable offline filtration units to periodically decontaminate the machine reservoirs. Another benefit of the filter cart is its use as a fluid transfer device. In addition to the primary benefit of delivering clean oil to the machine, thereby reducing wear and improving reliability, it also saves time. Using a filter cart takes about half the time to perform an oil change on the average machine than by using conventional fluid transfer methods.
This is no small benefit - it’s huge! This could allow one technician to perform twice as many oil changes per shift. Imagine the cost of a lubrication technician, the average time required to perform an oil change and the cost of a high-quality filter cart, then do the math. This item alone should make filter carts an easy sell. If nothing else, more time is available to perform other proactive work that is often neglected.
The effective use of portable filtration units also requires modifying the machine to include quick-connect fittings. Otherwise, this method of using the filter cart as a transfer unit will lose its efficiency and more importantly, will diminish the ability to control contamination. Once again, this should be no problem. By simply evaluating the time savings of this method, it is easy to justify the expense of modifying the machine.
Oil Level Indicators
I am always surprised by the number of machines in plants that have no type of visual, noninvasive method for checking oil levels. To make matters worse, it is usually the machines most sensitive to the oil level that don’t have a level indicator. Proper oil level is critical for bath-lubricated components. For some units, the difference between a perfect sump level and lubricant starvation is less than one-half inch. The same units may hold only a pint or two of oil, turning even a minor volumetric oil loss into a catastrophic failure.
While most machines allow for some method of checking the sump level, many require the use of a level port. In these cases, it has been my experience that the oil levels simply do not get checked. If this method is used regularly, consider the amount of time it takes to remove the level plug and pour oil through a funnel into the component until it runs out onto the ground. In addition to wasting time, this invasive technique exposes the component to gross contamination, possibly creating a safety and environmental concern with spillage.
Now consider how easy it would be to remove the level plug and replace it with an inexpensive bull’s eye-type level gauge. It would seem that saving $15 by installing a component with no visual level indicator is not a good economic choice. In general, all oil-lubricated components should have a visual level indicator. In addition to providing for a safe, efficient level check, a sight glass also allows for visual inspection of the oil for gross contamination or oil degradation.
A cornerstone of any good oil analysis program is good sampling practices. Without quality sampling techniques and tools, most of the potential value of oil analysis is lost. Once again, putting aside the primary benefit of using good sampling hardware, consider the time saved using a sample port versus a drop tube and vacuum pump. Correctly taking a drop-tube sample is a time-consuming, messy and potentially unsafe sampling method - ineffective for many oil analysis tests. The problems associated with high fluid viscosity, long lengths of sample tubing and machine accessibility can be eliminated with a properly selected and located sample port. Like filter carts and quick-connect fittings, the cost of procuring and installing proper sample ports can be justified by examining the time savings of using this sampling method.
These are just a few of the additional benefits of common lubrication accessories needed for a world-class lubrication program. If you’re having trouble getting the necessary support to obtain these items, consider mentioning the value of these benefits. This illustrates another important point: while it may be difficult to transform a lubrication program from average to world-class, once implemented, executing the program becomes easier rather than harder.