Elevating the Status of Lubrication Personnel

Tom Hiatt Wayne Ferguson
Tags: industrial lubricants

The examples presented in this article revolve around the idea that by elevating the status of lubrication personnel, an area can increase the reliability of its equipment. This can be accomplished through increased ownership, respect and recognition of the lubrication technician's contributions. By giving those tasked with lubrication responsibilities the proper tools, education and respect, they will seek new and innovative ideas to assist in the journey toward reliability excellence. Examples of elevating the status of lubrication personnel include the list below and are presented within this article:

You may remember the "5 Rs" of proper lubrication:

To accompany those goals, here are the "5 Rs" of elevating the status of lubrication personnel:

These five Rs provide the path for elevating the status of lubrication personnel, making them contributing members of a successful reliability team.


Without a doubt, one of the main components of a successful reliability program is a lubrication program that focuses on the basics and delivers results. Within most maintenance organizations, the status of lubrication personnel is often considered subpar to that of other skilled craftspeople. This image is often fueled by those who believe that you can take anyone and make him or her responsible for the tasks associated with lubrication without regard for the skill set and the training required for a successful lubrication program. Without skill building and higher expectations of personnel, this portion of the reliability program will fail. To facilitate these higher expectations, a new line of thinking about the role of lubrication personnel must be taken.

Lubrication tasks are generally an afterthought within many organizations. These tasks are sometimes referred to as "tribal knowledge". In other words, an accumulated set of tasks that has been pulled together without much thought and passed down over time without regard to the total effect on the reliability of equipment. When the newest individual is hired, the responsibility of the lubrication program is passed on. Often this new responsibility does not come with any training and the lubrication technician is expected to perform the existing tasks without ever understanding why or how the particular task was chosen.

If an area is having difficulty convincing management of the need for the improvement in a lubrication program, a method of measuring the program should be developed and implemented. This could include an audit which compares an area against predetermined best practices and/or a review of failures with lubrication as the true root cause.

How then do we elevate the status of lubrication personnel? Based on the examples mentioned previously, each point is examined in more detail below.

Lubrication-specific Training with Certification
The development of a training regimen for lubrication personnel is one of the first steps toward improving their status. This training should include:

The end result of this training should be some type of certification. This certification signifies to management and peers that your lubrication personnel are capable and qualified to perform the tasks required and have the skills necessary to assist in the identification and resolution of lubrication problems in equipment. Without the training required to become proficient at the task at hand, most people would resort to the tribal knowledge that most programs are built on.

After lubrication personnel are trained, they will take the lessons learned from the training and apply them to their jobs, such as:

Investment of Management
When management is willing to invest in the right tools, it is a sign that they are serious about the professionalism of lubrication personnel and the expectation that results will follow. When management listens to the ideas and improvement suggestions brought to them, the employee feels that he is valued and is more willing to advance the lubrication program even further. This becomes a win-win situation for both the employee and the company. The company gains productivity, efficiency and quality in the operation and maintenance of its equipment and the employee gains recognition, reward and job satisfaction.

Once management views the role of lubrication personnel as value-adding, they will be willing to seek, purchase and apply various tools. Some of the examples of the tools that could be applied include:

These tools can be great resources in the pursuit of elevating your lubrication program to a new level. Care should be given to not expect these tools alone to solve your lubrication issues. These tools are to assist you in troubleshooting, organizing and managing your lubrication program.

Roles within Lubrication Excellence Teams
A lubrication team should be developed at your plant for the purpose of improving the lubrication program and the plant's lubrication personnel should become an integral part of that team. At a minimum, the team should consist of the lubrication technician, his/her direct supervisor, a lubrication specialist or engineer, and the area reliability engineer supplemented by mechanics and others as required. By including the lubrication technician on this team:

Implementing Ideas
The individuals who lubricate equipment on a daily basis are the eyes and ears of a reliability program. As a result of the elevated status of lubrication personnel, engineering, maintenance and reliability groups will seek information and advice from them. Before the position was elevated, the solutions for lubrication issues were usually handed down from someone without any practical experience in lubrication. By recognizing and showing an appreciation for the technicians' experience and knowledge, they will develop an enthusiasm for further improvements of the program. The ideas generated could be as simple as how to identify equipment on a lubrication route list so that the mistakes are limited to lubricant recommendations for new equipment. This credibility leads to the establishment of subject-matter experts within the maintenance organization.

Improvements in Maintenance Procedures
Lubrication personnel have extended knowledge that the reliability team should take advantage of to create and improve maintenance practices and procedures. Tapping this source of knowledge, increases the success of the lubrication and maintenance program and reinforces lubrication personnel's self-esteem and worth to the reliability program. Lubrication personnel will test the procedures and route paths each time they perform a preventive maintenance task. Each of these tasks is an opportunity to improve. When changes must be made, the technician can mark up a copy of the route plan in the field and review the suggested changes with the lubrication team for agreement. These changes could include:

Lubrication Program Ownership
Lubrication personnel should own the lubrication program. Management will look to them to provide the solutions to issues and problems as they arise as well as continuous improvement responsibilities. Ownership of the lubrication program means that the technician is responsible for:

The results that can be expected from lubrication personnel ownership of the program include the following:

Recognizing Personnel
Everyone has a need to be appreciated and rewarded for the job that he or she performs. Historically, the role of lubrication technician has not been seen as a skilled position and therefore generally not recognized or rewarded as such.

By recognizing and rewarding lubrication personnel for their effort and leadership, a company is sending the message that the role in the organization is valuable. This in turn causes the recipient of the recognition and reward to try to improve his performance. Improved performance by the technician will translate into improved reliability of equipment. Recognition and reward comes in many forms. These could include:

It may also be as simple as a pat on the back or a few words from the right person. A few specific examples of recognition and reward include:

A company can create a competitive advantage by elevating the status of the lubrication personnel in its plant. This advantage comes in the form of lower maintenance costs because of less frequent failures due to lubrication, lower inventories of repair parts and lubricants, more knowledgeable employees who are now free to build other parts of a reliability program and improved employee morale. Because we are already paying someone to perform our lubrication tasks, it costs no more money to perform the task correctly. The cost of failing to perform the task correctly is significant and undeniable. The minimal investment made from the points discussed here will benefit the company many times over.