Alcoa’s Herington Proved to Be Perfect Fit for Plant’s Lubrication Role

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

Lou Herington, the subject of this issue’s “Get to Know ...” section, is the plate mill lubrication technician at Alcoa’s Davenport Works in Iowa. He has worked 32 years at Alcoa (“pretty much my entire working career,” he says), serving as an inspector before moving into maintenance in 1998. Let’s learn more about Lou.

When did you get your start in machinery lubrication, and how did it happen?: One of the lube techs approached me in 1998 and explained to me the opportunities in maintenance and especially how lubrication and reliability were becoming an integral part of making a positive impact for the plant. He thought it would be a good fit for me. I believe he was right because I’ve enjoyed the challenges presented to me and have been impressed with the way the industry is constantly evolving.

What types of training have you taken?: I’ve completed Alcoa’s Machinery Lubrication seminar; Lubrication Analysis, Analytical Ferrography and Advanced Analytical Ferrography courses at Predict; and Machinery Lubrication I and II and Oil Analysis I through Noria. I’ve also tried to attend as many of the lubrication and reliability conferences as possible.

What’s a normal work day like for you?: I start by meeting up with my co-workers at our daily management board to discuss any outstanding issues and to determine any critical lubrication leaks or failures. Upon returning to my area, I complete my route and inspections, and finish any outstanding predictive work tickets. I coordinate the outages with the department planner and order any equipment and supplies I need to complete a job. As the safety person for our group, I address any concerns and keep everyone up to speed on any policy changes.

What is the range of equipment that you service through lubrication tasks at your plant?: Davenport Works provides the industry with a wide range of mill products. The plate mill has equipment capable of stretching plate up to 8 inches and 16 million pounds of pull, as well as saws able to cut that much plate. I’m responsible for maintaining the lubricant levels and helping to pinpoint and repair leaks. With the pressure created to pull pieces of that magnitude, leaks do develop, no matter what.

What lubrication-related projects are you currently working on?: I’ve been monitoring equipment that has been fitted with a new style of filter to see if it will be more efficient. I’ve been working with one of our suppliers to find a high-volume breather that will allow steam to escape but still prevent small aluminum fines from getting in.

What have been some of the biggest lubrication project successes for which you have played a part?: We were having trouble with vacuum pumps burning up from continued use. After determining that there was a lube breakdown due to the heat buildup, I recommended switching from mineral oil to a synthetic. We have had very few breakdowns since. After I became the lube tech for reliability, I discovered the processes had become somewhat stagnant. I worked to revitalize our in-house oil analysis lab by getting the lab equipment updated and recalibrated. I reviewed the sampling points and worked with area mechanics to improve sampling ports, eliminate unneeded sampling, improve ergonomic issues when sampling and still keep the person doing the sampling safe.

How does your company view machinery lubrication in terms of importance, strategy, etc.?: Our management has been very supportive of our lubrication group being self-directed since 1991. The gains made by improved reliability and better lubrication practices have definitely been a cost savings for the plant. Training has always been key to staying on top of such a fast-changing field as the lubrication industry, and our company has always realized this.

What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication field?: I like seeing the improvements for quicker and more accurate testing for on-site analysis at a lower cost. The increased use of Webinars to educate us in the field – where travel has become a cost issue – is something I see as an improvement. I have always been sincerely impressed with the way everyone I’ve ever come across in this industry has been willing to help with questions or problems that I’ve encountered.

“Get to Know …” features a brief question-and-answer session with a Machinery Lubrication reader. These articles put the spotlight on industry professionals and detail some of the lubrication-related projects they are working on. If you know of an ML reader who deserves to be profiled, e-mail editor-in-chief Paul V. Arnold at

Subscribe to Machinery Lubrication

About the Author