Talking Turkey and Lubricants With a Jennie-O Maintenance Leader

Bob Wieckowicz, the subject of this issue’s “Get to Know ...” section, is the maintenance supervisor at the Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Barron, Wis. Jennie-O is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation and is one of the world’s largest turkey processors. He has worked 36 years for the company after spending some time in the construction industry. In his current role, he helps oversee lubricants, equipment performance and a staff of 52 maintenance technicians. Let’s learn more about Bob.

Bob Wieckowicz supervises maintenance at the Jennie-O plant in Wisconsin.

When did you get your start in machinery lubrication, and how did it happen?: I always have had a role in lubrication at the plant. I was hands-on for many years as a technician. Since moving into management in 1989, I’m still hands-on, but now it’s more on the strategy and training end of it. At this site, lubrication always has been central to machine maintenance.

What types of training have you taken?: I have two certifications, but those are for steam systems and pipe welding. From a lubrication perspective, Hormel brought in Noria for a training seminar in Austin, Minn., a few years back. Before that, for years, one of our lubricant suppliers would regularly put on seminars. I also have done a lot of reading and research on my own. In my training role, I try to share that information and my years of in-plant experience.

What’s a normal work day like for you?: We have more than 4,000 machines in this plant, and any one of them may be the focus for the day. When you work at a plant that processes a million pounds of turkey per day, that’s what you are going to get. I cover process equipment, packaging equipment, material handling equipment, compressors, pumps and electric motors up to 500 horsepower.

What have been some of the biggest lubrication project successes for which you have played a part?: Converting all of our lubricants to a USDA H1 or higher rating – that was huge. Our single-largest oil system is 8,000 gallons. We get all of our main four oils – hydraulic, ISO 460, ISO 220, ISO 100 – delivered in bulk. We use a couple thousand gallons a month. As a result, it was quite a process to complete.

Another would be in terms of consolidating suppliers and lubricants. We used to work with several suppliers, but after becoming a Hormel subsidiary in 2001, we began to sole-source with the supplier who has Hormel’s national account. Tied to that, we had carried a myriad of lubricant types. Every time a manual gave a name or a new piece of equipment was installed, we were buying another tank of oil. Working with our supplier, we now have brought it down to four primary lubricants and then several secondary ones. It’s more efficient. There’s less confusion and less chance to use the wrong oil. There’s less inventory, and it costs less.

Finally, three years ago, Hormel specified that our vacuum pump applications, which are huge users of oil, all should be converted to synthetic oils. I was heavily involved with the conversion process.

What lubrication-related projects are you currently working on?: Again, it comes back to H1 lubricants. It is essential to have USDA H1 compliance throughout our plant. It is a continuous requirement to provide appropriate lubricants while maintaining food safety compliance.

How does your company view machinery lubrication in terms of importance, strategy, etc.?: It is the cornerstone of our preventive maintenance program. A meat processing plant is a very harsh environment for machinery. Consistent lubrication is essential to machine reliability.

“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

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