Battle Plans: INVISTA's Documented Path to Lubrication Excellence

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

Twenty-two typeset pages of text. More than 7,000 words and 40,000 characters housed in 14 chapters spanning from a “Preamble” to an “Appendix”. Twenty-three photos, and three charts and graphics.

Equal parts history book, non-fiction novel and how-to manual, this is the essay created by the maintenance and reliability team at INVISTA’s chemical production facility in Victoria, Texas, to document their path to lubrication excellence. It has won the team praise from the corporate offices at INVISTA and parent company Koch Industries, the admiration of sister plants around the world, and, most recently, the International Council for Machinery Lubrication’s John R. Battle Award for Excellence in Machinery Lubrication.

“I don’t know how long an essay normally is or should be, but we wanted to supply the details and tell the whole story,” says reliability engineer Paul Bonorden, who wrote the text along with rotating equipment inspection supervisor Stephen Hilscher.

The two are members of the reliability group at the Victoria site, which manufactures the nylon 6,6 intermediate chemicals adiponitrile (ADN), hexamethylenediamine (HMD) and adipic acid that are used to create STAINMASTER carpet, ANTRON carpet fiber and CORDURA fabric, as well as a variety of other nylon fiber, resins and specialty products.

The purpose of penning the guidebook, titled “Building a Lubrication Program”, was two-fold. First and foremost, it satisfied a 2007 commitment to corporate management to fashion a working template for other INVISTA plants to follow.

Stephen Hilscher (right) is the site’s rotating equipment inspection supervisor, while Paul Bonorden is a reliability engineer.

“We had to have a communication tool to give to the rest of the sites to say, ‘Here is what you need to do to upgrade your lubrication program,’” says Bonorden. “This is what we were asked to do. ‘If you do this program, keep track of what you did so that we can copy it.’ That way, what took us years to do could be accomplished elsewhere in a year or in months.”

Second, the information closely mirrored the materials ICML seeks for consideration for the Battle Award, one of two honors (along with the Augustus H. Gill Award for Excellence in Oil Analysis) available each year through this standards-development and professional certification organization.

Lubrication mechanic Gary Rybak (below, at left) provides a filled oil transfer container to a maintenance mechanic.

“Applying gave us the incentive to hurry up and finish that essay,” he says. “The questions that they were asking for the Battle Award were good, valid questions that people from the INVISTA side would want to know. When the first few people read the essay internally, we felt like we had succeeded. When we found out that we had won the Battle, that was icing on the cake.”

Color-coded filter carts are stored in the facility’s ultra-clean lubrication room.

This case study details a portion of the Victoria site’s battle plans for lubrication excellence. By reading it, you will learn strategies to:

  • Separate truth from assumptions
  • Focus on the right things
  • Set the stage for success
  • Select an “owner” for the program
  • Determine best practices and correct actions
  • Measure performance
  1. Sheer manpower had been driving reliability.
  2. A sizeable percentage of PM tasks added little to no value.
  3. “We fix it fast” wasn’t a motto to promote.
  4. And, perhaps most importantly ...

A Formula for Success

Company: INVISTA is an independently managed, wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries. In 2004, subsidiaries of Koch acquired INVISTA from DuPont. INVISTA, formerly DuPont Textiles and Interiors, was combined with KoSa, a producer of commodity and specialty polyester fibers, polymers and intermediates. KoSa had been a Koch affiliate since 1998. INVISTA operates in more than 20 countries across North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
Plant: INVISTA, located in Victoria, Texas (130 miles southwest of Houston). The site was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and today features five business units. It currently runs 24/7/365 with two shifts – 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Facility footprint: 4,500 acres.
Plant employment: Approximately 1,000 INVISTA employees and contractors work on site. The maintenance staff has around 200 INVISTA employees and contractors.
Products: The site produces adipic acid, adiponitrile (ADN), hexamethylenediamine (HMD) and other nylon specialty intermediates, which are used in industrial, textile resin and carpet applications. The facility manufactures roughly 2 billion pounds of product per year

When You Assume ...

The Victoria facility had the reputation of being proficient at maintenance for many years, going back to its days as a DuPont plant. It was an early proponent and adopter of predictive technologies, including oil analysis and vibration analysis. It extensively used preventive maintenance (PM) tactics and involved operators in basic lubrication. And, the maintenance crew could quickly bring out-of-service equipment back to life.

All oil is directed through a header system via a capped and labeled 2-inch cam-lock connection. Each label is color-coded and engraved with the lubricant name. The oil flows through a filter on its way to the bulk tanks.

Transfer containers are filled in the lube room and then moved to one of 22 lubrication cabinets.

When Koch Industries purchased INVISTA in May 2004 and stated that future success would depend on developing and maintaining reliable plants, some in Victoria wondered to what degree the bar could be raised. A reliability group eventually formed at this plant, which spawned focused programs for mechanical categories such as fixed equipment and rotating equipment. But when the anticipated results were slow to materialize, the team reached some strong conclusions.

  1. Sheer manpower had been driving reliability.
  2. A sizeable percentage of PM tasks added little to no value.
  3. “We fix it fast” wasn’t a motto to promote.
  4. And, perhaps most importantly ...

“The mechanical reliability programs made one assumption – that the correct lubricant was used and it was clean per OEM specification,” says Bonorden. “That was just an assumption and nothing was addressing it.”

Correct oil? At the time, the facility housed 79 different oils and greases from 26 different vendors. Drums weren’t always labeled. Transfer containers weren’t identified and specified for a given lubricant. The oil code system was complex. And, employees knowledgeable about lube applications were retiring and less-experienced workers were taking on their roles.

“People wanted to do the right thing, but mistakes did happen,” says Hilscher.

Clean oil? New drums were not filtered after receipt from a vendor. Drums were stored outside at various locations on the property. It wasn’t uncommon for these containers and transfer containers to be open and exposed to contaminants. Plastic funnels were convenient but enabled additional opportunities for contamination.

In 2007, reliability manager David Griffith called to wipe the slate clean and create a lubrication program grounded on two elementary principles:

  1. Put the right oil in the right equipment.
  2. Keep that oil clean.

“That became our mantra,” says Bonorden. “We realized that there were so many things to address that we couldn’t do it all. So, we had to go after the key components that had the greatest impact to the program. If there was an opportunity that didn’t focus on those two principles, we tabled it. We feel that by doing those two things and getting it done right, we will solve 95 percent of our issues.”

Adds Hilscher: “Clean oil. The correct oil. The equipment is labeled. The staff is knowledgeable and trained on best practices. That’s all part of lubrication excellence.”

Criteria for John R. Battle Award Consideration

According to the International Council for Machinery Lubrication, recipients of the John R. Battle Award demonstrate a solid lubrication program, backed up by multidisciplinary efforts and approaches, with sustainable results and continued improvements. Among other factors, the criteria for the award includes:

  • Commitment to education and skills competencies
  • Maintenance culture and management support
  • Lubricant selection, performance standards and consolidation
  • Preventive, predictive and proactive program design and effectiveness
  • Continuous improvement
  • Lubrication program metrics and overall performance tracking
  • Lubricant storage, handling, safety and conservation
  • Lubrication PM optimization, work plan management, scheduling and documentation
  • Oil analysis program design, test slates, lab selection and setting of alarms
  • Oil analysis sampling frequency, sampling hardware and procedures
  • Contamination exclusion and remov
  • Oil and grease application methods and hardware deployed
To learn more about the John R. Battle Award, visit the ICML Web site at


Setting the Stage

This INVISTA facility took several actions in 2007 which laid the groundwork for success.

Finding a partner: Purchasing lubricants from 26 vendors proved to be unruly, redundant, and an inefficient use of time and money. So, reliability group members developed a critical-needs matrix which served to rate the supply base. The selection criteria included: overall availability, lubrication engineer technical support, comprehensive product line, distributor facilities, available training, quality assurance/control of products, ability to assist with the lubrication program, fully functional oil analysis program and price. Finalists were invited to give a presentation on their abilities to fulfill the criteria. A single supplier, ExxonMobil, was picked to handle nearly all of the site’s lubrication needs.

“Our corporate purchasing department was impressed with our methodology,” says Bonorden. “They eventually developed a purchasing agreement for not only the Victoria site, but for all of INVISTA.”

Oils and greases are now ordered through a single cost center instead of individual business units.

Creating a database: Afterward, a survey and database exercise was employed to standardize and consolidate lubricants at the site.

Reliability group members and representatives from the oil vendor developed a spreadsheet to collect data from equipment files, field walkthroughs and personnel knowledge. This data consisted of: equipment number, equipment description, location, manufacturer, model, vertical or horizontal orientation, process temperature, rpm, current oil code, current oil description, oil change interval, oil volume, filtration system, number of lube points, input horsepower and any unique information discovered.

A site team (predictive/preventive maintenance coordinators, reliability engineers and experienced mechanics) and vendor personnel used this information to develop a list of recommended oils for all 3,116 pieces of equipment.

The effort has helped Victoria reduce on-site lubricants down to 13 bulk oils and 28 application-specific lubes.

Tagging machines: Stemming from the database work, 99 percent of the equipment had a change in lubricant type. To make that change visible and permanent, 3,116 colored lube identification tags were produced and installed on equipment baseplates. Each tag denotes a specific type of oil or grease, such as SHC 526, DTE 732 or XHP 222.

“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have a single mistake and put in the wrong lubricant to cause unexpected downtime,” says Bonorden.

Since the system went into operation, a mechanical failure has not occurred due to an error in the database or type of lubricant selected.

Constructing a lube room: The next step was to design a central storage room that would literally and figuratively bring most of the lubricant inventory under one roof. This would serve as the hub of the clean and correct initiative.

Oil is delivered via a bulk tank truck or an enclosed truck where barrels of oil are pumped off. All oil coming from either method is directed through a header system via a capped and labeled 2-inch cam-lock connection. Labels are color-coded and engraved with the lubricant name. The oil flows through a Pall filter (rated Beta 1000 at 3 to 7 microns, depending on product) on its way to the bulk tanks. The bulk tanks are labeled and range in size from 80 to 240 gallons. The label on the tank is identical in color and description to the one on the 2-inch cam-lock connection. Each tank has a desiccant breather installed to keep moisture from the oil. Each dispensing spout is labeled and has a plastic cap to prevent dirt from collecting on the spout end. All of the tanks reside in a spill containment area with individual catch pans under each spout.

Oil is dispensed into a labeled plastic transfer container. Filled containers are moved to one of 22 lubrication cabinets placed in the field. Inside the cabinet are oils needed for that specific area. In addition to the oil, there are two sizes of disposable paper funnels and disposable lint-free paper towels for wiping down the fill ports.

They Won the Battle, But the War is Far From Over

The INVISTA facility in Victoria, Texas, is the most recent recipient of the ICML John R. Battle Award for Machinery Lubrication.

The site won the Battle ...

“That wasn’t the goal of this improvement program,” says rotating equipment inspection supervisor Stephen Hilscher. “After we went through all of the work, it was more of ‘let’s put in an application for the award and see what happens.’”

“We aren’t trying to brag about winning, but word of mouth has gotten around,” says reliability engineer Paul Bonorden.

... But the war for lubrication excellence is far from over.

“We still have a lot of work left to do,” says Hilscher. “I don’t know if you can ever be ‘done’. There’s always a way that you can improve on what you have done or are currently doing.”

The next steps include:

  • changing the methods in which greases are specified and applied;
  • taking best practices into the mobile equipment garage and the machine shop;
  • further enhancing filtration of oil.


The Face of the Program

The Victoria facility recognized early in the process that all of the foundational work would not be sustainable without someone to lead the effort on a daily basis. It obtained company approval to create the position of lubrication mechanic, and selected long-time maintenance veteran Gary Rybak to fill that role in early 2009.

“We had to have a dedicated employee, someone to own it,” says Hilscher. “We put out a posting and had many good candidates apply. We wanted someone who was knowledgeable, self-sufficient and a self-starter. It was desirable for the person to have years of mechanical experience because they could bring much more to the table from a technical perspective.”

Bonorden says the public perception of Rybak also was an asset.

“Gary was very personable. He’s been around here for 38 years. He’s a mechanic. And, he was well respected throughout the facility,” he says. “When we made Gary the lubrication mechanic, that gave credibility to that role and to the program. When Gary was hired, I told him, ‘You are the face of the program. I’m not out there. You are the guy.’”

Rybak presently oversees the lube room and the satellite cabinets. His goal is to provide operators and maintenance technicians the products and materials they need to correctly perform their lubrication tasks. He serves as an inventory manager, technical resource, logistics professional, stockboy, bottle washer and program auditor. In that latter role, he monitors how operators and mechanics in 22 plant areas comply to a list of quality control expectations for their particular cabinet.

“I know that they appreciate everything that I do, and that’s fulfilling,” says Rybak. “It’s instant gratification.”

That level of fulfillment and gratification increased earlier this year when, after attending a training seminar through Noria Corporation, Rybak obtained his ICML Machine Lubrication Technician Level I certification.

“Working in this field, you have to be continually learning,” he says. “This is an evergreen process.”

Following Best Practices

Education is a consistent theme in this INVISTA facility’s push to determine best practices and the path forward.

The site takes advantage of training from its vendor representatives, and sends employees to Noria’s machinery lubrication and oil analysis seminars and annual RELIABLE PLANT conferences.

“After each one, we step back and look at our lubrication program and say, ‘OK, how can we take what we learned and utilize this to our best advantage?’” says Bonorden.

Lessons are passed on to as many people as possible. In 2009, Bonorden, Rybak, Hilscher and ExxonMobil engineer Marianne Duncanson led a two-hour class on lubrication practices for 450 operators, mechanics, engineers and managers.

“Operators and mechanics with 30-plus years at the plant stated that they weren’t aware that their current practices could have such a negative impact on equipment reliability,” says Bonorden. “We stressed during the training that all of our efforts were primarily focusing on two primary principles: Keep it clean and put the correct lubricant in the equipment. We emphasized how each item that we covered related to these two principles.”

An interactive, computer-based training module, slated to debut in 2011, will serve as a follow-up to the class.

Learnings and strategy sessions aren’t confined to the classroom. They also occur around the machinery. Reliability-Centered Maintenance has been critical to developing lubrication and overall asset care plans for the past two years.

In the RCM process, a team representing operations, maintenance and engineering examines a piece of equipment to determine all possible failure modes and assign it a criticality ranking. With this information, the best course of action is determined to mitigate the risks of each failure mode. The actions to mitigate the risks of a failure mode may include vibration analysis, infrared thermography, oil sampling, oil change intervals, grease intervals and quantities, preventive maintenance, spare parts strategy, visual inspections or a system redesign.

By taking into account all failure modes and assigning PM tasks according to risk and severity, RCM is an effective method of directing lubrication activities and optimizing the lubrication program.

Analyzing Oil Condition

Clean and correct is confirmed through oil sampling and analysis. A total of 210 pieces of equipment are regularly sampled (either monthly or quarterly) by predictive maintenance technicians Mike Stastny and Bobby Gallardo. Equipment inclusion in the program is based on criticality rating.

Test slates are based on equipment type. Each piece of equipment is categorized to ensure that the proper tests are performed on the oil samples. Specific test slates utilized include separate packages designed for each application, such as engine, turbine, hydraulic, compressor, gear drive and circulating system. Test slate selection is adjusted as needed based on discussions with the testing laboratory and the lubricant supplier. Specialized testing (RPVOT, RULER, QSA and ultracentrifuge) also is performed on large oil reservoirs to help determine remaining oil life.

In addition, lube room oil totes are sampled on a regular basis to confirm that cleanliness goals continue to be met. Bulk oil deliveries are quality-checked on the spot by comparing the new oil viscosity and color to baseline samples.

Pass It On

In analyzing the overall success of this INVISTA site’s lubrication improvement initiative, you can go with the numbers, but that can be difficult to quantity.

“Look at the oil analysis abnormal readings – levels are going down, the counts per month … things are getting better,” says Hilscher. “We know our lubrication efforts have improved. Other key indicators of reliability improvement are our mean time between failure figures on pumps and seals. The MTBF on our pumps has increased 50 percent and the seal life has gone up 25 percent in the last couple of years. Lubrication is an important part to any mechanical reliability program, as is RCM, the pump seal program, precision maintenance standards and employee training, to name a few. Lubrication is one of the building blocks of all of these other programs.”

The true indications of success are found in words and deeds.

The corporate leaders at INVISTA and Koch Industries believe in lubrication excellence so much that they don’t require Victoria to supply reams of data.

“In the beginning, we knew what we were spending on lubricants but did not have lubrication failure data to generate cost avoidance savings,” says Bonorden. “We promoted the initial benefits of this program as fewer purchase orders and reduced oil stocks. The longer-term benefits would be the reliability improvements. Since the program’s inception, we have had the full support of management.”

They believe in it so much that they want that 7,000-word, 22-page essay in the hands of operations and maintenance managers at company facilities around the world.

“We are giving them the essay, a copy of our database, our SAP ordering chart. They are going to get our training program,” says Bonorden. “They can use it all as their template because we know it worked. They can take it and customize it to their site. They appreciate that.”

Who knows? By following the template, another INVISTA or Koch plant may be a future winner of ICML’s John R. Battle Award and be featured in Machinery Lubrication magazine.

Or, by following this battle plan, maybe that facility will be yours.

Machinery Lubrication Initiative Follows Corporation’s Guiding Principles

Market-Based Management is the engine that powers Koch Industries and its subsidiary firms. Developed by Charles Koch over the past 40 years, MBM is a holistic approach to management that integrates theory and practice and prepares organizations to deal successfully with the challenges of growth and change. MBM requires a culture centered around specific attributes. These set standards for evaluating policies, practices and conduct, establishing norms of behavior, and building the shared values that guide actions. The MBM Guiding Principles articulate Koch companies’ rules of just conduct along with shared values and beliefs.

“After Koch bought INVISTA, I spent three days in a class going over these principles and why they were so important to the company,” says Paul Bonorden, a reliability engineer at INVISTA’s facility in Victoria, Texas. “This is how we want everybody to think and behave. These aren’t marketing materials. This is something to apply on a daily basis.”

The MBM Guiding Principles are as follows:

Integrity: Conduct all affairs lawfully and with integrity.

Compliance: Strive for 10,000 percent compliance, with 100 percent of employees fully complying 100 percent of the time. Ensure excellence in environmental, safety and all other areas of compliance. Stop, think and ask.

Value creation: Create real, long-term value by economic means. Understand, develop and apply MBM to achieve superior results. Eliminate waste.

Principled entrepreneurship: Demonstrate the sense of urgency, discipline, accountability, judgment, initiative, economic and critical thinking skills, and the risk-taking mentality necessary to generate the greatest contribution to the company and society.

Customer focus: Understand and develop relationships with customers to profitably anticipate and satisfy their needs.

Knowledge: Seek and use the best knowledge and proactively share your knowledge while embracing a challenge process. Measure profitability wherever practical.

Change: Embrace change. Envision what could be, challenge the status quo and drive creative destruction. Humility: Practice humility and intellectual honesty. Constantly seek to understand and constructively deal with reality to create real value and achieve personal improvement.

Respect: Treat others with dignity, respect, honesty and sensitivity. Appreciate the value of diversity. Encourage and practice teamwork.

Fulfillment: Produce results that create value to realize your full potential and find fulfillment in your work.

“If you look at what this team did in Victoria and the way that it approached lubrication and reliability improvement, the efforts really did represent those guiding principles,” says INVISTA public affairs manager Amy Hodges.

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