Oil Cleanliness is Key for Alcoa’s Balboa

Name: Fernando R. Balboa

Age: 61

Title: PDM Lubrication Oil Analysis Tech

Company: Alcoa

Location: Point Comfort, Texas

Years of Service: 40 years


Fernando Balboa has worked for Alcoa’s alumina refinery in Point Comfort, Texas, for 40 years. He has held numerous positions within the company, starting out in production for nearly 5 years before eventually becoming a general maintenance mechanic. He currently serves as a PdM lubrication oil analysis technician, working daily with eight lubrication technicians. These lube techs ensure that all the equipment has breathers, sample ports and bottom sediment and water (BS&W) bowls so the oil can be monitored in the machinery.


Q What types of training have you had to get to your current position?

A I have taken courses in vibration, oil analysis, specific fundamental pumps, precision maintenance skills and several other courses. I am currently a certified machine lubrication technician (MLT I). I also hold certificates in vibration analysis, a certification in oils and greases, and a vibration analyst ISO Category I and ASNT Level I.

Q Are you planning to obtain additional training or achieve higher certifications?

A My goal is to obtain a MLT II and ISO/ASNT Level II because I’d like to further my knowledge in this field.

Q What’s a normal workday like for you?

A In a typical workday, I am responsible for the oil storage and filtration in our plant. I make sure we have adequate inventory by monitoring what has come in and what goes out. Cleanliness and organization are important parts of my job. I make sure everything is running properly by examining filter carts, analyzing oil samples and reporting their contamination levels. I answer questions and calls from field personnel needing information about lubrication and oil sample results. I also regularly attend lubrication meetings where we discuss new technologies, failure analyses, how to resolve everyday issues and how to address maintenance issues with new equipment.

Q What is the amount and range of equipment that you help service through lubrication/oil analysis tasks?

A I ensure all areas have clean oil and that they are dispensing it properly. I am also available to help answer questions about troubleshooting equipment and automatic grease-dispensing systems. Overall, my job services the entire plant not only with oil but grease as well.

Q What lubrication-related projects are you currently working on?

A I am currently working on improving the filtration and dispensing system we have in the oil house lubrication room along with oils outside the lubrication room. We maintain 11 different types of oils with different viscosities starting from ISO 32 to ISO 680.

Q What have been some of the biggest project successes in which you’ve played a part?

A Some of my biggest successes have been helping with the formation of the oil cleaning room where all the plant’s oil is stored and the establishment and maintenance of the lab, which includes a 5200 CSI oil analyzer.

Q How does your company view machinery lubrication in terms of importance and overall business strategy?

A Alcoa views machinery lubrication as a very essential part of reliable equipment operation, which has justified the lubrication program we have in place now. This in turn improves our working environment. Management has been fully supportive by adopting new technology when it becomes available, and because of this, we are making great progress.

Q What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication and oil analysis field?

A I think one of the important trends taking place in this field is that we are seeing machinery last longer and run more efficiently. There is definitely much more emphasis on equipment and its regular maintenance than in the past, and I think Alcoa has seen the benefits that proper lubrication analysis can provide.

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