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When I teach a Fundamentals of Machinery Lubrication course, what motivates me is seeing the “light bulb” turn on for my students. This usually is followed by them acknowledging that perhaps there are some areas within their lubrication programs that need to be polished or completely changed to increase machine reliability.
Having travelled to various industries throughout the United States and recently in Australia to educate reliability technicians, engineers and maintenance groups in the area of lubrication, I have found that almost all are experiencing the same challenges with regards to moving a lubrication program forward. The only thing that’s different is the accent. Although I have encountered a variety of issues during my travels, a few always seem to be at the top of the list, such as management support and having the opportunity to implement some of the lessons learned.
|32%||of lubrication professionals believe management support is the most important factor for continuous improvement of a lubrication program, according to a recent survey at machinerylubrication.com|
If you have been in any of my classes, you know that I am more interested in education than in training. Training involves learning how to perform a task, while education is understanding why. While both are necessary for a successful program, I believe that education will yield a stronger, more involved team. Education encourages workers to become more than just a group of individuals performing tasks to pass the time and receive a check at the end of the week. It can transform the group into game changers in the area of reliability and cause them to question everything that is currently occurring within the program, recognize the opportunities and strive to improve.
It has been said that if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. The high cost of ignorance can affect all aspects of life. In industry, this includes maintenance, machine reliability, safety and lost production. Unexploited opportunity is lost opportunity, which is a costly consequence of ignorance.
While education is vital, it comes with great responsibility. Leaders of reliability programs should expect their employees to return from a training course with a better idea of how lubrication can effectively increase equipment reliability and be willing to provide the support to take full advantage of the education gained.
Indeed, there is a narrow window of opportunity to maximize this enthusiasm. Even the most passionate reliability professional eventually will fall captive to the stagnant grind of doing the same tasks over and over, especially when he or she has realized that the status quo is not working.
Many companies recently have had to streamline their workforce due to economic hardships and have found that an educated team is essential in keeping the ship afloat, just as improving lubrication is key in keeping machines running smoothly, efficiently and reliably.
After personnel have received education and training, your program should begin to show improvement. If the goal is to increase equipment reliability, lubricants must be kept clean, cool and dry, and machines must be aligned, balanced and well-oiled. Are you keeping your lubricants clean? Have you implemented a filtration program? Have you set cleanliness targets? Are you sampling your lubricants to determine the water amount and removing any water as soon as possible? Are you performing laser alignments on your equipment before returning them back to production? Are you balancing your equipment? If you cannot effectively track any significant progress in these areas, then the window of opportunity may be closing on you.
Leaders must continuously provide their team with the necessary tools and support to improve their program, while those who are performing the tasks must use what they have learned to effectively increase equipment reliability.
Has the window closed on your program? Have you maximized your staff’s education and enthusiasm? Lubrication excellence can be achieved when your team collectively contributes and applies the knowledge that has been obtained.