Controlling Costs with Proper Lubrication

Noria Corporation

"What percentage of total life-cycle costs do lubricants account for in a pump, motor, conveyor or blower/fan?"

When estimating the life-cycle costs of machinery, you must take into account several factors. Of course, there is the initial purchase and installation of the equipment, as well as any aftermarket accessories attached to the machine. There is also the cost of ownership, including all the maintenance procedures that are performed routinely to ensure the pump, motor, conveyor, fan, gearbox, etc. is running correctly.

Properly maintaining a piece of equipment is much easier said than done. When a simple oil change is required, several costs are incurred. Not only is there the cost of the lubricant but also an expense for the labor associated with changing the oil. In larger-capacity reservoirs, it may take hours if not days to complete the oil change. This is referred to as the “hidden cost of an oil change.” If you are using premium formulated oils, especially synthetic fluids, the cost of the lubricant alone can be more than $50 dollars per gallon.

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to explain the benefits of properly lubricating and maintaining equipment. An equipment failure can occur for a variety of reasons, yet in a recent study it was determined that as much as 43 percent of equipment failures are directly attributed to the incorrect choice and usage of lubricants.

A common mistake that can lead to premature failure is the selection of the wrong viscosity based upon the operating conditions (load, speed, surface roughness, etc.), which can greatly increase the amount of wear a machine experiences. While the cost of a lubricant can be very low, the benefit of using it correctly can be very high.

Aside from using the incorrect viscosity, the cleanliness of the lubricant makes a big difference in how well and how long a machine can operate. By keeping the lubricant clean, you can extend the life of the machine in which it is operating. A study by Ernest Rabinowicz has shown that 70 percent of machines lose their usefulness due to surface degradation of internal parts. Proper lubricant conditioning can lessen this occurrence and thus extend machine life.

So while it is difficult to put a dollars and cents value on the cost of a lubricant throughout the life cycle of a piece of equipment, the effects the lubricant has on the machine are limitless. In order to get the most from your machines and cut down on the mean time between failures (MTBF), you must properly maintain the lubricant.

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