How Lubricant Suppliers Impact Machine Reliability

Noria Corporation

Plants often do not take into account the effect that the lubricant supplier can have on machine reliability. If left unchecked, the results can be catastrophic.

You might be surprised what you can learn from a quick visit to your lubricant supplier. Does your supplier know your reliability and lubrication goals? How can suppliers help you succeed if they have no idea that you are playing for the same team?

Supplier audits are a small part of Noria’s service offerings. In this article, I will share a few key tips that have been learned over the years so you can be better informed when visiting your supplier.

62% of lubrication professionals never visit their lubricant supplier, according to a recent survey at

I like to use a simple checklist when conducting a supplier audit. It helps remind me to be vigilant on key practices and physical attributes that are associated with the optimum reference state of handling lubricants. I usually start with an overview of the storage facility and how lubricants are handled.

The first observation should be related to the identification of lubricant-handling equipment. Are all lines and tanks clearly marked for a specific lubricant? If not, the likelihood of cross-contamination becomes significantly higher.

The warehouse should also be in good condition. It must be free of spilled oil, settled water and dust. The building should be enclosed and, if possible, climate-controlled. All products should be in sealed containers, stored indoors away from direct sunlight and not allowed to collect rain water on the top edge.

The inventory in the warehouse should be rotated so that the oldest containers are being used first, while the newest containers are sent to the back. Remember that the cleaner, cooler and drier the lubricant is kept (even when in the sealed drum), the longer it will last.

5 Tips for Dealing with Your Lubricant Supplier

  • Audit your oil supplier routinely.
  • Establish clear parameters and work with suppliers to help them achieve the improvements that are necessary.
  • Expect the lubricant supplier to conform to new, higher- quality expectations.
  • Include mill mechanics and lube technicians in the process.
  • Provide training to reinforce the necessity and benefit of the new measures.

If you can witness the handling and transferring of lubricants during your supplier visit, watch for instances of cross-contamination. Make sure that all transport lines are product-dedicated or at least flushed well between uses.

For bulk incoming transfers, check if samples are taken to verify compliance for both properties and performance. These samples should be kept on record for at least six months. Also, see if you can find current seals on all meters showing calibrations within the last year.

In the packaging area of the plant, you will want to make certain that at a minimum the supplier is filtering the incoming oil through a 60-mesh screen. Again, confirm that meters and scales are up to date on their calibration. Inspect the condition of the drums prior to being filled. Are they reconditioned? If so, what processes do they have in place to prevent clean oil from being put into a dirty drum?

Ensure that the empty drum inventory is stored appropriately as well. Every particle that contaminates the drum from this point will have an effect on your program. You will either have to remove it through filtration or suffer the consequences of particle contamination in your machine.

Keep in mind that the cleaner the supplier can keep the oil, the less time, energy and money you will have to spend later in its life cycle to get it to an acceptable level for your machines.

Your lubrication knowledge will be a tremendous asset when visiting your supplier. If you are not confident in your knowledge, just remember “clean, cool and dry.” Look at everything with this in mind and ask yourself if the lubricant is being kept as clean, cool and dry as possible. You then will have your answer as to how well your supplier is helping you achieve your reliability initiatives. Take the next step. Learn how Noria can help transform your lubrication program.


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