Managing Change for a Successful Lubrication Program

Alejandro Meza, Noria Corporation

Have you found it difficult to start or sustain a lubrication program? If so, you aren't alone.

Many organizations struggle when implementing a lubrication program. Why? Most often because they have a partial vision of the program’s scope or they have no formal change-management plan.

So what's the answer? An effective program administration with a systematic view and an appropriate change-management strategy.

Successful implementations of lubrication best practices consider several technical, organizational and human factors related to a lubrication project. These principles are not only suitable for lubrication programs but also for other maintenance strategies.

4 Phases of Lubrication Program Development

A Holistic Approach

The fundamentals of lubrication excellence are well-known: use the right lubricant in the right amount at the right time and keep your lubricants clean, cool and dry. Your lubrication strategy should be implemented in a way that ensures all of these requirements are fulfilled on a continuous basis.

This implies not only knowing the content and importance of each individual requirement but also the value of coordinating the actions in a methodical manner. Thus, to be successful, it is necessary to understand lubrication excellence from a holistic or systemic standpoint.

Otherwise, there is a risk of implementing isolated actions that may improve lubrication reliability but not necessarily to the optimum level.

For example, a manager may have detected the need to improve the lubrication practices at his plant and decided to send his lube technicians or mechanics for training. Upon their return, the participants should have a good understanding of the best practices for handling, storing and applying lubricants.

The challenges of programmatic change

They may also be able to identify opportunities to improve and be ready to change. The challenge is that they do not have the tools or hardware to work under the new vision of excellence. There also is not a proper lube room to organize their equipment or formal procedures aligned with the training. Frustration may occur in this scenario, and the effectiveness of the implementation likely will be very poor.

A holistic vision of lubrication excellence has several categories. The first is the technical scope, which includes three factors: training and qualification, infrastructure and tools, and methodology.

Training and qualification will be fundamental to ensure appropriate attitudes, behaviors and reliable work. The infrastructure and tools involve the physical resources that will provide the environment and suitable hardware to execute the job in a consistent, safe, effective and ergonomic manner.

The methodology refers to the systems, policies, procedures, instructions and records that guide the work to be performed following the best available practices.

If only one of these three elements is implemented, some improvements may occur, but the chances of overall program success are low. For instance, new procedures may be written and distributed, but if poor or no training is made available to involved personnel and no new tools or hardware are provided, the result will be a less than desirable outcome.

These three factors work together as a system and should be embraced by the improvement strategy. The same concepts apply to other functions and processes in the maintenance organization and operation.

Project Management

For effective management of a lubrication program implementation, consider a formal project with systematic steps to be followed, moving from the identification of needs and the design of new procedures and technical requirements to implementation and management. The diagram above illustrates the approach Noria has used successfully with numerous customers.


The process should begin with an assessment to identify opportunities for improvement. How does the current state of the lubrication program compare to the desired one? Detailed elements relating to the three categories mentioned previously (methodology, training and resources) should be benchmarked against best practices. Noria uses a questionnaire of nearly 540 questions to assess 40 areas related to lubrication excellence.


After the improvement opportunities have been determined, the next step is to define the desired engineering (lubrication) specifications. The practices to be implemented must be described in sufficient detail so they can be put into effect properly. These may include equipment modifications, the lube room design, procedures for handling and applying lubricants, training/certification requirements, etc.

The formal definition of a best practice to be implemented is called the Optimum Reference State (ORS). This can be defined as the prescribed optimum state of machine configuration, conditions and maintenance activities required to achieve and sustain reliability objectives.

Lubrication excellence is achieved when the current state of lubrication approaches that of the Optimum Reference State. The ORS consists of numerous individual attributes. These attributes should be measurable, verifiable and aligned with specific reliability goals, and collectively serve as an engineering specification for lubrication excellence.


The third stage is implementing what was technically defined in the second stage. This is a more hands-on step supported by the selection and acquisition of monitoring technology, installation of hardware, and deployment of the necessary training.


The fourth stage is managing the new system. It will be successful if the previous three stages were properly managed. It requires the use of appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the system.

Is Change Management Necessary?

During the implementation stage, which requires more intense field work, companies often struggle to select and purchase the proper hardware and technology that will be compatible with existing equipment and other technologies to be integrated. Obtaining external support from an experienced party will save time and be very helpful in this process.

The project can also suffer from a slow implementation pace or incomplete implementation and even return to old practices after supposedly being fully implemented.

These possibilities may be the result of not involving all affected parties at the right time, a lack of communication and alignment among the implementation team, or insufficient managerial support. These symptoms also indicate the absence of a good change-management strategy and a holistic vision for the project.

8 Steps of Change Management

In their book, The Heart of Change, John Kotter and Dan Cohen state that change management should include a sequence of eight steps from the moment the need of change is identified until the new culture and practices are implemented and consolidated. Below is an example of how their model may be adapted to the implementation of a lubrication excellence program.

  1. Create urgency. When the need for change or the opportunities for gains with lubrication excellence have been identified, it is time to start the process of change. The leader takes the initiative to communicate and sell the project to the decision-making team.

  2. Build a guiding team. Once the idea is accepted, all participants must be identified (including external consulting/engineering support).

  3. Develop a vision and a strategy. A project is defined with the steps to follow along with the expected results.

  4. Communicate the vision for buy-in. The vision and benefits are communicated to the entire maintenance team and other involved personnel.

  5. Empower others to act. The project is executed, and everyone participates in the design and implementation of the new practices. Newer technologies, hardware and software are acquired at this time.

  6. Produce short-term wins. The first benefits of the lubrication program are seen, such as a reduction in oil consumption.

  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change. The most valuable benefits of a reliability program come with time, so it is necessary to stay focused and maintain the new practices.

  8. Create the new culture. The new lubrication culture is implemented, but it is important to monitor through indicators, records, meetings, etc., so it becomes permanent.

A successful change-management initiative will include the following:

  • Segmentation of the project scope in terms of personnel and areas involved within the organization as well as external parties;

  • Effective team communication, awareness and training;

  • Understanding the perceptions and motivation of the involved personnel;

  • Aligning the vision, developing teamwork, promoting change and consolidating gains;

  • Continuous measurement; and

  • Unwaivering management support.

Of course, your lubrication or maintenance strategy will depend on the scope of the project, the size of your company and the cultural maturity of your organization, including not only the maintenance group but also top management and other areas that will be affected by the change.

The bigger the organization and the project, the more relevant a good change-management initiative becomes, and the more resources will be needed for a seamless and faster implementation. Take the next step. Learn how Noria can help you manage change to support a world-class lubrication program.

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About the Author

Alejandro Meza is a senior technical consultant with Noria Corporation. He has more than 20 years of experience in the lubricant industry, technical services, quality assurance, training, consul...