Creating Best-practice Lubrication Procedures

Wes Cash, Noria Corporation

Most facilities utilize some type of platform from which lubrication tasks are performed and documented. The most common documentation for lubrication tasks is that of the PM. Unfortunately, many of these PMs fall short of fully describing the work that needs to be done or outlining the step-by-step instructions to be followed.

Manufacturer Recommendations

When asked how to maintain a piece of equipment, technicians usually reach for the equipment’s operating manual. These original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations provide a foundation for the lubrication requirements needed to maintain the machine, including oil change or regreasing intervals, a list of lube points, recommended lubricants, a cross-reference of brands and types of lubricants, storage practices and seal compatibility information.

OEM recommendations are a good place to start when developing a new procedure. They offer a baseline for which lubricant to put into the machine as well as how much and how often. The frequency may need to be adjusted slightly to meet unique operating conditions or to match the lubricant to the ambient conditions i.e., lower viscosity for colder temperatures.

Once this information is gathered from the maintenance manuals, the next step is to realize what it will take to complete the task. This should include the tools, items and detailed step-by-step instructions.

Lubrication Accessories

Contamination is the scourge of any lubricated system. Great strides have been made in the realm of equipment reliability through the advancement of contamination control accessories. Sold as aftermarket accessories for virtually all pieces of equipment, these devices should be taken into account during a procedure’s design phase.

For instance, consider a desiccant breather. If you have a pump operating in a high-humidity environment with a history of water problems in the oil, it would be a good idea to install a desiccant breather to dry the air entering the system.

49% of lubrication professionals have written lubrication procedures for equipment at their plant, based on a recent survey at

Once the breather is installed, you not only will have to maintain the pump but also the breather. In creating procedures for this pump, there will need to be instructions for checking the pump’s oil level, topping up the oil in the pump, changing the pump’s oil, sampling the oil in the pump (if it is to be included in the plant’s oil analysis program), inspecting the desiccant breather’s condition and changing the breather (if warranted based on the inspection results).

What may have started out as a single line in the pump’s operation manual as, “Change the oil after every 2,000 hours of operation,” has now grown to a list of six different procedures for the same pump.

Keep in mind that it isn’t enough to develop procedures based only on what the OEM recommends. The targets and goals of the plant must also be incorporated. If a facility has target cleanliness goals for lubricants or internal processes that require the use of contamination control devices, it is imperative that the lubrication procedures be created with their use in mind.

Documenting the procedure is paramount, as it provides the basis from which all lubrication technicians will be working. This is why the procedure must represent best practices.

Documenting the Procedure

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block when developing procedures is failing to document when lubrication tasks are performed. You also must be sure to document the correct procedure. This will be the most efficient procedure that allows you to maintain the equipment in the best manner possible. Some generic procedure types are as follows:

Oil Changes

Depending on the machine’s criticality, an oil change may consist of simply unthreading a drain plug and refilling the reservoir from a sealed container of oil. Conversely, it may entail using a filter cart with quick-connect fittings to attach the cart to the machine and removing the oil without opening the machine to the atmosphere.

Regardless of the method used, each step should be detailed for the equipment in use so there can be uniformity in the completion of these tasks by every individual.

Oil Sampling

Again, the hardware installed will make a tremendous difference in how this task is performed. For true best-practice procedures, each machine should have a unique sample port installed to allow for consistent sampling by all professionals.


Often overlooked as a complicated task, using a grease gun incorrectly can harm not only the machine but also the user. Each regreasing procedure should highlight the safety concerns of using a grease gun as well as the proper way to apply grease, including the grease volume for each lube point.

Once the correct procedure has been documented, all maintenance and lubrication professionals must be trained on the proper way to perform the task and follow the new procedure. This serves as a great proving ground for the new procedures and a training opportunity for all parties involved.

Of course, having the best procedures means little if they aren’t being followed or you don’t have the necessary equipment to perform them. If the procedure requires drawing a sample from an installed sample port, there must be a sample port installed.

If you will design procedures based upon how the program should be run and follow through with equipment modifications, your lubrication program will be well on its way to becoming world class.

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About the Author

Wes Cash is the director of technical services for Noria Corporation. He serves as a senior technical consultant for Lubrication Program Development projects and as a senior instructor for ...