Lebel Takes Lubrication Program to Next Level

Name: Stephane (Steph) Lebel

Age: 47

Job Title: Maintenance Supervisor

Company: LD Commodities

Location: Portland, Oregon

Length of Service: 9 years

Stephane Lebel became interested in machinery lubrication while studying equipment reliability for his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He developed a greater interest in lubrication when he was promoted to maintenance supervisor at LD Commodities in Portland, Oregon. In 2013, Lebel attended his first Reliable Plant Conference and found it to be an eye-opener. He decided to take advantage of the free training offered and completed a course on machinery lubrication. This soon led to him becoming the first person at his company to be certified as a Level I Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT).

Q: What’s a normal work day like for you?

A: A normal work day can be pretty hectic, as I get our reliability program going while addressing immediate maintenance needs. Thankfully, I have the help of another recently certified MLT Level I individual. We both monitor equipment health and direct the four to six maintenance technicians in our department.

Q: Are you planning to obtain additional training or achieve higher certifications?

A: I would like to take more training in oil analysis so I can better understand the reports. I could then take the test to become certified as a Level I Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA).

Q: What is the amount and range of equipment that you help service through lubrication/oil analysis tasks?

A: I work in a grain terminal where every piece of equipment has at least two bearings. We have belt conveyors, bucket elevators, grain cleaners, fans and blowers that all have bearings, motors and/or gearboxes. We have a quarterly lubrication program as well as semi-annual oil testing/analysis.

Q: On what lubrication-related projects are you currently working?

A: I’m currently working on installing sample ports on our hydraulic units. I’m also planning on using condition-based lubrication in the near future utilizing ultrasound technology. We are currently metering the amount of grease we put in each bearing based on the calculated relubrication period, so that is the next step.

Q: What have been some of the biggest project successes in which you’ve played a part?

A: I would like to think that I took our lubrication program to the next level. We used to grease the bearings on an inconsistent schedule with undetermined amounts of grease. Nobody except for me and the maintenance supervisor knew which oil went into which equipment. By using color-coded fill ports, fittings and tags, even the newest employees now know which oil to use whenever they check the equipment. We also have many shaft-mounted gearboxes that used to be overfilled due to a lack of training. We installed bull’s-eye sight glasses on every gearbox so oil levels can be monitored.

Q: How does your company view machinery lubrication in terms of importance and overall business strategy?

A: I was the first to take the training and become certified as a Level I MLT. My colleague became certified about a month ago, and the company just invited all other maintenance personnel to train in machinery lubrication and take the Level I MLT certification test.

Q: What do you see as some of the more important trends taking place in the lubrication and oil analysis field?

A: I see consolidation. No plant should have to carry the same grade or type of oil from two different manufacturers. I also see a push to use biodegradable oils instead of the conventional oils.

Q: What has made your company decide to put more emphasis on machinery lubrication?

A: We just nominated a reliability engineer for our North American facilities a few months ago. The company is pushing for more reliable plants, and I believe that proper machinery lubrication offers the most bang for your buck in the quest for reliability.

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