Best Practices for Lubrication Management

Noria Corporation

"We are interested in lubrication management, particularly how to use color codes for lubricants, storage methods, etc. Are there any standards?"

While a great deal of information on lubrication management is available on the Internet, there are few standards that actually govern or provide specific ways for maintaining or running a program.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have set regulations to which companies must conform. These regulations were outlined in a recent Machinery Lubrication article titled "The Ins and Outs of Lubricant Storage Regulations." You can also find more information by visiting the OSHA or EPA websites and searching for Title 40 CFR Part 112. Keep in mind that these regulations will vary from state to state.

When analyzing oil to see how dirty it is, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) uses ISO 4406 to classify fluid cleanliness. Based on 4-, 6- and 14-micron sizes, a number will be assigned according to the range in which the particle count falls on the Renard series table. 

There is also the ISO 6743 Lubricant Identification System (LIS) standard for identifying lubricants. It classifies lubricant groups into hydraulic, total loss, gear, etc., and assigns different alphanumeric codes based on the base oil, additives, viscosity, properties, thickener type and the American Petroleum Institute (API) designation. There are also separate codes to designate grease and oil products.

When starting any program, first assess its current state and what will bring the most benefit. This usually is best done by an outside company that has experience across a wide range of industries and can supply an unbiased opinion. Several different areas should be assessed, including lubricant storage and receiving, application and disposal.

Labeling and color-coding of lubricants should be consistent throughout the program. Instead of using manufacturer brands for tagging equipment and lubricants, consider the ISO 6743 Lubricant Identification System (LIS). This prevents retagging of equipment and storage devices if lubricant suppliers change at your facility.

When deciding where to put identification tags, remember that if there is lubricant in it or used in it, it needs to be tagged. Filter carts, bulk storage tanks, top-up devices, grease guns and gearboxes are just a few of the items that require identification tags.

For storing lubricants, there are a few simple practices to follow. Use the first-in/first-out (FIFO) approach with your inventory. Keep lubricants stored in a clean, dry place that is out of the elements. The leading cause of machine failure is particle contamination. This starts in the lube room. Also, be sure your lubricants are kept cool. Elevated temperatures cause lubricants to oxidize much quicker. The closer to 70 degrees F you can store your lubricants, the longer they will last.

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