Sutcliffe Takes Proper Lubrication Practices Around the Globe

Name: Frank Sutcliffe

Age: 50

Job Title: Maintenance Reliability and Turn Around (MRTA) Specialist

Company: Shell

Location: Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Length of Service: 20 years

Frank Sutcliffe’s talents have taken him all across the world, from the United Kingdom and the Middle East to Russia, Nigeria and most recently Kazakhstan. He has also served in a number of different positions, including as a reliability manager, certified reliability-centered maintenance facilitator, principal technical expert of reliability and operability, compressor performance improvement team lead, and category manager of rotating equipment. Before joining Shell, Sutcliffe even worked in the nuclear industry on risk assessment and decommissioning. While in the UK, he once heard an experienced colleague say that proper lubrication is the most important maintenance activity and the most cost-effective way to avoid premature machinery failures. That advice has stuck with him for more than 20 years.

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

A: I work both in the office and at the site, so there is no standard work day. My recent focus has been on reliability strategy and building plans with stakeholders for delivery of that strategy. A key part of that is deepening and broadening reliability skills across the business. Reliability is not achieved solely by people with the word in their job title, so I spend time coaching, mentoring and building technical career skills with the team here.

I’m also helping implement a move away from reactive root cause analysis to proactive threats and opportunity management. In addition, I facilitate failure analysis using a causal learning approach and will shortly be developing applicable and effective maintenance routines for existing and new systems using reliability-centered maintenance.

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

A: In terms of our equipment, we have a variety of pumps. Like many others in the process industry, we have more pumps than any other machines. We also have steam turbines, industrial and aero-derivative gas turbines, and electric motors.

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

A: In terms of impact, I think I’d have to say the introduction of onsite lube oil analysis by condition monitoring in Oman. Before that, samples took weeks to turn around, and the effectiveness of the program was not what it should have been. That was coupled with huge improvements in contamination control and reducing high-temperature trips. In the summer, temperatures routinely reach more than 50 degrees C (120 degrees F).

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

A: Lubrication is viewed as being important and a key in avoiding premature failures.

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

A: Thinking ahead, I’m sure there will be some useful developments around nano-lubrication technology. I also expect to see some smart people doing some smart stuff with graphene technologies.

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

A: The expectations placed on industrial activity by management, government and society overall continue to increase, e.g., higher environmental standards and stretch performance targets (do more with less). This will not stop. Against this backdrop, lubricating the way your father or grandfather did, or what the industry did before, will no longer be good enough.

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