How to Get the Resources You Need for Lubrication Tasks

Noria Corporation

"Our maintenance department is understaffed, especially when it comes to completing lubrication tasks. Do you have any advice for helping management understand when more resources/people are needed?"

Staffing is becoming more of an issue with the retiring of the baby boomer generation. The skills gap continues to widen with fewer craftspeople available and the push for the next generation to work in white-collar careers. This issue is not just impacting maintenance and reliability departments but also operations and industrial workers in general. In tough economic times, a common practice has been to reduce the maintenance staff, which makes it even more difficult to hire additional help when it becomes apparent that the workload outweighs the current level of manpower.  

Keep in mind that most management decisions are based on data. To help managers understand when more resources are necessary, one of the first pieces of data to take into account is the total amount of work in manhours needed to maintain the lubrication program. Much of this can be determined using the time required to complete preventive maintenance (PM) tasks and inspections.

Depending on the industry, generally one lube tech is needed to accurately and precisely maintain 200-300 machines. This includes inspections, scheduled lubrication tasks, on-condition work based on the inspection or analysis results and time to maintain the lube room. If you are able to calculate the total amount of work to be performed and can add a manpower estimate to it, you can easily show a staffing shortfall.

Along with manpower needs, you should also track lubrication-related failures. Many facilities are deficient in this area, as they remain in a reactive state and simply try to get equipment up and running again. Take the time to analyze the failed components and identify the root cause. This will be crucial in convincing upper management that additional resources are necessary. If you can pair this data with the manpower shortfall mentioned above, you will have a solid case showing that lubrication work is not being completed, and the result is failures and downtime. In this scenario, the manpower shortfall would be a leading indicator, while the failures are a lagging indicator.

In some instances, there may even be some savings associated with increasing the staff. One factor to consider is the amount of overtime the current maintenance team is working. Although overtime can be caused by machine failures or simply trying to complete the PMs, it can also show a direct need for more personnel if the amount of overtime is excessive.

Finally, don’t overlook the impact that overtime has on safety. It has been proven that workers in a reactive state are much more likely to be injured than those in a preventive/planned state. Also, employees who are tired or overworked are more likely to be injured than those who are alert and well-rested. Other benefits that may not be easily measured include an improved work-life balance and culture among the team.

While no single piece of information can convince management that more staff is required, it is important to mine the available data to show correlations between the need for workers and the plant’s current state. Remember, if you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten. If you are trying to improve your plant’s reliability, you must make a change, and that will take resources.

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