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"Are there any guidelines for conducting a lubrication survey?"
A lubrication “survey” can mean different things to different people, and depending on what you are hoping to accomplish, there are several ways to approach it. Examining individual pieces of equipment and trying to determine what lubricant and lubrication cycle are needed would be considered a survey by some. However, scoring the lubrication program as a whole and identifying areas of deficiency in the process is also called a survey. Both of these require spending time in the field and understanding the intricacies of lubrication at a particular facility, but that is where the similarities end.
Let’s first look at scoring the lube program as a way to discover opportunities for improvement. To do this, you must define the criteria that will be used to audit your current practices. It is recommended that a team be formed to collectively define what best practice looks like for your plant. Ideally, this team will include multiple job titles and responsibility levels, so all aspects of the plant’s internal structure are covered.
An example of this type of team would include shift mechanics, lube technicians, maintenance management, reliability, inventory/stores and plant management. This diverse team can craft what the lubrication program should look like and develop a scoring matrix to compare current practices to the best practices decided among the team.
Typically, the scoring of a plant’s lube program should be based on all facets of the program. When surveys are performed in this fashion, the cradle-to-grave method of following the lubricant/lubrication process is often preferred. With this method, six main stages of the lubrication program should be reviewed and analyzed for improvement: lubricant selection, reception and storage, handling and application, contamination control, lubricant analysis, and environmental disposal. Focusing on these areas will help improve any lubrication program and highlight areas that need improvement.
Another type of survey involves analyzing your machines to determine the proper lubricant and lubrication tasks for maintaining the equipment in an ideal operating state. This requires a significant amount of time in the field to collect machine data, which is often operational, environmental and mechanical. The data is then reviewed to make decisions such as which lubricant to apply, how much should be applied, when to apply it and which accessories are needed to make it all work. Each lubricated component must be assessed, and the optimum lubricant and task frequency calculated. A variety of calculators are available on the internet to help with this. Noria also provides services that can do all the work for you.
Once the data has been collected and the results are compiled, it becomes a process of assigning the work and ensuring it is completed. Many programs rely on a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), as it allows work orders to be generated and tracked. Keep in mind that this more detailed survey may demand an extended amount of time based on the amount of equipment and available manpower.
Surveys are important for lube programs, as they help to identify issues and offer solutions for lubrication problems. They should be conducted by individuals who have been trained and certified in lubrication, since a high level of skill is required to perform a survey properly. If you are just getting started in this process, don’t become discouraged. While it can seem like a challenging task, the rewards of doing it right will be well worth it.