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“Are there specific guidelines for consolidating the number of lubricants used in a plant?”
The best strategy for lubricant consolidation is to first answer a few questions. What is the reason for consolidating your lubricants? Is it to decrease the stock volume or needed storage space? Are you trying to simplify field practices and reduce application errors? Are you looking to lower stock costs? By answering these questions, you can identify the next steps in the process.
While there’s no single procedure for lubricant consolidation, there is a suggested sequence. Begin by considering any warranties and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. Next, select a preferred brand (or two). This will be used to standardize your lubricant selection. Eliminate duplicates or similar lubricants from different brands. For example, if you choose a gear oil with an ISO viscosity grade (VG) of 320, it should only be one product from a single brand.
Your next step should be to simplify the lubricant viscosity applications. If you have three viscosities for your hydraulic systems, such as ISO VG 32, 46 and 68, you can eliminate the ISO VG 46 lubricant to drop one product. You could consolidate down even more to a single viscosity if the equipment application and warranties can tolerate it. Frequently, it is possible to change one viscosity grade without significant risk if the operation is within the required parameters and there is a quality maintenance program.
In addition, you should expand the use of multi-purpose lubricants. For instance, hydraulic oil can also be used for water pumps and electric motors. The viscosity should be in accordance with the OEM or lubricant manufacturer recommendations.
Also, consider upgrading your lubricants to eliminate similar products. For example, if you have applications for an ISO VG 220 mineral oil and an ISO VG 220 synthetic gear oil, you could upgrade all applications to the synthetic oil if it does not represent a considerable increase in lubricant costs.
On the other hand, it may be feasible to decrease the lubricant quality. For instance, a synthetic ISO VG 220 oil could be replaced with a high-quality mineral oil by reducing the oil change intervals. Although this is not common, it is possible.
For all these steps, you can create a chart to help visualize the information being displayed. Include the current lubricant list, equipment applications for each product and the lubricants’ main characteristics, as well as a few extra columns for candidate products to replace each lubricant. Indicate which products have warranties or OEM restrictions. By cross-referencing this information among the lubricants, you will have a visual chart to help you choose products that can work well across multiple applications.