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“What would be a reasonable time frame to transform all the lubrication practices in a facility? Six months, a year, two years, etc.? What would be the appropriate progression of steps in this type of transformation?”
Many variables must be considered when determining the time frame of a lube program transformation. Culture has a major impact on the process. How long it takes will depend on the level of buy-in of those involved in the program, as well as other key factors such as lubricant storage and handling, procedure development, and machine design.
The lube room is often called the heart of a good lubrication program. Ensuring your lube room meets best-practice lubricant storage standards could be as simple as cleaning and organizing the current space or as challenging as building a new room. When designing a lube room, consider how lubricants will be kept cool, clean and dry. Storing oil and grease inside a climate-controlled area and using filtration systems are essential in this process.
Procedures provide step-by-step documentation for how to complete lubrication tasks. A procedure should be created for each task performed at the plant. Examples would include regreasing an electric motor, inspecting a pump or topping off a gearbox that is low on oil. These procedures can be generic or written for specific machines.
Among the information to incorporate in a procedure would be the machine’s identification number, regrease volume and type of grease to be used. Colors or symbols for the lubricant types might also be included if these have been specified by the plant. Generic procedures often can be developed quickly, but if you must create detailed procedures for each machine, this could be a longer process.
Implementing defensive machine design is a critical step for a more proactive maintenance regime. This might involve installing desiccant breathers, so machines only breathe in clean, dry air. Adding inspection devices, such as sight glasses and bottom sediment and water (BS&W) bowls to keep a closer eye on the condition of the oil, would also be included in defensive machine design. As with the other steps, if you are only modifying a few pieces of equipment, the process will not take as long as if you must deal with hundreds of machines.
Facility size, current conditions and the amount of resources dedicated to the project are a few other factors that should be considered. Based on the experiences of companies in many different industries, the transformation process can take anywhere from six months to five years. So, while some time may be required to reach your final destination, keep in mind that initial benefits can be seen in as little as a few months.