What Your Lube Room Says About Your Lubrication Program

Travis Richardson

Whether you are eating out at a restaurant or preparing a meal at home, you expect your food to be handled with care and safe to eat. But most people rarely think about the rules and regulations that keep food safe for consumers. Think about it: the food you eat has been grown and harvested, sent to a plant to be processed and packaged and then shipped to a store or restaurant for you to purchase. This process may have taken many days and covered a thousand miles, but every step of the way, care has been taken to make sure your food is safe. Otherwise, the consequences to people’s health could be high. Even if all the care in the world is taken, if one step in the chain fails to use good practices, all the previous safety steps are worth nothing.

What if lubrication programs treated their lubricants with the same care as food processors treat their food? The lubricant reception and storage lifecycle is a vital part of a lube program. A lot of work goes into to selecting the proper viscosity, base oils and additive packages before a lubricant is brought on-site. If that lubricant is not cared for in a certain way on site, it could compromise the lubricant and invalidate the lubricant selection efforts. Let’s look at how the Lubricant Reception & Storage Lifecycle Stage can help by going through all three levels: Platform, Management and KPI’s—as well as the factors within each level.

These factors are made up of criteria that guide how lube rooms should be constructed, procedures for how they should be received and best practices for lubricant management. There is a lot of depth to these factors, but for now let’s take a broad overview of them.

R1P – Quality Control Process

With the high demand for products these days, machines need to run longer, faster and in some cases both at once in extreme conditions with as little downtime as possible. One way this can be achieved is to ensure that every time we add lubricants to a machine, these lubricants are healthy and ready to perform. One of the most common misconceptions about lubricants is that new oil is clean oil. In fact, this is often not the case. Many new lubricants are still too dirty to put in any machine. Lubricant cleanliness is one of many reasons why the quality control process should start before lubricants ever arrive on a site’s receiving dock. There are many steps to ensure you are getting healthy lubricants each time you receive them. Agreements with the lubricant supplier should state the lubricant cleanliness expectations, overall lubricant performance properties and how lubricants should be delivered. Once lubricants arrive, checks and verifications should be performed on the packages and oil analysis might even be performed to gain more understanding about the lubricants condition.

A quality control process is put in place to ensure that all lubricants delivered are ready to perform. In the end, it costs less to have clean quality lubricants delivered than to have dirty lubricants arrive and try to filter them onsite. A plan should also be put in place for when lubricants don’t meet the plant’s criteria and must be sent back to the vendor.

R2P Lubricant Storage & Room

It is often said that the heart of any lube program is the lube room. If a lube room is in disarray and bad practices are in place, you can bet that the same is true of the overall program. As stated earlier, if a lubricant makes it onsite in good condition but the lube room storage practices expose it to contaminants, then all previous efforts have been wasted. All tasks performed inside the lube room should have procedural steps to safeguard against this potential problem.

When a plant is built, the lube room is generally not the number one priority. Consequently, lubricants are sometimes stored outside and scattered throughout the site. Lubricant storage areas should be able to keep a lubricant cool, clean and dry at all times. This may include adding climate control to keep lubricants at certain temperatures and adding walls or roofs to keep contaminants out. Generally, cleanliness and proper storage of all lubrication related tools are also key requirements of a top-notch lube room.

R3P Lubrication Safety Practices

As with all other work performed onsite, safety should be considered a priority in a lubrication program. Before almost any job is performed, technicians go through training and may even fill out job safety analysis sheets. Lubrication related equipment can be very dangerous. For instance, a grease gun can create up to 15,000 pounds of pressure and if the hose of the grease gun bursts, a grease injection injury can occur. Another portion of personnel safety that should be considered is the methods used to move lubricants around the lube room, such as forklifts and barrel dollies, to prevent personnel injury.

Every lubricant being stored in the lube room should have an SDS (Safety Data Sheet) readily available that will list the hazards of the product and safety precautions to follow. This will also give information such as the composition of a lubricant, first aid and firefighting measures. Lubricants stored inside the lube room should be clearly labeled so personnel know which SDS corresponds with a particular lubricant. Sufficient spill containment equipment should be kept in the lube room to be able to properly stop and clean up lubricant spills. As spill containment and general safety practices impact the health of the people and the environment, these are also reviewed in the final Lifecycle Stage (see this issue’s article: Saving Energy, Money, and the Environment with Ascend, pg 28 for more).

R4M Inventory Management

Lubricants, like many other things, have a shelf life. After an extended period of time some lubricants may not meet intended performance requirements. Controlling inventory and having minimum and maximum volumes set up will help mitigate this. When lubricants arrive onsite, they should be labeled with the date on which they arrive. FIFO (First in First Out) storage methods should also be closely followed. This method brings older lubricants to the front of the line so they can be used first and keeps the newly arrived lubricants towards the back. Lubricants should have a predefined shelf life and a procedure should be put in place that addresses what to do if a lubricant is stored onsite longer than its shelf life.

R5M Reception & Storage Training

Many times, personnel are put in positions with high expectations, yet no proper training is provided to make sure both they and the program succeed. From the very moment lubricants are brought on-site, the personnel handling them should be trained to do the tasks they will be performing. Training with the addition of procedures will help ensure that all tasks are done properly.

A few examples of training in reception and storage might include:

R6K Reception & Storage KPIs

To measure and track the success of the lubrication reception and storage practices, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be used. KPIs will show where the program is strong and will also provide evidence on where the program might need more attention. There are a few different measurements that can be taken in this lubricant lifecycle.

A percentage of the new lubricant deliveries arriving according to plant standards will help grade the lubricant supplier. If lubricant cleanliness goals for new deliveries are consistently being met, then you would probably keep the supplier. However, if lubricants are not meeting standards, you might consider finding a different supplier. Keeping a measurement of the lubricant inventory rotation can help redefine lubricant minimum and maximum volumes needed on-site. Training KPIs can help determine if and when training is needed for a successful program.

Lubricant Reception and Storage Success

In the lubricant reception and storage lifecycle, there are many key factors that can help a lubrication program be successful. To achieve this, crucial stakeholders such as the lubricant supplier, warehouse personnel, and the lubricant technicians must be considered. Training and detailed procedures explaining how tasks should be performed and how to protect a lubricant's health are crucial to any great lubrication program, and to the overall reliability of any plant. com.

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