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As a Technical Consultant here at Noria Corporation, I see many different failures related to lubrication issues. We are called out to consult on and fix the problems through better, more precise lubrication practices. One of the most common issues we run into is that the Lubrication Technician accidentally put the wrong lubricant into the machine; this is very easy to do when a proper lubricant labeling system isn't in place and can lead to many different types of problems within the machine. The mixing of incompatible lubricants can cause a vast array of issues, such as seal expansion or shrinkage, additive precipitation, loss of anti-wear performance, loss of demulsifying properties, etc. When these problems arise, they ultimately lead to machine failure.
Figure 1: LIS Breakdown
Above, I have provided two examples of our Noria Lubricant Identification System (LIS) tags. The circle tag is for greases, and the square is for oils. The shape of the tag is the first identifier of what gets utilized in the machine, whether it be grease or oil. The next identifier is the shape on the tag; we offer 32 unique shapes, ranging from a plus sign to a twelve-point star. The addition of a shape onto the tag allows for easier identification by individuals with color-blindness.
Furthermore, we have the color. We offer nine different colors that correspond to the colors found for the lids on the sealable and refillable containers, no matter the brand. Lastly, we include the LIS code on the tag: “CKD-220-S-PAO” and “PU-XBEIA-2-115-M-G2” on the examples shown.
An example of how LIS codes are formulated is shown in Figure 1.
The way lubrication tagging and labeling works is fairly simple. The hypothetical plant has six different types of oils; any of those six can be accidentally used in the wrong machine. However, when you place a label on the oil drum, bulk tank, S&R container, and finally the corresponding machine that utilizes this oil, lubricating these machines becomes foolproof. The same idea can be applied to greases: If a machine takes grease, the tag will be a circle tag; these tags go on the grease gun and the corresponding machine for that particular grease. It really is that simple.
We constantly preach best practice methods and precision lubrication. What is the definition of precision? “The quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate.” The first step to achieving precision lubrication is labeling and tagging. This makes lubrication so much easier, and when it is easy to do, it gets done right. I would like to add that the examples that I have provided are the way that Noria creates a tagging system. Each facility can tag and label however they want. We have seen systems as simple as labels made by a label maker that provide the exact name and viscosity of the lubricant placed on each lubricated machine and component. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as an LIS tag; however, that is best practice. Anything to ensure that the correct lubricant is going into the correct component. We do not want to mix, contaminate or diminish the current lubricant in any way.
The next time you are walking through the plant, take tags with you and make sure that each machine you walk by is properly tagged and labeled. This is the most overlooked low-hanging fruit of any lubrication program. Knock this out and watch the program soar to lubrication excellence.