How to Use Goals and Rewards to Optimize a Lubrication Program

Paul Farless, Noria Corporation

What is not measured cannot be controlled, and what is not motivated cannot be achieved; this is especially true in the field of machine reliability. The lack of clear objectives and the absence of a reward system to assess and encourage compliance with the activities of the handling and application stage leaves the success of the lubrication program open to subjective interpretation. In order to reduce faults and stoppages caused by improper lubrication, an effective lubrication program should establish clear goals, which should eventually result in, reduced lubricant consumption and increased equipment availability and reliability.

Effective programs also use rewards for meeting goals to motivate staff performing the lubrication tasks. These rewards can be either economic or take some other form. Plant managers will decide which ones to select; the important thing is that the lubrication team is motivated and has the right attitude and aptitude to achieve their daily work objectives.

Once the goals have been established and the course laid out, there is a need for benchmarks by which to measure the progress of the various aspects of the program. Performance metrics should be identified to assess the degree to which improvements have been completed and to measure the overall effectiveness of the lubrication program. These metrics should show the value obtained from advances in the program, which will keep everyone focused and provide justification for continued improvement. Having defined action plans for unmet goals will also facilitate the success of the program.

Training and Certification Goals

Many of the plants we go to have an established lubrication program that we are being hired to improve. The primary goals we see in these lubrication programs are certification goals; these incentivize professional growth and knowledge; they turn that tribal knowledge into standard knowledge that becomes THE WAY to perform lubrication. Usually, the incentive is something like, “Receive an ML1 Certificate, receive a pay raise.” The more certified you are, the better you will get paid. Sometimes the incentive is tied directly to advancement.

Lubrication Tasks Goals

Tracking the completion of the lubrication tasks (weekly, monthly or daily tasks) on time every week or month, continuously, is very important. These tasks include completing all of the inspections, sampling, relubrications and machinery hardware modifications. Although these tasks are simple, the sheer quantity of tasks can be overwhelming for a lubrication team that is understaffed or made up of maintenance personnel whose primary job is not lubrication. Sometimes this is tracked as a compliance metric as well.

Lubricant Consumption Goals

This is a very important goal; it is how the cost of a lubrication program is partially justified. Tracking consumption allows for a more precise volume of lubricants to be stored, which means less lubricant is getting ordered and wasted due to sitting on the shelf for too long. Often, we see a lube room full of old oil drums - they are usually way in the back, and the date on the label is typically several years old. The goal of lubrication is precision, and it starts with inventory and utilizing the “First In First Out” method. Stock rotation rewards can be shared with warehouse staff, encouraging them to become stakeholders in the lubrication program.

Safety Goals

Pretty self-explanatory, this refers to the number of days without a lubrication-related safety incident. Every program leader wants their technicians to be safe on the job. As leaders, we want to see each team member go home to their family every night in one piece. Safety doesn’t necessarily have to be incentivized, but if it is, then lube tasks are more likely to be safely completed. What I am trying to say is: sometimes the “easy way” is much less safe than the correct way. The safest way to lubricate is the correct way to lubricate.

Rewards

Some technicians do the job right and do the job well. Conversely, some technicians get the job done, but it’s not exactly up to standards. Understand that the men and women of industrial maintenance and reliability are the sole reason the plant machinery actually runs as it should. The fault, whether it is due to lubrication or lack thereof, is typically laid at the feet of the technician. But what if the machinery is running smoothly and flawlessly?

We go to different facilities all over the world and are met with a vast array of different personality types, attitudes, thought processes, etc. The most common trait that we see across the board is overtasking and under incentivizing. A large portion of this problem is simply due to understaffing. What we can suggest is that each facility produces a “Goals and Rewards Program” for the lubrication program. Now, a paycheck and company benefits are incentives to come to work and perform your job properly and to the best of your ability, but what follows are a few ways to encourage and motivate your lubrication team members to go the extra mile and strive to achieve the world-class status that is so heavily sought after.

Monetary

This is not necessarily a large pay raise, although that is always nice. Monetary rewards can come in a few different varieties. Gift cards are common and are often viewed as more significant than their monetary value. Three months without a safety incident? Each team member receives a restaurant gift card to take their families out to a nice dinner.

If you want the team to do extra, then the leadership has to follow suit. If a team member is truly going above and beyond their job title and description, reward them. Some of us have been there: we always try our best to do the right thing and go the extra mile but end up being unsatisfied at the job because we are doing all of this extra work and not reaping any benefit from it. On the other hand, the team members doing the bare minimum get paid the same amount and get rewarded with the team as a whole, even though the member didn’t contribute as much as others. Incentivizing the extra mile could motivate the bare minimum members to go that extra mile.

Time

This is huge. When it comes to most industrial facilities, time off is very hard to come by, even though the team members and their families deserve it. Technicians often work to mental and physical exhaustion: turnarounds, startups, shutdowns, etc. At refineries, it isn’t uncommon to see men and women working twelve-hour shifts (or more) for weeks on end without a break. That can wear on your mind, your body and even your relationships outside of work. Our families are why many of us work in the first place; family is what it all boils down to.

Hard work and long hours are what it takes to meet and exceed facility goals. When these goals are met through sweat and time, then the return should be just as swiftly met. Time to decompress and destress can help alleviate tensions in the workplace and motivate workers. It shows that the facility and leadership actually care about the team members and not just about the dollar sign at the end of each year's financial report.

Advancement

As stated in the “Training and Certification Goals” section, some facilities incentivize certification with advancement. You get certified, you move up on the pay scale. It shows that there is a ladder to climb, and there is positional growth potential, which encourages ambition and inner competition in the team and creates leaders. When every team member knows when to take the lead and when to follow, it creates a storm of potential within the team. We’re all just junkyard dogs trying to get to the top. Incentivize that hunger for knowledge and advancement. Incentivize dependability. This will not only benefit the team members, it will ultimately benefit the lubrication program.

Goals and rewards are often mistakenly viewed as being synonymous. Each facility has a specific set of goals, but what happens when the team smashes those goals? They get rewarded, and then the facility sets higher goals. This creates a pattern and routine of success. This is a large step down the path to lubrication excellence. This is how your facility achieves World-Class Lubrication.

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About the Author
Paul Farless is an industrial service technician for Noria Corporation. His duties include collecting data and preparing reports for the engineering team. Prior to joining Noria, Paul worked as an aut...