A Guide to Storing Spare Equipment

Paul Farless, Noria Corporation

In the industrial space, it is often a good practice to store spare equipment. Generally, the more critical a piece of equipment is, the more important it is to keep a spare or two on hand; some facilities proactively store a spare or multiple spares of all their lubricated and rotating machinery: bearings, gearboxes, pumps, blowers; the whole nine yards.

Storing spares is a good proactive measure to ensure that downtime is minimized in the plant. After all, that’s what we are all worried about here: keeping the plant running. So, this will act as a soft guide on some best practice methods to store equipment, how to lubricate the stored equipment and why we want to use specific types of lubricants when storing this equipment.

Reception and Handling -

First and foremost, we need to consider safety when receiving, handling, and storing the spare equipment. The technicians need to utilize the proper equipment and techniques when handling the equipment. Furthermore, as with receiving and handling lubricants, the best practice is to set reception and handling standards. Just like with new lubricants, there must be quality assurance and quality control standards to ensure that you are receiving the correct equipment: size, HP, Modified/Not Modified, etc., must be accounted for.

Inspection and Cleaning -

Upon inspection, depending on the piece of equipment, the receiving technician should take a quick look into the headspace, taking note of any manufacturing debris or otherwise harmful contaminants that may have entered the headspace during manufacturing. If any debris is found, then most facilities prefer doing a flush with a low viscosity flushing oil that is compatible with the in-service lubricant. In machinery lubrication, the number one goal is to keep any and all contaminants out of the machine or bearing, even if it doesn’t have lubrication when it arrives at the facility. This is an especially important step.

Storage Space -

Just like lubricant storage and handling, you want to make sure of a few key factors when it comes to the space in which the equipment is being stored. Preferably, the storage space is dedicated just to stored equipment. Secondly, the space needs to be climate controlled if at all possible. Just like a lube room, we want the space to be clean, organized and at a maintainable temperature. If at all possible, there needs to be spill containment and fire extinguishing capabilities, whether that is a couple of extinguishers on the wall or a room with a pre-existing sprinkler system. Most storage spaces aren’t a high risk for fires, but in the industrial world, ANYTHING is possible. Remember, this is an explanation of best practice or the ideal way of storing. I like to think of it as best-effort rather than best practice because sometimes best practice isn’t all that practical with what each facility has on hand.

Storage Lubricants -

There are many different storable components to consider when deciding if it needs to be stored with lubricant in it or not. Some machines come pre-lubricated from the manufacturer; some don’t. The best thing to do is to look at the OEM manual and find out the OEM recommended lubricant for that specific machine or bearing. Most of the time, the manual will also give recommendations on how to store this piece of equipment. The best thing to do is follow that recommendation, but if there is no OEM recommendation, there are certain ways to store oiled components versus greased ones:

  • Oiled Components - Cleanliness is paramount. Grease can handle certain contaminants better than oil, so making sure that the oiled component is clean, flushed and completely plugged during storage is important. There is no telling how long some of this equipment will be stored. The primary concern is the headspace of the unit; either fill it to the top with oil or utilize what is known as a vapor phase corrosion inhibitor (VPCI). This will help prevent corrosion caused by oxidation. However, if you fill it all the way, be sure to inspect around the seals and plugs to ensure there is no leakage.
  • Greased Components - Commonly, people think that lithium grease has a shelf life of twelve months, which in most cases is probably pretty close. But what about the grease that is in stored equipment? Generally, it is best practice to clean and ensure that no contaminants can make their way into the bearings, but bearings are usually pretty tough.

No matter if it is a greased or oiled component, when the item is stored we’ll want to periodically rotate the shafts or race to keep the additives from settling in the oiled components. We want to keep the grease from bleeding from the greased components. This is why spill containment, fireproofing and climate control are so important for storing spare equipment; it’s all about lubrication excellence.

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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...