The Role of Lubrication Management Professionals

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation

Thousands of companies around the world have an immediate need to hire lubrication management professionals. These companies are owners of numerous production assets that are critical to industrial processes and fleet operations. The reliability and operating costs of these machines depend heavily on the quality and effectiveness of lubrication as well as the skills of lubrication professionals.

It will be the lubrication management professional’s central task to ensure (as it relates to lubrication) that asset reliability is optimized at the lowest possible operating cost. The position is a strategic value-building job function essential to company profitability and competitive market strength.

Each company will fund the lubrication management professional’s compensation entirely from the savings gained from increased efficiencies in maintenance operations and asset productivity (uptime and availability).

Job Description

Brief Summary

The lubrication management professional will be responsible for management of all lubrication maintenance functions including oil analysis (Figures 1 and 2), lubricant selection, lubrication practices, lubricant handling and storage, and contamination control.

The lubrication management professional reports to the plant engineer or maintenance superintendent and has direct-line reports including lubrication technicians and lubricant analysts. A minimum of five years experience in machinery reliability and lubrication is required. A four-year degree in engineering or equivalent is preferred with appropriate certifications in lubrication and lubricant analysis.

Organizational Chart for Lubrication Management
Figure 1. Organizational Chart for Lubrication Management
Case 1. Organizations without Multiple Maintenance Technologies

Job Responsibilities

Selection of Lubricants

  • Oversees the selection and performance specifications of all lubricants for each machine, assisted by the lubrication engineer, equipment OEMs and lubricant suppliers.
  • Establishes grease vs. oil guidelines.
  • Ensures lubricants are optimally selected with respect to cost, wear control, energy conservation, safety, quality and environmental factors.
  • Ensures that lubricants are compatible with the machine, process fluids and work environment.
  • Writes lubricant standards for all lubricant products.
  • Implements a lubricant consolidation strategy.
  • Is a member of the buying team for selection of lubricant supplier(s).

Selection of Lubrication Equipment

  • Selects oil mist, single-point, centralized (multipoint) and other automatic lubrication equipment for grease and oil.
  • Selects oil level control devices.
  • Selects sight glasses and BS&W bowls.
  • Selects top-up containers and fill port hardware.
  • Selects lubricant dispensing equipment.
  • Selects grease fittings, tags and grease guns.
  • Selects storage room tools and equipment.

Selection of Contamination Control Products

  • Defines fluid cleanliness and dryness targets.
  • Selects filter suppliers, filters types and performance specs.
  • Verifies that lubricants and additives are compatible with filters and separators.
  • Selects breathers and headspace management equipment.
  • Selects oil reclamation equipment and/or service providers.
  • Selects filter carts and off-line filtration equipment.
  • Selects lubricant heaters and coolers.
  • Selects sump reservoir flushing and cleaning equipment and/or service providers.

Management of Lubrication Suppliers and Service Providers

  • Oversees quality, service and support provided by all vendors and jobbers for lubricants, filters, lubrication hardware, lubricant disposal services, oil reclamation services, oil analysis services, software and other independent service providers.
  • Identifies procedures for receiving inspection of incoming products (including lubricants) and noncomplying conditions.
  • Establishes lubrication and contamination control guide lines associated with equipment rebuilders (engines, motors, pumps, gearboxes, etc.).
  • Sets up a supplier performance tracking program.
  • Routinely communicates supplier performance to purchasing, engineering and management.

Lubrication PMs and Work Order Management

  • Oversees the writing and scheduling of routine lubrication PMs consistent with best practice for each machine including jobs pertaining to oil changes, top-ups, grease gun routes, filter changes and lubrication inspections.
  • Oversees staffing and performance of lubrication work orders and other related unscheduled activities.

Figure 2. Organizational Chart for Lubrication Management
Case 2. Organizations with Integrated Maintenance Technologies

Lubrication Procedures

Writes specific lubrication procedures consistent with best practice for various tasks (scheduled PMs and routine work orders) including:

  • Tank/sump flushing and cleaning
  • Oil drain interval and criteria (interval-based or condition- based)
  • Top-up procedures
  • Grease gun calibration
  • Handling and storage practices
  • Machine inspections
  • Contamination control
  • Filter changes and used filter inspection
  • Grease gun operation (including how much and how often)

Lubricant Handling, Storage, Consumption and Conservation

  • Oversees all lubricant storage room activities and equipment including layout, lube container selection, transfer equipment, pumps and tools, ventilation, funnels and hoses, safety equipment and procedures, housekeeping standards, training, record keeping, etc.
  • Responsible for management of lubricant inventories, reorder points, stock rotation, setting of expiration dates, product labeling and incoming delivery inspections.
  • Responsible for tracking and management of lubricant consumption including leakage control. Establishes lubricant consumption strategies.
  • Responsible for environmental conservation practices including best practices in waste oil and used-filter disposal.

New Machinery Specifications and Commissioning

Develops lubrication-related specifications for new machinery, including:

  • Identification of all lubrication points, lubricant type, procedure and frequency of relubrication
  • Installation of sampling ports and procedure
  • Set up of oil analysis testing requirements by machine
  • Breathers and vents selection
  • Filtration equipment selection
  • Level gauges and sight glasses selection
  • Flushing ports and quick-connects selection
  • Selects specs for reservoir construction, size, baffles and diffusers
  • Initial cleanliness/dryness targets
  • Training of lubrication technicians on proper PMs and inspections
  • Participates in the commissioning of new equipment during break-in and installation of lubrication hardware.

Outage and Shutdown Activities

  • Assists in providing inspections related to lubrication (tanks, gears, bearings, etc.) during outages and shutdowns.
  • Participates in outage/shutdown planning and work-order scheduling activities.

Warranty and Regulatory Compliance Management

  • Ensures that machines are lubricated in accordance with OEM warranties.
  • Ensures that lubricant warranties are not violated by noncompliant maintenance practices.
  • Ensures that warranty claims are submitted for defective lubricants and lubrication equipment.
  • Ensures that all lubricants and lubrication practices (including storage, containment and disposal) are in compliance with relevant government agencies and industry and standards organizations, including ISO, EPA, API, NRC and NSF.

Manpower Planning, Administration, Staff Training and Certification

  • Writes job descriptions, defines job skills (skill standards) and defines certification requirements for maintenance employees or onsite contractor personnel working as lubrication technicians, lubricant analysts, lubrication engineers, etc.
  • Manages all lubrication and oil analysis direct line reports and job responsibilities, including onsite contractor personnel.
  • Conducts quarterly skill development workshops for lubrication technicians and analysts.
  • Selects and schedules onsite training programs relating to oil analysis, failure analysis, troubleshooting, lubrication best practices and contamination control.

Lubrication Information Management

Supports the selection and management of lubrication software and other information technology products/ processes including data entry, oil analysis software, PdM software, lubrication scheduling software and related CMMS modules.

Oil Analysis Coordination (See Figures 1 and 2)

  • Selects oil analysis laboratory.
  • Selects onsite oil analysis instruments.
  • Selects oil analysis software and report format.
  • Identifies when, how and where samples will be obtained.
  • Selects routine oil analysis test slate for each machine.
  • Sets oil analysis alarms and condemning limits.
  • Defines exception tests and criteria.
  • Defines additive reconstruction strategies.
  • Performs/coordinates laboratory quality assurance tests.
  • Provides data integration and interface to other reliability technology activities including vibration, acoustics and thermography.

Failure Modes Effects Analysis (FMEA), Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) and Troubleshooting

  • Participates in FMEA and reliability centered maintenance (RCM) planning initiatives.
  • Participates in RCFA activities relating to failures of grease or oil-lubricated machinery.
  • Develops troubleshooting templates and fault trees for common machine conditions. Trains maintenance staff on their use.

Management Reporting and Performance Metrics

  • Defines overall lubrication program goals, budgets and plans.
  • Evaluates proposed lubrication capital expenditures using standard economic analysis methods.
  • Coordinates annual lubrication audits and benchmarking services.
  • Implements overall lubrication effectiveness (OLE) metrics and other key performance indicators.
  • Makes routine progress reports to management and maintenance staff.

Reality Check

World-class machine reliability requires world-class lubrication. World-class lubrication requires world-class professionals. Does your company employ a lubrication management professional today? Who currently performs the jobs listed above? Are these jobs being performed with proficiency and diligence? How long can your company afford to put off hiring a lubrication management professional? Perhaps he or she is already on your payroll but simply has not been given the training and directive to be your company’s onsite lubrication management professional.

Consider this challenge. Photocopy this column and share it with people in your company with job titles like plant engineer, plant manager, maintenance superintendent and operations manager. Ask them to comment on whether it makes sense to set up an lubrication management professional position at your plant/ operations for the sake of value-building machine reliability and cost control.

Now I have one more favor to ask. To enhance my understanding of the practical views and challenges of management, please share their comments with me.

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About the Author

Jim Fitch, a founder and CEO of Noria Corporation, has a wealth of experience in lubrication, oil analysis, and machinery failure investigations. He has advise...