The Difference Between Good Lubrication and Good Lubricants

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation

I have learned that excellence in lubrication is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find. The reasons for this are many. One simple explanation is the field of lubrication is a specialty that takes education and years of experience to master - like most professions.

Companies employ professionals with specialized skills indeed (computer science, finance, marketing, etc.), but how often have you heard of a recruiter going to a college campus to interview and hire lubrication professionals? I’ve never heard of this.

Likewise, I know of no colleges or universities in North America with degree programs in lubrication. No wonder excellence in lubrication is so rare. Do you sense an opportunity here?

Lacking real knowledge in lubrication, companies must still make lubrication decisions. Decisions often seem straightforward on the surface, but below this surface, they are plagued with pitfalls that can cost companies dearly.

Many are lured into making bad decisions due to pressures imposed by overzealous vendors or by management’s cost-cutting directives. For instance, those with lubrication knowledge know that saving money by buying cheap oil is almost always a false economy. On the other extreme, buying quality oil to remedy bad lubrication is also a false economy.

Sadly, many companies fail to make the important distinction between good lubricants and good lubrication. Yet, it is this distinction that defines whether or not we are on a trajectory to lubrication excellence.

Good lubrication requires knowledge, initiative and persistence. It’s proactive, not reactive and certainly not passive. You cannot buy your way into good lubrication - just like you can’t use money to tame unruly maintenance culture. Lubricants of high science and quality, at any price, cannot forgive the maintenance practitioner for not knowing how much, how often and by what method. No one is born with such insight.

Purchasing good lubricants requires only money. Best-fitting the type and quality of lubricants to the reliability needs of machinery is a science, not a purchasing function. But the science of good lubrication goes way beyond the optimum selection of lubricants. It’s also a mantra of vigilance. It’s tending to the details perpetually. It’s constant improvement and constant learning. Its currency is reliability at the lowest cost. It optimizes not maximizes. It is measurement-driven and deploys oil analysis to make risk-informed decisions.

Bad lubrication cuts deep into business operating profits. It risks lost production, ties up valuable resources and, in some cases, imperils human life. Those who don’t understand the causes of bad lubrication are condemned to repeat them. Instead, develop a culture that fosters learning and an unwavering drive to achieve excellence in lubrication. Although rare . . . it is achievable.

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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...