Contact Memory - A New Tool for Managing Lubrication and Oil Analysis Activities

Dr. Thomas G. Dietz, ExxonMobil Eric Linxweiler, DSG

Because you understand the importance of lubrication to the overall success of your maintenance program, your plant has invested in oil analysis equipment and testing, high quality lubricants and lubrication training.

You may even have worked with your lubricant supplier to develop a computerized lubrication survey that is used on a daily basis to manage lubrication routes. Vibration analysis and oil analysis data are used to proactively address lubrication issues before they cause unscheduled downtime. So what is missing?

Today's streamlined maintenance departments are increasingly challenged to find the time and people resources to efficiently manage the large amount of information required to make this type of world class lubrication program run.

In the lubrication program above, the maintenance professional is tasked with keeping lub-ricant work lists up-to-date, managing oil analysis programs and ensuring that critical lubrication and oil analysis requirements are captured in real-time and acted upon promptly.

A promising new technology called contact memory has the potential to solve many of these problems and several leading maintenance organizations are beginning to demonstrate the effectiveness of this technology for real-time lubrication point data capture.

Contact memory is a technology pioneered by Dallas Semiconductor, which places a silicon memory chip inside of a durable stainless steel case. In its simplest form the silicon chip stores a unique numerical identifier which can be associated with a lubrication point.

When the contact memory chip is affixed to a lubrication point, that lubrication point is uniquely identified. Because the contact memory cans are environmentally durable over a wide range of temperatures (-67 degrees F to +212 degrees F), chemically resistant and electrically durable they have many advantages over other labeling technologies in severe operating environments.


Step 1 - A lubrication technician logs into the system by touching a contact memory chip assigned to the technician with the data collection pen. This action records who is conducting the lubrication activities.

Step 2 - Following a lubrication route generated by the computerized lubrication database, the lubrication technician records the ID of each lubrication point by touching the data collection pen on the contact memory chip affixed near the lube point.

Step 3 - The lubrication/sampling activity performed is indicated by touching the data collection pen on a contact memory chip in a lubrication activity code book. If anything abnormal is noted at the lube point, these observations are captured by touching a contact memory chip in the code book associated with that lubrication issue (i.e., running hot or excessive leakage).

Step 4 - After all of the scheduled lubrication activities have been completed, the data collection pen is placed in the download cradle to automatically update route schedules and the work history. Any abnormal observations or missed lubrication points are automatically printed.

Reading the contact memory chip is accomplished by simply touching it with a small, durable data collection pen of the type shown. The data collection pen provides power to the chip, reads the stored 48 bit number and stores this number along with a time/date stamp in the data collection pen memory.

Since all of the contact memory chips have a different number encoded on the chip, the act of touching a given contact memory chip with the reader definitively documents the presence of the lubrication technician at a given lubrication point at a specific time. Additionally, lubricators can carry additional contact memory chips in a lubrication activity/comment code book.

By touching these lubrication activity/comment contact memory chips, the lubricator can then associate these specific actions or observations with a given lubrication point. These observations can include comments on the state of the equipment (i.e., running hot, excessive leakage, needs repair), system measurements (temperatures, oil levels, meter readings) or the completion of specific tasks (oil added, oil changed, oil sample taken).

This process is repeated for multiple lubrication points on a PM or oil sampling route to tabulate a work history.

The process is completed by placing the data collection pen into a download cradle at the end of the route. The lubrication point, associated lubrication/sampling activities and lubrication observations are automatically downloaded into the computer containing the lubrication route manager.

Automated reports can then be generated based upon the data collected from the field to assist with the lubrication program. These reports can highlight missed lubrication/sampling points or critical observations from visual inspection that require follow-up actions. The major benefits of the above system are:

• The need for lubrication technicians to sit at a computer keyboard to type lubrication records into a computerized lubrication database is eliminated. This allows the lubrication technician to spend more time on lubrication and oil analysis instead of data entry.

• Keying errors inputting lubrication activity data are eliminated.

• Scheduled lubrication and sampling activities, which were inadvertently missed, become readily apparent.

• Critical lubrication observations are captured real-time and exception reports are automatically generated to facilitate follow-up actions.

• Because lubrication activities (drains, topups, filter changes, etc.) affect oil analysis data, the field lubrication activity information can be better integrated with the oil analysis program. As a result, oil analysis results and the associated maintenance responses become more meaningful.

The above system has been implemented at several plants in the pulp and paper and power generation industries. All of these locations have implemented a system based on coupling Exxon's EPLUSTM lubrication scheduling software with a Diversified Systems Group (DSG) contact memory hardware system. The resultant system is customized to meet their specific lubrication needs of the plant location. Additionally, several plants have utilized similar contact memory systems to manage preventative maintenance route inspections, fire and safety equipment monthly inspections and air quality emission logging.

The response to the contact memory based data collection systems has been very favorable. Some specific installations are described below:

Tennessee Newsprint Mill - The contact memory system described above was initially piloted in 1997 at a large newsprint mill in the Southeastern U. S. The mill was proactively deploying Exxon's EPLUS lubrication management database and scheduling program and it decided to test the DSG contact memory system on one of their five paper machines. Approximately 250 lubrication points were outfitted with contact memory chips. The mill found that the system allowed them to reliably document lubrication inspections and to track work activities. This system has been in use for over a year and the mill plans to expand the implementation to two more paper machines within the next few months.

Arkansas Paper Mill - This plant had a very specific goal in mind when they decided to implement the DSG contact memory with Exxon's EPLUS lubrication management software. The contact memory system was implemented to identify lubrication problem areas related to high maintenance costs and to more accurately manage the actual lubrication workloads of existing personnel. This paper mill has been very pleased with the type of reliable, accurate and timely information that they are now getting. There are nearly 1,800 points tagged with contact memory chips at this plant covering two paper machines and all plant wide support equipment. The installation took three days to initially complete.

Mid-Western Power Generation Plant - At this large coal burning, power generation plant there are four turbines, which generate nearly 2,000 megawatts of power per month. The customer wanted to automate all data tracking activities, eliminate paper work and run their maintenance program more efficiently. This was driven by the de-regulation of the power industry and the increased competitiveness of the electricity generating business.

With 2,300 lubrication points throughout the plant, they believed that the only way to accurately maintain a history of inspections and maintenance activities was with a computerized lubrication system with automated data collection. Since implementing this system, the plant believes that they can document a savings of $50,000 in maintenance related costs during the first six months of full operation.

The savings are related to more efficient operations as the plant is better able to identify missed inspection points and avoid costly shut downs. They believe that their personnel resources are now better utilized in maintenance and lubrication related activities instead of paper work and administration activities. Based on the success of the initial installation a second system is being implemented at sister plants.

The above installations clearly demonstrate the tremendous potential of contact memory as a real-time data collection tool for modern lubrication programs. With a few simple touches of the data collection pen, lubrication work activities and critical lubrication system observations can be efficiently captured and quickly documented in the lubrication maintenance database.

The greater accessibility to accurate field lubrication and oil sampling information, will allow maintenance departments to become proactive in managing lubrication activities and oil analysis exceptions and to make better, more timely decisions. And as we all know improved lubrication and oil analysis practices ultimately have a way of "touching the bottom line".

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