Training has always been a hot topic of conversation in the lubrication world. When apprenticing to be a mechanic or millwright, not nearly enough time is spent on lubrication. What typically happens is a maintenance or reliability decision maker appreciates the need for training within a great machinery lubrication program and decides to get his team trained. However, little attention is given to who exactly needs to be trained and what training those people require. For example, if electricians in your plant are responsible for electric motor lubrication, they don't need to attend a 3-day certification level class to learn about advanced lubrication or oil analysis, but they do need at least a 4-hour class on how to effectively grease an electric motor bearing. A great approach to training is to assign a "lubrication champion" on your lubrication team and have him trained and certified in all the areas of lubrication. Others should be trained based on their level of involvement in the lubrication program. Those responsible for oil analysis should be trained on it. Those greasing bearings should have task-based training for that task. Further enhance the credibility of the training with certifications.
Storage and handling continues to be an area I always shake my head at. It would seem to me that this is one of the more tangible elements of a great lubrication program, yet most have a hard time understanding its value. Some of the dirtiest areas of the plants I have been to have been the "lube room." They are typically dark and dingy, subjected to temperature extremes and moisture contamination and are always accessible to whoever wants access. I often ask my clients if they would store oil meant for their car or truck in the same way that they store oil for the machines in the plant. No one has ever said yes.
There are many turn-key systems that exist that will take a sorry-state-of-a-lube-room to near best in class. But it's not enough to just buy your way to best in class; you have to understand why it's important to handle lubricants in this manner. If you've had your team trained on methods and theory of proper storage and handling, you're halfway there. The next step is to reinforce your preferred practice with standard operating procedures.
Procedures are a key element to doing anything with consistency and accuracy. We have all read the articles highlighting the need for knowledge transfer before the retirement boom hits and our companies suffer corporate amnesia at a nationwide cost of billions or even trillions. Procedures should be clear and concise and represent how something gets done each and every time. To support this, procedures should be dynamic enough that we can change some of the elements if we need to. For example, duty cycles change, operating conditions change and production demands change. These changes all require a change in lubrication frequency, amount, type or method of application. A great machinery lubrication program understands the need for change and allows for modifications to procedures to support these changes.
We have all heard the saying, "You don't know what you don't know." Through training and procedures the unknown becomes known. We become conscious that there is a better, more efficient way to do something. These revelations, however, don't go very far unless we're given the right tools to do the job. It is one thing to implement best practice and it's quite another to execute preferred practice. Much of what makes a good machinery lubrication program great are the tools and accessories we use to get the job done. Sample valves installed on machine components, filter carts for periodic decontamination, grease meters on our grease guns, and sealable and refillable transfer containers are all great examples of the tools we need to execute a great machinery lubrication program.
To ensure the success of a great machinery lubrication program over the long haul it is mandatory that the current culture adapts to the new business as usual. The daily grind sometimes keeps us from seeing the obvious. Whenever I ask a client why they are doing something in one way or another, the most common answer is, "That's the way we've always done it." Right or wrong, we continue to form habits in our work, often to the detriment of the machines we are committed to making more reliable. This current business as usual can change as we adopt preferred practice and provide the right tools for the job. The new business as usual has us using our knowledge from training, storing and handling our lubricants they way they need to be handled, following procedures when executing tasks, and using the right tool for the job. Over time, this will become business as usual. Perhaps at the next plant I walk into, I'll see the proper implementation and execution of a great machinery lubrication program and ask why they are doing things that way, and they might say, "That's the way we've always done it." That would be great.
Jason Kopschinsky joined Trico July 2010 as Reliability Services Manager. Prior to joining Trico, he spent 7 years in asset reliability and lubrication management services with Noria Corporation. He has published more than 50 technical articles. www.tricocorp.com