FREE: Introduction to Uptime Elements Reliability Framework and Asset Management System

In the last 10-12 years more attention has been given to that question. Knowing that technology of today is advanced enough to give us a very detailed breakdown of oil; more companies are starting Oil Analysis programs.

A much more important follow-up question to the first is, how effective is your Oil Analysis program? A common trap that many companies run into is beginning oil sampling and analysis prior to program development. The purpose of this procedure is to identify steps of program development that will help in the overall effectiveness of Oil Analysis programs. Program development can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Independent Program Assessment
  2. Training
  3. Equipment Asset Review and Route Building
  4. Modification of Equipment
  5. Designing Lubrication Storage and Handling Systems

An Independent Program Assessment is the first necessary step of program development. It is safe to say that most companies just don't know the current status of their plant and Oil Analysis efforts. During an independent assessment many areas of the program are compared to what is known as "Best Practice". Areas such as oil sampling methods, lab test slates, storage and handling facilities, contamination removal methods, oil transportation devices, performance tracking indicators, and technician training and skills management are all focus areas used to determine current strengths and weaknesses. Once your independent audit has been completed and you know your opportunity areas for improvement, you may begin to start planning how you are going to move forward and implement a comprehensive program. Realize that if you move too far too fast you might build up barriers that are difficult to overcome. Many programs have failed because they tried to do too much too fast and burned out. Or a new program of the month comes up and you lose focus.

Program design may be broken down into smaller components of the larger project such as training of personnel, equipment asset review and route building, modification of equipment to facilitate efficient servicing, oil analysis test slates, and lubricant storage and handling systems.

Training is an obvious area of concern. Trained technicians that understand how important quality lubrication procedures are will be key in maintaining momentum in a newly started program. Staffing of a lubrication excellence program requires careful selection of personnel. You may decide to recruit a lubrication champion from outside to head up the effort. Someone from outside with a proven track record of success may be your best choice, however do not overlook the talent you already have in internally. There are likely candidates already in your organization that are looking for a challenging opportunity. There are several companies that offer excellent training in lubrication fundamentals and practices, and most will be willing to come to your site if you have enough people to fill a class. Do not forget supervisors and managers, they need to be onboard and be aware of what is required and the benefits that can be achieved by implementing the program. Training is not just for technicians.

Equipment asset review and route building includes identifying your asset base down to the component level, establishing an asset hierarchy or criticality ranking, documenting lubrication requirements, defining lubrication PM tasks, assigning those tasks to routes for the technicians to perform, and oil analysis test slates for the various equipment types in your plant. This can be a daunting task that cannot be overlooked. Supervisors and management need to take the time to identify the targeted equipment, write detailed procedures, and establish routes and schedules. You cannot expect to just give your techs a grease gun and an oilcan and send them out into the plant to achieve the results you are looking for. If you have a large facility with thousands of pieces of equipment it may best to start on a limited scale in a targeted area of your plant. Build your program model there and expand it as your staff learns and grows.

Modification of equipment is required in many instances. Many machines are located in inaccessible areas, have blocked drain plugs, have no clean reliable way to obtain oil samples, are exposed to environmental contamination, are dangerous to work around, or any number of other challenges. Critical lubrication tasks should be able to be accomplished with a measure of ease and efficiency or they will not get done. Equipment should be set up as much as practical to prevent environmental contamination such as dirt, process material, and water from entering the lubricant. Oil levels should be able to be determined while operating without exposing the lubricant to contamination. Oil samples should be able to be obtained with minimum risk of contamination. Manually lubricated grease points should have walk-up accessibility.

Equipment set-up will require careful thought and planning. Sometimes all that is required is a sample valve and a quality breather. Other applications may require sight level gauges, isolation valves, portable filter attachment points, sample ports, bypass filtration, extended fill and drain lines, machinery guard modifications or any number of other changes in order to facilitate efficient lubrication services. Again start modifications on a limited scale, learn what works and does not work once you have your basic design perfected and installed in your pilot area then move on to full plant deployment expanding your lube routes and staff as the equipment is set up. A record of early successes on a small scale will build momentum to move the program forward.

Oil analysis test slates should be carefully considered; whether you buy your own onsite test equipment or use an outside lab. Different equipment have different test profiles requirements. Consult a quality lab for assistance in this area.

Lubricant storage and handling systems are also important. Lubrication products are expensive and should be handled in a fashion that maximizes the return on investment. Storage and handling areas should be clean, well organized, and climate controlled. It is your responsibility to ensure the new oil and grease placed in your equipment is clean, dry and has not been exposed to extreme temperature variations. If you have oil storage racks, consider separate pumps and filters for each different lubricant. Transfer containers should be clean and not expose lubricants to contamination in route to the equipment.

Although many companies have started oil analysis programs, there are many that are not effective. It is very easy to start a program but it is not so easy to start a defined/fully developed Oil Analysis program that consists of all the components mentioned in this procedure. Taking small steps and encompassing these types of details will help you to avoid the trap of beginning oil sampling and analysis prior to program development.

Allied Reliability provides a client friendly phased approach to reliability initiatives. For more information please visit Allied Reliability online or call the USA office +1-843-414-5760

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