Q: Pat, will you please describe what your team has done to improve the Lubrication Program at your mill?

A: The work in the past three years represents our second step to advance the lubrication practices at this facility. We began in 2006 with three focus areas that included route and equipment documentation, oil analysis and contamination control. By 2008, we were delivering positive results from this work with sufficient sustainability and chose to improve our lubricant storage and handling, focusing on regulatory compliance, current best practices and cost controls. Our objective was to implement the changes with clear constraints consistently throughout the facility, yet provide end users with appropriate freedom and responsibilities.

Q: Did everyone support the transition to a centralized Lubricant Storage and Handling process from the previous state?

A: The success of our previous work resonated positively with the management team, but varying levels of support existed in some areas. The concerns related to the access personel would have to their preferred lubricants and the quantities to be kept on hand. Past practices had permitted individual areas to procure and maintain the products they deemed necessary with few guidelines and restrictions.

Q: How did you go about building credibility to make believers out of the early doubters?

A: A deliberate course of action was followed to provide resources and develop the implementation plan.

A comprehensive position description for the facilities lubrication specialist was developed, which included opportunities to expand the workload and support other areas once the process had matured. Support grew by ensuring clear responsibilities that included training expectations and responsibilities for area support. The decision-making process regarding equipment requirements, specific practices and work procedures in the new role would wait until the successful bidder could be involved. This increased credibility by confirming the company's commitment to the work.

The implementation plan development required three meetings with a thoughtfully selected team. First, we would educate the team regarding the task at hand, then allow team members to identify opportunities in our current practices and finally, develop a plan that would close the gap. A week was allowed between each session to allow team members time to talk with coworkers, address minor issues and consider potential possibilities and solutions. This further increased credibility by allowing the affected parties to determine their path forward.

Finally, the lubrication champion and facilities lubrication specialist resourced much of the implementation plan, providing materials and manpower to quickly establish area lubrication stations with minimal area interruption. This ensured credibility and a timely implementation.

Q: How important was training and certification to your efforts?

A: Training was instrumental in successfully transitioning to this new mode of operation and was conducted in several ways. The training format changed from instructor-led to peer-led and from a classroom setting to field work. Certification efforts reinforced commitment and strengthened credibility.

Training during the first meeting fully explained the opportunity and boundaries. This session was led by the site lubrication champion to review key points of previous lubrication training, outline overall objectives of this initiative and explain the opportunities to incorporate current best practices. Other speakers included the site environmental and asset protection engineers to explain applicable regulatory requirements and compliance needs pertaining to containment, sprinkler coverage, spill protection, etc. These three subject matter experts attended all the meetings and made themselves available throughout the process for questions. Feedback from the attendees was incorporated to improve the presentation and increase buy in. During the annual spill protection training, this presentation was shared with all personnel on site.

Next, area surveys and documented inventories illustrated opportunities in a non-threatening manner and reinforced this training with team members. The chance to address some of the worst situations beforehand was a plus and working with their peers helped to minimize uneasiness.

Finally, team members and area personnel, when available, were invited to participate in monthly inspections. These sessions were ideal for establishing understanding, clarifying intent and ensuring consistency across the site. Condition as left was much improved with this approach and continued improvement in scores indicate practices were maintained.

Coincident with this work, informal training and self-study resulted in successful completion of two machinery lubrication technician exams and one machinery lubrication analyst level I certification exam. The experience and knowledge gained from this work has benefited the facility since.

Q: What kind of improvements did you make to the lubrication program most recently?

A: With the lubricant storage and handling work, we made several improvements. All new oil was filtered at least once prior to dispensing, closed containers were implemented for new products and lubricant storage areas were formalized throughout the facility.

Manual and air pumps used for dispensing lubricants were equipped with filter assemblies with 5 micron elements (10 micron if 460 cSt and above) and beta efficiencies of 200 or greater. Filtered breathers (10 micron rating) were installed on every drum. Several different electric pumps were also available for remote filtering and product transfer.

Closed containers replaced the open and repurposed ones across the site. A readily available product was distributed across the site, with a small quantity of each stored conveniently for future needs. Durable tags were attached to each; many of these are available for a nominal fee from the lubricant manufacturer and the remainder is made in-house and laminated. To ensure effective cleaning, a dedicated parts washer was procured, featuring a rotating turntable and multiple jets that sprayed pressurized soapy water at 140°F and 40 gpm.

Several storage areas were created in this initiative with specific purposes for each. The Central Lube Storage Room stores the lubricants prior to usage, plus other supplies including labels, closed containers, spill control products, etc. The Used Oil Room stores spent products removed from service for recycling, such as oil drums, absorbent pads, filter elements and used oil. The Area Lube Stations provide ready access to new products for each area and an intermediate storage location for spent products.

Q: Ok - the Lubrication Program sounds great and the team is making a lot of improvements, but is the program also generating other financial results, like lowering overall maintenance cost or increasing the production output?

A: Reductions in inventory and operating expenses delivered the majority of the cost savings. It was a pleasant surprise to make so much progress on a cost neutral basis.

The lubricant inventory found during the second team meeting became our baseline. All products were evaluated to determine suitability for operation, applicability to equipment on hand and storage until needed. Usage data was evaluated to determine reorder points using standard storeroom formulas and reductions were made accordingly. These calculations were repeated periodically as additional data was compiled to improve accuracy. After calculating the reorder points, the results were checked against the highest issued amounts and practical experience before implementing. Progress to date finds reductions of 78% in drum oil and 64% in grease inventory levels.

Consolidation efforts have reduced the number of different products from 52 initially to 24 currently. Duplicate or redundant products were the first to be eliminated. Next, was a review of the usage data to identify products with minimal or no issuance. Finally, a comparison of specifications on the remaining products with the equipment manufacturer's requirements was conducted to identify any other products that could be substituted without risk to the equipment. Progress to date has been the elimination of 28 products from the site.

Product consumption has been reduced in several ways as well. The systems included in the oil analysis program were migrated from time-based to condition-based change frequencies, with lubricant conditioning used wherever possible. Oil drums are completely drained prior to recycling in place of disposal when the pump stops drawing. Grease containers have been reduced in size to minimize opportunities for contamination and spoilage. Progress to date finds reductions of 20% in drum oil and 49% in grease consumption levels.

In total, the inventory reductions returned more than $50,000 to the business, while a reduction in usage averages in excess of $60,000 annually. A portion of the former amount was directed back into the initiatives to limit additional investment, while the latter offset the ongoing cost of the facilities lubrication specialist.

Q: How do you communicate the results of the Lubrication Program over time?

A: Monthly metrics are distributed electronically to employees throughout the site. Initially, this included oil analysis report status, contamination levels and preventive maintenance (PM) route completion values. Following implementation of the storage and handling work, these were joined by inventory volumes and age, usage amounts and housekeeping scores. Additionally, housekeeping scores were distributed separately with specific notes added.

Q: What advice would you share with Uptime readers who are looking to build a Lubrication Program like yours?

A: Strong leadership skills are needed any time a culture changing initiative is undertaken. In the book, "Good to Great," author Jim Collins says the most effective leaders exhibit high levels of humility and will, whose primary ambitions are for the good of the institution rather than themselves. These qualities are especially important for a site lubrication champion, an essential role for this work if not already in place. The champion must be sure to include all affected parties, provide the necessary training and ensure open communication. This role also will be a resource reference, ensure standardization and eliminate hurdles as they arise.

Lastly, don't hesitate to utilize the outside resources at your disposal, including lubrication engineers, manufacturers, vendors, oil analysis laboratory personnel and training providers. Each possesses a wealth of knowledge to share from differing backgrounds and perspectives.

Patrick Akins, CMRP, has worked in the maintenance and reliability field for more than 25 years. Pat resides near Seattle, WA and holds several vibration analysis and lubrication certifications. He currently focuses on Industrial Maintenance and Safety training; previous roles include Reliability, Systems and Maintenance Management with Fortune 500 companies.

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