In pursuit of lubrication perfection

Learn how one brewery is implementing a world-class lubrication process.

By Richard David, Condition-Based Monitoring Technician

This is the first of a bi-monthly series about one plant’s continuing journey to implement a world-class lubrication process.

I’m a beer guy. Specifically, I’m the lubrication technician for a beer manufacturing facility. So I’m that beer guy. I’m also the go-to person for any lubrication process needs at our brewery — I research, approve, test and implement the products. I train people. I sell the process into other departments.

In October 2010, I began implementing a world-class lubrication process, not because I had to, but because it was the right thing to do. I knew the process we had in place wasn’t as effective as it could be. As I started to dig deeper, it became apparent that our practices and lubrication identification needed to improve. I discovered that 75% of initial oil samplings returned unwanted results; almost all samples had the wrong product or the wrong ISO viscosity. I knew we weren’t managing our equipment adequately, and, more importantly, I knew it needed to be fixed prior to investing in a robust and sustainable sampling program.

We needed 13 different colors and 11 different shapes for 70 unique profiles. Most companies didn’t offer this many colors or shapes, so three new colors and shapes, including a smiley-faced shape completely unique to our facility, had to be customized for us. We now have a completely unique solution from OilSafe for our brewery’s lubrication management, with custom colors, shapes and labels that allow us to store, transfer and apply seamlessly.

Grease guns had colored labels in shrink tube sleeves previously. But the oils or additives were showing compatibility issues and were causing the sleeves to expand and contract, diminishing their appearance and effectiveness quickly. Custom-painted colors and labels were created for all our brewery’s grease guns, including adding descriptions for secondary package requirements of the NFPA and HMIS ratings for each grease product we use.

So where am I in implementing a world-class lubrication process? I’ve made some great initial progress, but I see this as far from over. I’ve been working with one department at a time, setting up satellite lubrication stations with color- and icon-driven lubricant identification for secondary containers and specifically colored grease guns. I’ve been tagging all pieces of equipment with oil tags and grease caps after manufacturer documents have been reviewed to ensure the right product was used in the first place and to ensure we’re building success down the road.

We’ve purchased our first bulk storage system. I recently placed the eight-station system in a new, dedicated satellite lube room, and I’m in the process of preparing the system and room for use. This is my first complete build-out of a lube room from start to finish, with the help of engineering, of course. The goal is to have it completely online by June or July, allowing me to showcase our world-class lubrication system throughout the organization. In the past, up to five different lubricants would use the same transfer and recirculation pumps. This required that the pumps be purged in between, which is time-consuming and wastes product. And, even after purging, there was still a 1% contamination rate, which is unacceptable with some of our lubricants.

Now, with the new bulk system, each lubricant has its own dedicated pump. There is no need to purge. There are no contamination issues.

And another benefit is that the visual management system is completely intuitive. Color coding eliminates any guess work, and even new or inexperienced employees will know exactly how the system works. The proper lube has been spec’d out by an expert, predetermined and measurable, taking the decision out of the individual’s hands. As a result, technicians are better-focused, and our operators know exactly which lubricant goes where, eliminating the past problems of incorrectly identified lubes or cross-contamination, which made analysis difficult.

Richard David is a condition-based monitoring technician. With almost 20 years of industry experience, including the past five years as predictive maintenance analyst and CBM technician (MLA-II, Vibe CAT II, Thermography I, Ultrasound 1), He will be documenting his journey of implementing a world-class lubrication process at his facility over a series of articles, so be sure to follow his progress in future issues of Plant Services.

With a visual management system, lubricants are easily stored, transferred, and identified properly. With a higher level of identification, operators are more conscious and responsible to any potential issues. The addition of large 3D oil sight glasses makes visual interpretation even easier at the equipment level. With minimal training, we are experiencing a high volume of work notifications from operators who notice if oil in some of their equipment just doesn’t look right. This is a huge step in mitigating oil and grease issues earlier on, reducing potential downtime. This would never have been noticed or reported before the system was implemented.

What I tell other departments is that 60 to 80% of all equipment failures are lubrication-related. If you improve the process, your equipment and your entire operation should run more efficiently. It’s all about equipment reliability and uptime.

The lubrication management process is continuous and always evolving. There are always other ways to improve and upgrade our systems, and I don’t foresee a time when every task is complete. So while we’re on this journey, my plan is to document the implementation of our world-class lubrication process and to share my experiences and learnings during the transformation. My goals are to achieve increased reliability and OEE; to improve uptime; create a valuable and repeatable oil sampling program; implement a lubrication process that drives down cost; show huge ROI and become the measuring standard for other manufacturing facilities; and, of course, continue to make quality beer.

Read more installments of Lubrication Perfection

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