Machinery Lubrication

Slick moves: New lube room tools and tips

Sheila Kennedy says keep it clean, folks: How to help prevent lubrication contamination.

By Sheila Kennedy

Lubricant contamination is a hazard to the lifecycle of lubricated parts. Improper handling and storage can introduce contaminants to the lubricant before it ever reaches the equipment. The lube room itself may be the source of such problems. A variety of tools and techniques are available to mitigate this issue, and continuing education is required to stay on top of the options.

Build and maintain expertise

Those responsible for lube room decisions first need a solid background in the latest tools and best practices. Regular lubrication training and certification is the best way to stay current on lubricant reliability and contamination control topics. Companies such as Lubrication Engineers offer public and private training options.

“Personnel responsible for the lubrication of plant assets need a basic understanding of the detrimental effect dirty oil can have on the operating life of those assets,” says Paul Llewellyn, asset reliability education manager at Lubrication Engineers. “Often times, the imminent failure of an asset starts in the same area where the so-called new oil is kept. Build a reliable lube room, and you will increase the life and performance of the lubricant and equipment exponentially.”

Advanced Machine Reliability Resources Inc. (AMRRI) offers certification and reliability-focused instruction in classroom settings, self-paced online courses, and live web-based training. “There is a strong trend toward improving the protection of stored lubricants and the cleanliness of lubricants during the handling and application process. It reflects the growing awareness of what machine owners need to do to protect the productive capacity of their machines,” says Mike Johnson, president of AMRRI.

“Manufacturers are getting better at understanding the degrees of lubricant contamination and how it impacts them negatively and (are) moving toward prefiltering and proper storage of lubricants to avoid corrupting the new lubricant from the point in time that it’s delivered, through when it goes into the machine,” adds Johnson.

Implement the right tools

Integrated storage systems facilitate the storage and dispensing of clean and dry oil. The Polytank Lubricant Storage System (POD) from Lubrigard takes a multipronged approach. PODs use desiccant breathers to protect oil tanks from particulates and moisture in the surrounding air, and also provide filtration during storage.

“Oils are filtered at the transfer, oils in the tanks are then circulated and filtered, and oils are also filtered at the dispensing stage of operation,” says Paul Dumont, vice president at Lubrigard. The POD is also designed to fit in tight spaces. Customers are able to reduce the amount of floor space needed to store oils thanks to the stackability of the tank system layout.

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Properly labeled tanks and taps ensure accurate fluid identification and handling, while quick connects, auto shutoff taps, spill pallets and drip trays help to prevent and contain spills in the lube room. Whitmore’s OilSafe lubrication management systems incorporate such features.

“The color-coded OilSafe Systems significantly reduce cross-contamination of fluids,” says Steve Anderson, product development director at Whitmore. “OilSafe’s newest line of flat face, colorized quick connects eliminate cross-contamination with dedicated color-to-color connects, while maintaining workplace safety with virtually zero leakage.” 

“Fluid storage and dispensing used to be a messy and costly business,” says Larry King, director of fluid handling system product development at The IFH Group (IFH). “IFH’s centralized lubrication handling and dispensing system streamlines lube room operations. It’s easier, safer, cleaner, and more cost efficient than traditional 55-gallon drum storage methods.”

IFH’s standard or custom steel lube carts have high load bearing wheels to maneuver heavy oil cans, filters, and tools where needed. Customized carts are designed to the user’s exact needs, whether the customer requires specialized casters, grease storage, safety beacons, or other features. The lubrication pallets can be designed for lifting onto a trailer or truck bed or mounting on a drivable cart.

Sight glasses allow for visual inspection of fluid levels and quality. The newest design of the 3-D BullsEye sight glass from Des-Case provides 360° viewing and is made of a high-performance transparent polyamide. It exceeds strength requirements without sacrificing heat resistance, chemical compatibility, and a strong seal under pressure.

“A 3-D BullsEye is like a check engine light in that it provides a quick peek inside equipment from any angle,” says Michelle Arceneaux, senior product manager at Des-Case. “It’s a real advantage with hard-to-reach equipment that can otherwise go neglected.”