Lubrication best practices: Store it safely, handle it right

You can’t have a top-tier lubrication maintenance program without locking down these basics.

By Chris Kniestedt, Motion Industries

In the 1970s, FRAM Oil Filters developed a television commercial that popularized the phrase, “You can pay me now or pay me later.”

The words of wisdom have stood the test of time and still ring true today. The development of a top-tier lubrication program is no exception to this cautionary phrase, and implementing effective preventive maintenance strategies as quickly and as early as possible will save a company time and money over the short and long term. Alternatively, reactive, last-minute lubrication maintenance will create an array of ongoing, unnecessary, expensive issues that could have easily been prevented with proper planning.

With this said, the development of a foolproof lubrication program begins by creating and implementing effective storage and handling solutions for your aerosols, greases, and bulk fluids. Without these in place, lubrication becomes disorganized and unsafe, and it will ultimately cost the company money in wasted product as well as costly downtime for maintenance personnel.

Lubrication must be a priority

Before we delve specifically into storage and handling, let’s discuss the best method and resource for elevating and properly recognizing the importance of lubrication. Because of cost-cutting measures, downsizing or just a simple lack of understanding, many companies don’t take lubrication seriously – meaning that no one at the facility is designated to spearhead and implement a full-fledged, all-encompassing lubrication program within the preventive maintenance sphere. It is rarely done on purpose, but many companies simply don’t consider lubrication an important part of daily maintenance activities.

Arguably, though, it can be one of the most critical facets of developing and maintaining a trouble-free preventive maintenance platform. One of the most effective and best ways to manage your lubrication is to assign a single point of contact and leader to focus on organizing and bringing together all of the critical elements for success.

Leverage your resources

Whenever possible, engage a lubrication specialist from outside the company to offer a third-party voice to provide solutions and a range of effective product options. Some distributors offer an assortment of specialists in addition to their outside sales representatives who can help home in on specific applications, including everything from hoses and rubber to fluid power and lubrication. Lubrication specialists have the experience of troubleshooting a range of issues at different facilities in different industries, so they can offer familiarity and instruction to assist with specific difficulties.

Part of the lubrication specialist’s role is to help a facility and, as applicable, its lubrication leader implement effective storage and handling practices. This begins by designating a few key areas of the facility that will offer centrally located and relatively cool environments for lubricants.

To start, greases and aerosols should be designated and properly organized in regulated, fire-proof cabinets. Numerous companies offer fully certified options for safe storage of aerosols and greases.

The next area of focus is the transportation and handling of aerosols, greases, and oils. All of these products are required for different applications throughout the plant – for everything from oil changes in gearboxes to regreasing bearings as well as general maintenance that is regularly required everywhere. The use of a tool cart is a valuable option to effectively handle these products in an organized, efficient manner.

A designated tool cart (Figure 1) can let maintenance perform regular preventive maintenance tasks smoothly and effectively. Oil containers are a must for this cart; other practical features include dedicated sections for grease and a miniature fire-proof cabinet for safe aerosol handling.

Pay heed to bulk fluid storage

Bulk fluids present different and more-difficult challenges because of their size and weight. These oils can be stored in their original kegs, drums, or totes if the proper safety measures are utilized, including adequate fluid containment in the event that there is a spill or accident. If you choose to store fluids in their original containers, you must also maintain segregation among drum pumps so there is no cross-contamination of fluids. This is especially vital if Food Grade H1 and 3H oils are being used at any type of food processing facility.

If you want to create a truly top-tier handling program, there are some additional ways to take storage to the next level. A full-fledged oil containment station (Figure 2) allows for fluids to remain segregated without the possibility of cross-contamination; it offers an additional filtering option to ensure greater oil cleanliness; and it lets the operator efficiently pump fluid at a rate of 5-6 gpm in a safe environment that features spill containment. In Figure 2, this system offers three containment tanks each capable of holding 120 gallons.

If you’re a manufacturer that prefers to purchase and maintain all of your fluids in totes, a custom tote stand is a feasible option. Such tote stands (Figure 3) allow safe and efficient storage of these large, heavy containers. With a diaphragm pump, you won’t have to rely on gravity to draw your fluid, because the pump will give you 5-6 gpm.

By implementing safe fluid handling, storage and containment practices such as those described here, you’ll see the benefits to your facility of a trouble-free preventive maintenance platform in both the short and long term.

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