Lubrication advancements keep plants running

March 6, 2012
Sheila Kennedy explains how training, testing and formulations continue to improve.

Choosing the right blend of lubrication training, testing, business processes, and formulations can help keep your machines and components healthy and running smoothly.


“The training and development of lubrication skills is the hottest thing out there right now, and I believe it will be with us for a long time in the future,” says Bill Lyons, maintenance optimization manager at Holcim U.S. (, a cement and mineral-component manufacturer headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

During the past few years, many lubrication improvement projects were launched in most of Holcim’s 12 manufacturing plants, from storage and handling to regreasing bearings using ultrasonic measuring tools, explains Lyons. “I see our plants moving further with in-house oil analysis, helping to move us to a more proactive approach to better understanding the lubrication condition,” he says.

Lyons believes that increasing skill levels and using new technology has a great effect on costs. “I looked at our bearing spend five years ago, and the amount seemed very high to me,” he says. “Recently, I ran the same report, and I now see our bearing spend has dropped more than 50% since the previous report.”

Organizations like the International Council for Machinery Lubrication ( offer certification programs for lubrication technicians and oil analysts.

Lab testing approaches

Independent oil analysis laboratories must adapt to evolving customer requirements and technology continually. Insight Services ( routinely keeps its technicians and analysts abreast of changing base stocks and additive packages, and it’s actively improving its testing and reporting capabilities.

“We’re currently working on two changes to oil analysis testing in our laboratory — varnish analysis and filter debris analysis,” says David Kirkwood, business development manager for Insight Services. “Varnish analysis improvements include changes that will allow us to categorize the type of varnish, the make-up of the soft contaminant, and ultimately pinpoint the origin of the problem. Also, Insight will be able to use filter debris analysis to capture the organics that make up the varnish for closer examination.”

Reliability-focused practices

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Lubrication process improvement providers use existing products to get better results. “Manufacturers are becoming wise to the value that machine lube processes can deliver,” says Mike Johnson, principal consultant for Advanced Machine Reliability Resources. “Regardless of the lubricant product used, approximately 80% of the potential for cost reduction and plant performance improvement is in reliability-centered lubrication practices.”

Johnson developed an analysis tool called LubeCoach, a grease interval and volume calculator. It aids in selecting or correcting lube types, application volume, and frequency, and in solving process problems such as overfeed and underfeed. LubeCoach (, available in multiple bearing application formats, is presently spreadsheet-based but will soon be offered in a Web-based format.

Advanced ester chemistry

Polyol ester (POE) fluid developments have resulted in new industrial lubricant products. “POEs are fantastic long-range solutions for air compressor lubrication. With fluid analysis, a customer can realize more than 8,000 hours of fluid life with POEs in air compressors,” says Jim Girard, vice president and chief marketing officer at Lubriplate Lubricants ( Because fluid life is extended, less used oil requires disposal. POE-based fluids also minimize harmful air compressor deposits.

Girard likewise recommends POEs as high-temperature oven chain lubricants because they free and eliminate existing carbon buildup when used on oven chains. Reducing unhealthy volatile organic compounds (VOCs) this way makes the working environment safer and cleaner.

Targeted applications

Lubricant formulations often are designed to meet specific industrial conditions. Summit’s SumTech FGCO calcium oleate grease was designed specifically for the food service, beverage, and food processing industries. Among its properties are excellent water washout, higher weld load, and lower wear scar.

“Calcium-oleate-thickened synthetic lubricating grease is a high-performance alternative to calcium sulfonate grease,” says Ike Trexler, food and beverage industry market manager for Summit Industrial Products ( “This biofriendly grease thickener system is more robust and shear resistant with better low-temperature mobility.”

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The Hydroguard hybrid breather from Des-Case ( increases lubricant reliability in low-flow applications by preventing contamination. Suitable for multiple industries, the product uses check valves and an expansion chamber to prevent moisture ingress. It breathes when pressured to do so, and then the air is cleaned and dried before it enters the system.

“The Hydroguard hybrid breather is designed with interior check valves to ensure system pressurization and to help protect system integrity, making the breather an ideal solution for wash-down applications and extremely harsh environments,” says Tara Ohning, Des-Case product manager.