To enhance productivity by automating preventive maintenance routines, increasing the efficiency of inventory management and reducing on-site inventory costs, many companies are consolidating their lubricant purchases into a single, integrated program. Properly evaluating suppliers will determine the success of such a program.
“Because lubrication management plays an important role in reducing costs and improving productivity, success almost always depends on finding the right single source of lubrication products and services to meet complex needs,” says Phil Grellier, global solutions development manager for Dow Corning Molykote lubricants.
Grellier recommends asking the following questions when developing a lubrication management program:
- Does the supplier offer a comprehensive range of products? The suppliers best equipped to meet requirements for diverse lubricating solutions offer a complete line of industrial lubricants, not just a “wide range” of products. Fluids for high-volume applications include hydraulic, compressor and vacuum pump, gearbox and chain, and multi-purpose oils. Specialized industrial compounds such as greases, pastes, anti-friction coatings and dispersions must be added to the mix. In addition, a wide range of base stocks is essential. Synthetics provide excellent resistance to emulsification and last longer to extend maintenance intervals. Ultra-high-purity mineral oils also resist emulsification and promote improved additive performance, which results in longer life than conventional mineral oils. The full-line supplier must also be able to draw on functional additive technologies including anti-oxidant, anti-wear and extreme temperature additives.
- Does the supplier know how often your lubricant should be changed? Knowing when to change your industrial lubricants is one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining an efficient, cost-effective and safe plant. If you’re unsure of when to change your lubricant, you may be wasting money by changing too frequently, or risking damage to equipment because of infrequent changes. The best lubricant suppliers will ensure that you and your staff are prepared to make well-informed decisions about when to change your lubricant. You should expect your lubricant supplier to offer a thorough analysis program that tracks multiple critical wear-related characteristics of oil in service by comparing the results with previous reports and notes the trends. It is also important to know how to take a representative sample and how to interpret the results which come back. Such a program helps identify contamination, lubricant degradation, abnormal machine wear.
- Is the supplier recommending the right lubricant? When evaluating lubricant suppliers, look for product line that meets the requirements of every plant need. These offerings should be supported by local product supply and expert technical assistance that can help maintenance professionals avoid mistakes in lubricant selection and application that can shorten equipment life and stop production. For example, high temperatures in air compressors accelerate reactions between compressed oxygen and impurities, resulting in rapid oxidation and a sudden increase in viscosity and lubricant failure. Mineral oils in air compressors generally last only 1,000 hours. By comparison, a synthetic compressor oil specially formulated for air compressors can last approximately 12 times as long. The knowledgeable consolidated lubricant supplier understands such applications. Make sure your supplier evaluates the material application and not just the currently used product, which may no longer be the optimum type or family of lubricants for your exact requirements.
“In a complex manufacturing operation, commodity lubricants bought from many suppliers are easy to take for granted,” Grellier says. “This is a mistake that can compromise productivity and profitability. The consolidation of lubricant purchasing with the right supplier can help manage and enhance a key maintenance function.”