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Raise Your Lubrication Game

May 30, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

Contamination ControlLubricantsLubricationStorage & Handling

Raise Your Lubrication Game

These best practices can help your assets perform at peak efficiency.

For many companies, lubrication is a required maintenance function that is too often considered a necessary evil or underestimated as a simplistic process. A deep, detailed look at your lubrication practices can increase the life of your components and systems, while reducing overall maintenance and lubrication costs. These nine best practices can help you “raise your game” for increased efficiency.

Know your lubrication needs.

Lubrication is critical and often confusing or complicated. Among the many considerations are what lubricant to use, the speed of the application, the daily hours of operation, how much and how often to apply, the operating temperature, how to apply, and the lubricant environment. 

The key is to seek expert advice to determine your lubrication needs. Bearing suppliers can help you choose the lubrication type, amount, and frequency, based on your specific application. Gear suppliers can help determine the oil type, oil level, cleanliness, and flushing needs to maximize component life. OEMs are another source for information on proper lubrication practices. Lubricant suppliers can provide specific data on each lubricant and help select equipment appropriately. A good timesaver is to engage a qualified distributor partner who can help you make these various components work efficiently as a system.

Consolidate your lubricants.

Once you’ve determined lubrication needs, look at consolidating your lubricants. Managing the number of lubricants in your plants will likely reduce your inventory, make bulk discounts possible, reduce waste, and optimize storage space. To help consolidate, classify lubricants by technical specification instead of brand. This will also make it simpler when changing suppliers.

The first step is to compile a list of all lubrication needs for a particular component or machine by brand, then convert the brand to a technical specification. You will usually find duplication. After identifying the duplicated products, choose one item from each category and apply it to all the machines with the corresponding lubrication classification.

Set an ISO cleanliness code goal.

The adage “keep your oil clean and cool to maximize component life” has long been a wise reminder. Contamination from particulates advances component wear, reducing component life or exposing it to catastrophic failure. Oil processed to meet ISO cleanliness codes will extend the component life and increase machine reliability. The first step of contamination control is establishing a goal based on a specific ISO cleanliness code for each machine or system.

The reporting standard used today for fluid cleanliness is ISO 4406:99. This system uses a code number assigned to a specific
particle-count value at three different micron levels in 1 ml of fluid. This method effectively sets system performance indicators but should not be the only oil-analysis data evaluator.

This is an example of a clean and organized lubrication storage room. Investing in larger, color-coded storage tanks for each lubrication type is a good way to ensure fluid cleanliness. Image courtesy Motion

Ensure fluid cleanliness.

Once cleanliness targets are established for each system or piece of equipment, achieve them by putting processes, procedures, and systems in place. Contamination can take three forms: particulate, water, and air.

To reduce contamination levels, consider using single-pass, micro-glass filter elements of a given micron range and a 200 or higher beta rating to meet your ISO code cleanliness level. Water removal can be accomplished with filters or dehydrators. For moisture control, consider using desiccant breathers in reservoir and storage-tank headspace. Air can be removed with vacuum dehydration equipment, but it is better to simply prevent it from entering the system.

Avoid over greasing.

The age-old adage, “If I can see the grease coming out of the bearing, then I know it’s greased properly,” is still heard far too often. Over greasing can cause excessive heat buildup, leading to bearing and seal damage, cleanup issues, added expense, and increased downtime. The extra grease can cause the balls or rollers of the bearing to slide—instead of roll—ultimately pushing the grease out of the way and leaving little lubrication.

The best way to guard against manual over greasing is regularly scheduled bearing re-lubrication, with the frequency calculated by bearing size, speed, environment, and hours of operation. Handheld lubrication devices are available to help technicians control re-lubrication amounts.

Store lubrication properly.

Too often, there is little investment in a well-organized lubrication-storage system. It’s too easy to use your lubrication supplier’s oil or grease drums as the primary storage device. Beware of this trap. Storage drums are typically not clean enough to meet ISO codes. It’s also challenging to control moisture buildup in multiple drums in a storage room.

Invest in larger storage tanks for each lubrication type. Pump lube into them from a drum using a micro-glass filter. For each storage tank, have a dispensing system that uses filters to further control oil cleanliness and desiccant breathers to control moisture buildup in the tank’s headspace.

Using grease pumps in bulk storage drums and pre-filled grease tubes significantly reduces grease contamination when handling or dispensing.

Choose color-coded supplies.

Color-coding storage tanks and hand-dispensing jugs minimizes cross-contamination of lubrication products. The visual system can also be used for drum storage and dispensing devices. Colored tags are readily available in many shapes and sizes that accept stamps or writing.

Add accessories.

Add simple accessories such as desiccant breathers, testing ports, quick disconnects, and level-control devices. Use these in products such as storage containers, gearbox housings, and hydraulic reservoirs.

Consider automated systems.

Implementing automated grease or oil systems into a lubrication plan can pay for the investment in short order. These include:

• providing the proper amount of lubrication when needed
• dispensing lubricant while the asset is in motion (no need for lockout/tagout)
reduced maintenance costs
minimized contamination exposure
reduced waste caused by overlubrication
effective monitoring of lubrication events
reduced energy consumption resulting from optimally lubricated equipment
extended repair and maintenance intervals

Organizations such as AGMA, NFPA, STLE, NLGI are solid sources with white papers that explain lubrication selection and application. Also seek advice from your distributor partner, who has product knowledge across brands. EP

By Scott Smith, Motion Repair & Services

Scott Smith is Division Manager, West Shops, for Motion Repair & Services ( He is a certified fluid-power specialist with more than 35 years of experience in the fluid power and industrial-distribution business, including more than 12 years with Motion, Birmingham, AL (

The post "Raise Your Lubrication Game" appeared first on Efficient Plant


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