Guess what? Lube programs are ‘guess work’
Lubrication is the life blood of a healthy operating rotating machine. This fact was discovered thousands of years ago and employed by the ancient Egyptians in pursuit of greater reliability for their own rotating machinery. E.g. Animal fats applied to wheels of a horse drawn chariot reduced heat and wear on parts!
While lubricants and machinery have evolved from animal fats and cart wheels, what has not changed in all the millennia since then is this: the lack of precise knowledge of quantity and frequency of lubricant application for greatest effectiveness.
Over time through trial and error, we can assume the lube techs and maintenance personnel of ancient Egypt determined the correct time to apply grease/lubricant.
‘That wheel shaft has not been greased for 2 weeks and we travelled through a sand storm yesterday. It’s time to get the animal fat out! But how much should I apply?’
Let’s face it, for a cart wheel, a ‘best guess’ lubrication strategy should probably work fine.
But today in the 21st century, with far more complex rotating machinery, maintenance and lubrication professionals across industry still face the same two critical questions:
‘How much lubricant and when?’
As civilizations have come and gone, greasing programs have still not evolved from the ‘best guess’ approach.
Did I Guess right?
As with our ancient Egyptian forebears, to answer the: ‘How much?’ and ‘When?’ questions, trial and error has led to the conclusions we have made about greasing. From trial and error (testing and research), mathematical formulae have been developed based on; bearing capacity, operational load, rotational speed and operating environment. However, experts agree that this formula is still only the ‘best guess’ regarding grease quantity and frequency of application.
And from this guess work, most industry lubrication programs are based on the calendar.
While calendar based lubrication programs assume that ‘someone’ ‘somewhere’ applied the mathematical formulae to determine the grease quantity and interval, what math can never account for is constant variations in:
- Operating hours
- Environment (dust, water, sand etc…)
These variables are critical in the determination of both grease quantity and interval between interventions.
So, we can confidently state: Even the most well thought out lubrication programs running on a calendar basis are ‘best guess’ and not ‘best practice’.
Given that poor lubrication practice (especially over greasing and under greasing), has a significant negative effect on the life cycle of bearings, the question needs to be asked:
Are you happy to leave the healthy operation of your critical assets to guesswork?
Did you answer NO?
‘Know’ when to grease, not ‘Guess’ when to grease.
Do you want to ‘know’ when to grease or when not to grease? Do you want to ‘know’ the impact lubricants are having on your precious assets? If yes, then you will need to lubricate with the assistance of Ultrasound technology.
The key to understanding how ultrasound assists with lubrication is this: Friction causes Ultrasound.
- Perfect Lubrication (‘sweet spot’) = Lowerfriction = Less Ultrasound = Happy bearing
- Imperfect Lubrication (under or over greased) = Higher Friction = Higher Ultrasound = Unhappy bearing… ☹
So, given the above information, the premise for the successful lubrication interventions should be this:
Lubricate bearings based on condition/evidence, not on the calendar.
With an SDT ultrasound assisted lubrication strategy, lubrication programs can evolve from ‘best guess’ to ‘best practice’.
With SDT hardware in the hands of a lubrication technician, a source of reliable information (knowledge) as to the friction condition of ANY bearing becomes available. With the knowledge an SDT instrument provides, calendar based programs evolve to become condition based programs.
With the help of Ultrasound, maintenance has the power to change lubrication culture from:
“Hey, it’s 3 months since the last lubrication intervention, therefore my best guess is, it must be time to put 20g of grease into the bearing.”
“Hey, it’s 3 months since the last lubrication intervention, therefore it must be time to use my SDT Ultrasound technology to help me determine how much grease to put in the bearing.”
‘I Guess all Ultrasound Lubrication instruments are created equal…?’
‘Best practice’ lubrication is only possible with high quality ultrasound inspection instrumentation.
SDT instruments empower operators to confidently say, “when I attached the Ultrasound contact sensor, the screen read ‘X’dB. When I finished greasing the screen now reads ‘Y’dB.”
This is quantifiable data and can be included in reports as evidence given for reasonable action.
The point of the above is this:
- Numerical data is criticalwhen asking lubrication technicians to grease bearings using technology.
Without credible data, what exactly would we be asking the lubrication techs to do with technology? They can listen but how do they report? ‘Grease the bearing until it gets quieter’. This methodology doesn’t work as ‘louder’ or ‘quieter’ is qualitative and is completely open to interpretation. You might as well just go back to the original guess work!
As already mentioned, with an SDT Ultrasound solution, current lubrication strategies can transform into ‘best practice’. By applying the use of the technology, an SDT customer claims the reduction of grease consumption by up to 95%! At the same time, by all measures at their disposal, reliability and plant availability is at an all-time high.
Evolve from ‘Guessing’ to KNOWING!
With the constant development of technology, the way industry lubricates bearings is evolving. Given that evolution simply means ‘change’, then it is time to change.
When it comes to lubrication practices we can now change from:
We can change from:
- ‘apply 20grams because it’s Tuesday’,
- ‘it’s Tuesday so I’ll check my Ultrasound data to see if I need to apply 20 grams’.
As with a whole bunch Isralites a few thousand years ago, its time to leave ancient Egyptian practices behind and evolve our practice to survive in a rapidly changing world.
Things evolve. Things change. We are no longer greasing Egyptian chariot wheels. Get on board or risk being the victim of natural selection as the rest of the world changes around you.
Give your team confidence. Give them the opportunity to perform best practice maintenance. Give them a reliable Ultrasound instrument from SDT!
If you would like to learn more about the technology and real success stories, call GVS Reliability Products today.