The importance of lubrication

- Last updated on GMT

A report from Dow Corning claims that billions of euros are lost
each year because of unnecessary repair work which has to be
carried out on processing equipment that has not been sufficiently
lubricated.

A report from Dow Corning claims that billions of euros are lost each year because of unnecessary repair work which has to be carried out on processing equipment that has not been sufficiently lubricated. The report details a host of measures that food processing companies can take in order to avoid such expense.

Mechanical wear in food and beverage factories due to surface degradation including mechanical wear and fatigue - a high percentage of which is due to lubricant degradation and problems associated with related maintenance. The food industry is especially vulnerable. Given the wet nature of much of the manufacturing process, the constant need for wash downs, and the dramatic temperature variations from freezers to ovens, the food industry must pay particular attention to the lubricants they use and the suppliers they choose to employ, the report says.The wrong lubricant, or the correct lubricant applied in the wrong manner, can halt plant operations. With so much at stake, making sure that the right lubricant is used at the right time is critical.

Total lubrication management

To recapture money lost through their own maintenance efforts, the report highlights how many companies are beginning to turn to outside consultants to implement Total Lubrication Management programmes. Consolidating lubricant purchases into a single, integrated program can enhance productivity by making it easier to automate preventive maintenance routines, increase the efficiency of inventory management, and use a local product supply to reduce on-site inventory costs.

While Total Lubrication Management is a seemingly simple concept, success almost always depends on finding the right single source of lubrication products and services to meet complex needs.

Complete product line

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. Food-grade lubricants must perform the same technical functions as any other lubricant such as protection against wear, friction, corrosion and oxidation, as well as comply with food/health and safety regulations.

Maintenance professionals will also want to ensure the product line includes lubricants suited for extreme temperatures, especially fluids that will not degrade due to emulsification with water. Fluids for high-volume applications include hydraulic, compressor and vacuum pump, gearbox and chain, and multipurpose oils. Specialised 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.

Knowledge of equipment and applications

Effective lubricant consolidation demands technical support from local representatives who know the right lubricants to use at the right time. Their expertise helps maintenance professionals avoid mistakes in lubricant selection and application that can shorten equipment life and stop production. For example, with newer base oil and additive technology, H-1/food grade lubricants perform better than conventional, non-food grade products at competitive price level.

An experienced Lubrication Manager will be able to determine in which application a food grade lubricant should be selected and which strategies are basically used to introduce food grade lubricants in food processing plants and whether you need to switch the entire facility to H1 lubes, just in specific risk areas or zones within the plant, or on a machine-by-machine basis.

Oil analysis

Integrated oil analysis/monitoring provides important criteria that help determine when oil drain intervals can be extended, and prevents wasteful early change outs. At the same time, superior-performing lubricants of the highest quality can pay for themselves in many instances through extended drain intervals and longer life for plant machinery and equipment. Less product use and less maintenance time means less cost, the report stresses.

To gauge the condition of industrial lubricants in service, an integrated oil analysis program is essential to compare each lubricant with its own performance benchmarks. Effective analysis tracks multiple critical wear-related characteristics of oil in service by comparing the results with previous reports, and notes the trends. As an essential part of a lubricant consolidation program, oil analysis helps identify contamination, lubricant degradation, and abnormal machine wear. Industry-accepted tests reveal the presence of metal particles, water, and other contaminants.

Lubrication management software

The report also highlights how dedicated lubrication management software is a powerful tool to schedule, supervise, and record a consolidated lubrication programme. It exploits and complements oil analysis by collecting trend data and developing responsive lubrication schedules. By enabling maintenance managers and workers to schedule and record lubrication changes for specific equipment, lubrication software automates the lubrication management function.

A typical large plant, for example, requires maintenance managers to track a complex schedule of lubricants and applications. While general maintenance software cannot manage complex lubrication programs, dedicated lubrication management software can help reduce lubrication errors by automatically generating information that coordinate daily maintenance routines in the most efficient manner possible. The software also identifies opportunities to more efficiently schedule lubricant orders and reduce inventory.

Cut cost, extend equipment life

In a complex food manufacturing operation, commodity lubricants bought from many suppliers are easy to take for granted. This, the report stresses, 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. However, the selected vendor must offer a complete solution in the form of a full line of lubricants and fluids backed by local distribution and technical support.

The package should include detailed oil analysis services and lubrication management software to track lubricant scheduling. The key difference between a full-service lubricant supplier as a partner rather than a vendor is the ability of a locally supported total lubrication program that enables maintenance managers to cut lubricating costs and extend the lives of costly equipment.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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