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5 Common Lubrication Problems and How to Fix Them (Part 1)

Jennie McRae - Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Happy #HowToTuesday, everyone!

Today, we are excited to feature half of an article by Machinery Lubrication on the Blog. (The second half to come in a week!) This article deals with the most common lubrication issues Wes Cash sees on visits to power plants, food-processing plants, refineries, and manufacturing facilities. As a Shell Distributor with two Nationally Certified DFLT-S Account Managers, our team has seen many of these problems, too!

The following is not only a list of the most common industrial lubrication problems, but also gives advice on how these issues can be resolved.

1. Lack of Procedures

Great lubrication problems are only as good as the people who do the work, just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In many of my most recent projects, the retirement of technicians has been the problem of greatest concern. As Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age and subsequently retiring, they are taking with them a great deal of personal experience and knowledge of how they do their jobs. For some plants, the lube-tech position may have been held by a single person for decades. These professionals are the masters of their domains and know every sight, sound, and smell of their machines. It is imperative to pass down this type of dedication and understanding to the next generation of professionals. Unfortunately, all of this knowledge usually is not passed down. This results in problems and steep learning curve.

The Fix?

Documented procedures can lessen the blow and help new personnel understand the proper way a task should be performed. While countless articles and books have been published on the best way to write procedures, once written, the procedures must be implemented for their full effect to be realized. Thorough documentation of every task performed in the lubrication program offers the best method for creating procedures. You want to write a procedure not only for the application of lubricants but also for how lubricants are handled in storage, decontaminated upon arrival and even disposed of after use.

 Improper Sampling Points and Hardware

If used correctly, oil analysis can be an extremely valuable tool. It allows you to monitor not only the health of the oil, but also the health of the machine, as well as catch failures before they become catastrophic. In order to obtain all the benefits of oil analysis, you first must have the correct sample points and hardware. Many plants regard oil sampling as a secondary function and simply take samples from a drain port of with the inconsistent drop-tube method. When sampling from drain ports, you may obtain a sample that is full of historic data (e.g., layers of sediment and sludge). Wear debris trends can also be hard to establish, as these samples often contain a high concentration of contaminants.

In addition to being inconsistent, drop-tube sampling frequently requires the machine to be taken out of service. This can result in particles settling at the bottom of the sump, which may prevent a good, relative sample from being taken from the system.

Proper sampling ports can be achieved by modifying the machine. This will allow good samples to be taken consistently from "live" zones or areas inside the system where oil is experiencing turbulent flow.

The remedy?

All machines to be included in the oil analysis program should be evaluated for the proper sampling hardware. Splash-bathed components such as bearings and gearboxes can be equipped with minimess sampling valves with pilot tube extensions. These extenders can be bent up into the "live" zone next to the bearing or gear teeth.

Circulating systems should be examined for the best possible sampling points as well. These systems typically require several points.

A primary point is where routine samples are drawn from to provide a snapshot of the entire system. The best place for a primary sample is on the main return-line manifold, before any return-line filters and in an area of turbulent flow (most often an elbow).

Secondary points should be installed in the oil return line after each lubricated component. Secondary points allow you to pinpoint problems in the system after an alarm has been triggered by the primary point.

In conjunction with sampling hardware installation, all technicians should be trained in the proper way to pull samples. All sample tubing should be flushed with five to 10 times the volume introduced into the sample during the entire process.

(Central Oil provides oil analysis and sampling as a service to our customers.) Please stay tuned to the blog for Part 2, which will be coming in a week! If you have any questions about oil analysis, please do not hesitate to contact an account manager at 318-388-2602.



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