Lubrication is an essential part of machinery maintenance for nearly every production facility. On average, lubricant purchases amount to only 3 percent of a maintenance budget, but lubrication related activities can influence an estimated 40 percent of total maintenance costs.
In order to achieve optimum reliability and maximum benefits from a lubrication Programme, several factors need to be taken into account. These factors are summarised by the well known ‘five R’s’ of lubrication:
- The right lubricant
- In the right quantity
- At the right time
- At the right point
- With the right method
The starting point of an effective lubrication programme is the detailed mapping of all machine lubrication points–their working conditions, lubrication requirements and criticality. This information is needed to select the most suitable lubricant, quantity of lubricant needed and to calculate the adequate re-lubrication intervals. These are the first three ‘Rs’ of lubrication.
The fourth ‘R’ refers to best practices – tagging, colour coding (or other methodology) of both lubrication points and tools in order to avoid cross contamination. The fifth ‘R’ can be defined once the application conditions, asset criticality and maintenance strategy are analysed. This will help make the decision on whether to lubricate manually or use automatic lubrication. In order to make that decision, the pros and cons of automatic lubrication should also be understood and considered. Once the five ‘Rs’ are defined, the outcome will provide an answer to the key Question: “What is the best we can do to lubricate this component in the best way with the resources available?”
Factors affecting the fifth ‘R’
Criticality Analysis A thorough criticality analysis of each asset illustrates the impact of a failure in terms of:
- Overall production cost
- Overall maintenance cost
- Environmental impact
- Health and safety of personnel
The most critical assets are commonly the first targets of automatic lubrication.