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September 2004

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Lubrication Institute

The Value of Lubricants and Lubrication Knowledge and Skills

By: John H. Marino
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For me it is fascinating that in this highly competitive global marketplace, so many American companies lack the lubricants and lubrication knowledge or skills needed to protect, let alone achieve, the greatest return on their production machinery. And, at the same time when data and information management is used so effectively in other areas of a company, the lack of a finely tuned lubrication management program is simply a missed opportunity. For one company it was an opportunity to save 62% of their lubrication costs, but for most companies they have no idea of the magnitude of the potential savings or how to achieve them.

A cost effective lubrication program requires a definite strategy for the purchase and application of lubricants�and that requires knowledge of lubricants and knowledge of the lubrication requirements of your machines, as well as technical and performance characteristics of individual lubricants.

The following six elements are important in an effective lubrication program:

Trained lubrication personnel - The key to success is getting the right amount of the right lubricant in the right place at the right time�and past practices may not be effective for current performance requirements. Ask questions and find out the correct answers - it is the process of continuous improvement. Assign the overall responsibility for lubrication to one person to insure proper and timely lubrication and minimize the use of the wrong lubricant. Also, investigate all mechanical failures to determine if lubrication was a factor. A thorough investigation could identify improper installation, a poor quality part, and lack of lubricant or lubricant contamination.

Accurate, detailed and current lubricant specifications - History is full of the miss-application of lubricants, some of which started when the machine was first installed. The only way to be sure is to evaluate machine-by-machine�and then update the specifications when new operating conditions or enhanced lubricant technology offer performance improvements. One of the key areas to check is seal compatibility, particularly when using synthetic or non-petroleum based lubricants.

Group lubricants by application - A common method to start the consolidation process is to group lubricants by application to see if there are any obvious overlaps. Applications often include: lubricating greases, hydraulic fluids, gear oils, open gear lubricants, engine oils and fire-resistant fluids.

Additives - Some lubricant additives are necessary for specific applications, some offer performance improvements, which are not cost-effective, and some have no apparent value other than product marketing. It is important to be aware of additive types and performance to be able to make these determinations.

Cost-effective package selection - Lubricants are available in a wide variety of container sizes and packaging. Review current purchasing practices to determine if they make sense for your company's requirements. Ordering patterns should be reviewed to avoid excessive inventory while taking advantage of quantity discounts or bulk shipments. You might also want to explore "just-in-time" purchase agreements with your lubricant supplier to further reduce inventories and inventory control costs.

Supplier services - there are many parts of an effective lubrication program that can be supported by lubricant suppliers. Technical updates, help in developing lubricant specifications for individual machines, experience in lubricant consolidation, strategic partnerships to become more actively involved in lubricant purchase costs, and technical services such as problem troubleshooting, oil analysis and recycling.

Perhaps the single most important tool in reducing lubricant costs is to have current and detailed lubricant specifications that are broad enough to avoid requiring high cost specialty products yet specific enough to insure proper equipment performance. In fact, often the most effective specifications allow the purchase of multi-purpose lubricants; for example lubricants that can be used in both diesel and gasoline engines, or greases from the same family to avoid problems with incompatibility and misapplication.

These specifications can originate in the corporate engineering group working with the purchasing department. Generalized equipment supplier specifications are a good starting point, however they need not be considered the only choice available, particularly if they specify a lubricant brand name. In addition, including unnecessary specification tests or performance requirements not required by an application, simply reduces the number of vendors available to bid and often significantly increases price. And, since lubricant technology (and sometimes equipment requirements) is constantly evolving, specifications and pricing should be reviewed annually.

Another factor, which can reduce lubricant inventory, is a thorough evaluation of the applications - an important by-product of the specifications writing process. For example, it is counterproductive to purchase a lubricant whose performance maximum is 20,000-psi if the application requires a 35,000-psi performance level.

Often found in industrial and mining applications is a variety of gear boxes, conveyors, engines and hydraulic systems. Consolidation using well-planned lubricant specifications is one of the most important steps towards reducing costs. Multi-viscosity gear oils and engine oils, the correct selection of hydraulic fluids, and determining the proper consistency and viscosity of greases are critical. Reducing the number of lubricants also minimizes the problems of using the wrong lubricants in an application. Getting the most out of a company's lubrication investment is really a team effort. Maintenance people, Operators and Purchasing personnel must communicate effectively with the lubricant supplier. One of our clients has created the following objective:

" The responsibility for establishing on-going training and specifications for material and equipment rests with the department requiring the item to be purchased. The specifications must be prepared in a manner that fosters competitive bidding and must clearly define the necessary performance, service and delivery requirements.":

Fulfilling the growing need of companies who no longer have a lubrication engineer or who know that they need expertise but cant afford it on a full time basis, make it critical to maximize the value of lubricant training.

Recently heard - Two managers who were discussing the dollars involved and the vast amounts of time and energy that must be spent in properly training their employees in how to effectively implement their lubricant and lubrication program. One manager said to the other "What if we spend the dollars involved and put forth all of the time and energy needed to properly train our employees and they decide to leave and work elsewhere?" The second manager admitted that this was a valid point and then wisely responded "What if we don't spend the dollars involved and don't put forth all of the time and energy to properly train our employees and they decide to stay?"

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John H. Marino is President and founder of Lubrication Institute, LLC. He has had 43 plus years experience in the lubricant business and has seen the incredible impact lubrication can have on a company's profit margin. His international firm specializes in lubricants and lubrication training, cost control, troubleshooting, usage & storage of greases and oils, plus offers guidance to individual lubricant needs, such as formulation, manufacturing, equipment design, testing and specialized certification courses, and serves as Expert Witness. He has formulated over 250,000 different types of lubricants.

Marino's knowledge of lubricants dates back to his position as Research Chemist, Plant Manager, Vice President of Research and Development, and President at Southwest Grease and Oil of Kansas City, which was the world's largest independent manufacturer of lubricants. Marino's reputation as an expert on lubricants is known throughout the industry. He is frequently a speaker at corporate and technical meetings and has written numerous articles. His educational lubricant courses have been widely received by many Fortune 500 companies. Lubrication Institute is unique and successful because they have no affiliation with any supplier or manufacturer, which enables them to present a completely unbiased view as an educator and an expert witness.

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