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3 Steps to Establish an Effective

Lubrication Program
Noria Corporation
Tags: industrial lubricants
You've taken the course, read the book, passed the exam, bought the T-shirt
. . . now what?
For many, the first stage in establishing an effective oil analysis or lubrication program is attending a
training course to understand what best practice really means. Unfortunately, some leave the
course just as confused as when they started, overburdened by the amount of information to
comprehend, digest and apply in order to become a world-class organization. The phrase foremost
in their minds as they leave the classroom on the final day of training is, Where do we go from
Whats required is an individualized roadmap or blue print for the months and years ahead. A
document that acts as a starting baseline from which current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities
and threats can be assessed, providing a clear direction for short, medium and long-term goals is
called a Lubrication and Oil Analysis Survey.
The Lubrication Management Concept
Many people define a lubrication survey as a complete list of all oil and grease lubricated equipment
with an appropriate product recommendation listed next to each component. While there can be no
doubt that making sure the right product is selected for the right application is critical, there is so
much more to good lubrication than product selection. In the past few years, there has been a
growing trend in establishing lubrication management programs, and these organizations have
been reaping the rewards.
The lubrication management concept takes a holistic approach
to lubrication. In this approach, lubricants are considered not as
consumables to be purchased at the lowest price, but as an
asset to be managed and nurtured. This nurturing process starts
the day the lubricant arrives onsite, and ends the day the oil is
drained from the component and disposed of appropriately. In
doing so, the key areas to consider include:
Lube standards, consolidation and procurement,
Lube storage and handling,
Oil sampling techniques,
Contamination control,
Training, skill development and certification,
Lubricant analysis,

Assessing fluid storage and
handling is a vital component of
an effective lubrication survey.
Lubrication/relubrication standards and best practices,
Program management,
Procedures and guidelines,
Program goals and metrics,
Safety and disposal guidelines and best practices, and
Continuous improvement.
For a lubrication management program to be effective, all of these areas must be assessed, and
improvements made to bring current practices in line with industry best practices if necessary.
The lubrication and oil analysis survey process is an incremental approach to assessing the
strengths and weaknesses of a plant lubrication program and charts a course for ongoing,
sustained improvement.
Step 1: Program Overview and the Spider Diagram
It is difficult to compile an overview of the relative strengths and weaknesses of a lubrication
program without a full understanding of all areas involved in a plant lubrication program. However,
such an overview is a vital first-step in mapping out where short and long-term goals should be
focused. What is required is a means of quantifying each key area, while at the same time,
providing an overview of the lubrication program as a whole.
To achieve these objectives, a spider diagram is used to illustrate such strengths and weaknesses.
The spider diagram, named because of its resemblance to a spiders web, is a multidimensional
analysis tool that offers a visual overview of where strengths and weaknesses lie, with a more
detailed analysis of each problem area outlined in the survey report.

Figure 1. Spider Diagram
During the lubrication survey process, the plant is audited with each key area of lubrication
excellence rated on a scale of 1 to 10. The data is then plotted on a spider diagram as shown in
Figure 1. In this approach, scores ranging from 1 to 4 require immediate improvement, scores
ranging from 4 to 7 represent average conformance to industry best practices, while scores greater
than 7 represent good compliance with industry standards.
Overall, the more complete the spider web, the better adherence to best practices, with blank areas
indicating a need for improvement. The goal for continued improvement should be for the web to
expand each year, with annual audits conducted to measure the effects of continued improvement.
These improvements should continue until all facets of lubrication management score in the 7-and-
above range.
Step 2: Reliability Cost Assessment
While the spider diagram offers a succinct way of evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a
lubrication program in relation to industry best practices, it fails to account for those factors that
have the biggest impact on equipment maintenance costs at the plant level. For example, an
assessment of a plant lubrication management program may indicate a weakness in the area of
lubricant analysis. However, if most failures are a result of inadequate contamination control, it
doesnt make sense to revamp the oil analysis program, without first improving fluid cleanliness
through improved breathers, seals and oil filtration.
While logic may suggest improving all areas of weakness, fiscal restraints including budgets and
manpower issues require a step-wise approach, which focuses on the most common and costly
problems first. This approach is often referred to as the Pareto principle.
To achieve this kind of specificity, it is important to look beyond a simple snapshot of the plant as a
whole, and break the audit process into component and/or production areas and assess historical
failures using a Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Approach (FMECA). The FMECA approach
assesses each component or group of components and provides a breakdown of which factors are
the most important areas to target in order to improve reliability and hence reduce overall
maintenance cost.
In conjunction with this FMECA approach, an analysis of the financial implications of poor
equipment reliability for each component type should be made, including raw repair costs, as well
as other factors including lost production costs. An example of this type of analysis is shown
in Table 1. Based on the data inTable 1, initial resources should be focused on reducing moisture
contamination in the gearboxes in area 2. Even though these gearboxes have the lowest failure
cost per event, their relatively high failure rate means that the most effective cost reduction strategy
is to control moisture levels in these gearboxes.
Reliability cost assessment is a critical part of the whole survey process because it allows
recommended improvements to be prioritized based on their effect on equipment maintenance
Step 3: Oil Analysis Program Design
Oil analysis plays a vital role in lubrication management. While it is true that oil analysis is important
in providing early warning signs of impending failures, its role in a comprehensive lubrication
management program is far more broad reaching and significant. For example, the lubrication
survey may indicate the need for improved contamination control. But how are problems identified?
How are corrective measures to improve fluid cleanliness monitored? The answer is regular, routine
oil analysis, whether performed onsite, offsite or a combination of both.
Setting-up oil analysis Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) is an excellent place to start. For
example, assessing ISO fluid cleanliness, either as a plant-wide composite score, or more
frequently based on component type allows a measure of current levels of fluid cleanliness and
annual improvements to be gauged. The goal is to reduce the KPI, in this case the composite ISO
fluid cleanliness rating, on an annual basis until no further improvements can be made. Other oil
analysis KPIs include:
Composite moisture levels,
The number of exception samples which show high wear rates, and
The conformance of samples results to new oil specifications.
In addition to oil analysis KPIs, data from other condition-monitoring technologies such as vibration
analysis, thermography and ultrasonics can be used for a multifaceted, multidimensional feedback
mechanism. In this scenario, oil analysis and other condition-monitoring tools are simply yardsticks
by which lubrication management success or failure is
If oil analysis is to be used as a metric for lubrication
management, it is important that the lubricant analysis
program is designed with this goal in mind. As such, the
initial lubrication audit should review each critical
component and provide feedback on the key areas of
concern. These include:
Sample point location,
Sampling hardware,
Sampling procedures,
Sampling frequency,
Oil analysis test slate selection, and
Setting appropriate alarms and limits.
Although this approach may appear a daunting proposition, it is a vital step to ensuring
improvements in other areas of lubrication management can be assessed and evaluated on an
ongoing basis.
Having taught courses on oil analysis and lubrication management best practices for a number of
years, it always amazes me the relative proportion of course participants who leave the classroom
with big plans to revitalize an ailing lubrication program to those who, one to two years down the
road, have actually made significant changes.

Sample point location is an important
consideration when implementing an oil
analysis program.
While many realize that improvements in areas such as lube storage, contamination control and oil
analysis can significantly improve equipment reliability and help overall maintenance costs, they
lack focus simply because defining a starting point is difficult. It is also slowed by the daunting tasks
necessary for improvement, which are perceived as impossible. However, the simple task of
conducting a comprehensive lubrication survey may be all it takes to get an organization on the
path of lubrication excellence, and will provide a roadmap for continued success.
Further Reading
Troyer, D. (1999). Reliability-Centered Maintenance and Its Meaning to the Oil Analysis
Professional. Practicing Oil Analysis magazine, January - February.