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10 Ways to reduce machine downtime

In this series of Spotlight on Shell Lubricants Experts, we reveal the skills and insights they share with our customers to help them get the most from Shell’s market-leading range of lubricants.

By Shell on May 18, 2020

These top tips are brought to you as part of our Spotlight on Shell Experts series. Seven specialists from Shell's Lubricants division were on hand to deliver their tips and tricks. From Scott Kwas, Gary Roberts, Siva Kasturi, Greg Paluska, Praveen Nagpal, Robert Profilet and Raghavendran Madhavarao, here is what you need to know on reducing machine downtime.

1. Storage

Good storage practice is critical for reducing downtime. Dirt, water and heat are all lubricant enemies. Keeping containers horizontal, indoors and at the right temperature are the three key elements of proper storage.

2. Right product

Not every oil is compatible with every piece of machinery. Seek advice from lubricant experts at Shell and equipment manufacturers to understand your machinery’s specifications and which type of oil is most compatible to keep machine downtime to a minimum.

3. Regular monitoring

Unplanned stoppages are rarely immediate. Instead, they are the result of a number of factors coming together and reaching a point of no return. Regular monitoring or even better, predictive maintenance, should pick up wear and tear or loose seals that currently don’t pose a big problem but will ultimately cause a stoppage if left unchecked and cause more downtime for your machine.

4. Site assessments

More formal than regular monitoring, site assessments are carried out often biannually with supplier partners such as Shell’s lubricant experts to assess the health of the whole operation. These assessments can pick up issues such as lubricant storage and handling errors or wrong product applications.

5. Use premium lubricants where possible

Economy formulations do have a purpose but in many cases, premium lubricants do extend the life of machinery as well as reduce the need for invasive machinery maintenance and oil changes – all of which contribute to fewer stoppages, both planned and emergency and ultimately reduce machine downtime.

6. Check other components

How equipment components perform can affect the usefulness of the oil which has a knock-on effect on the expected lifetime of other machine parts or the reliability of the equipment as a whole. Check seals for leakage, bearings for wear and tear and so on to make sure that your lubricant is able to do the job you expect it to do.

7. Keep the area clean

Good storage should mean most dirt and dust is avoided but it’s also important to maintain general standards of cleanliness around oils and machinery as well as in transportation and handling. This helps lubricants avoid contamination with different types of oils, or with water.

8. Avoid contamination

Contamination causes machinery to fail faster than anticipated. Water reduces the oil’s ability to lubricate as well as oxidising it more quickly. A dirty environment is just one source of contamination. Good handling practice such as making sure there are dedicated lines and funnels for each type of oil will stop hydraulic oil mixing with engine oil, for example.

9. Monitor oil pressure and flow rates

Flow rates and oil pressure can have an adverse effect on machine components if either too fast or too slow. Continuous monitoring of both is essential to avoid a spontaneous failure.

10. Oil sampling and analysis

Not all of the elements above are immediately obvious to the naked eye Sometimes impending machine failures are down to subtle changes in the oil over time. A regular process of oil sampling and analysis to check its health will pick up these subtle changes or find patterns that allow engineers to make the necessary changes or investigations and prevent machine downtime where possible.

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