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Tips to achieve lubrication excellence

The world of lubricants is always. Machinery is becoming more advanced and lubricants are changing to meet the new challenges. Keeping abreast of these changes is just one of the tactics that will set you on the path to lubrication excellence.

By Shell on Mar 23, 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. Scott Kwas, Gary Roberts, Siva Kasturi, Greg Paluska, Praveen Nagpal, Robert Profilet and Raghavendran Madhavarao explain all you need to know to achieve lubrication excellence.

Tip 1. Implement training

65% of customers told Shell they didn’t have enough training in general or liquids training specifically to be able to understand lubricant specifications. Injection moulding will adopt different technologies and different pumps which, in turn, need different specifications of lubricant. Engage with suppliers to create a continuous learning and education framework.

Tip 2. Hire lubrication specialists

Having someone dedicated to understanding and implementing lubrication strategy in a plant is essential. If no-one owns the area, standards slip. Someone needs to be a reserve of information and ideally this should be permanent and internal to the organisation. This is important to understanding ever-changing lubricant regulation as industries move forward.

Tip 3. Establish internal lines of communication

Companies can be very siloed with finance and procurement operating in isolation from engineering and innovation. As a result, there isn’t much understanding of the bigger picture and how some purchasing decisions can affect the success of a project and bring down TCO. Bring departments together regularly so everyone understands the common goal – as well as the shared challenges.

Tip 4. Schedule auditing

Regular monitoring as a part of one or more people’s role is vital but regular auditing of site health and processes is also critical to achieving lubricant excellence. This helps identify issues that have been missed or have grown so incrementally as to not be noticed on a day-to-day level. Predictive maintenance can help sort any issues before they surface and prevent machine downtime. Assessments involving external suppliers such as Shell and manufacturers also brings industry expertise to the table, allowing for quick resolutions and additional education.

Tip 5. Learn through data

Being able to analyse data shown from a range of monitoring and site assessments helps organisations identify patterns, particularly if data is collected from more than one site. Data is essential as a preventative action tool and learnings from issues on one site or equipment set can be used to improve the operation as a whole.

Tip 6. Break habits

Having gone through a process of developing a monitoring and management strategy, it is easy to leave it how it is. But equipment and lubricants continue to evolve and will need the way customers approach them to change. Adopt a process of constant review to make sure that your procedures are still relevant and you always achieve lubrication excellence.

Tip 7. Use tools

Involving dedicated tools such as LubeAnalyst gives you a much more detailed view of what’s going in your machines. Investigate the peripheral products and services available from your suppliers to make sure you’re getting the most out of your relationship as well as keeping on top of performance.

Tip 8. Engage with suppliers

Don’t just rely on buying in technology or scheduled site assessments. Shell invest heavily in understanding innovations and challenges in the lubricants space, as well as partnering with manufacturers to make sure products are compatible and moving forward at the same pace. If there are questions over your product suite’s compatibility or unexpected issues from new equipment, involving sector experts will invariably find a solution.

Tip 9. Adopt sensor technology

It is impractical and in many cases physically impossible to manually inspect wind turbines or underground pumps regularly or in great detail. Innovations in Internet of Things (IoT) technology allow the use of sensors to anticipate wear and tear, residue build up and many other issues that will eventually shrink operational performance. In addition, sensors are able to report in much more detail to user-friendly dashboards, allowing for ease of interpretation and rapid response.

Tip 10. Design a lubricants-friendly factory

Multiple transportations, poor lubricant storage locations, inefficient workflows – designing a lubricant-friendly site, taking into account secure, clean storage and well-appointed handling stations eliminates many of the simplest but most frequent causes of machine downtime and lubricant underperformance.

Tip 11. Take a holistic view of your equipment

In the past, lubricants have been viewed as disposable elements of the industrial process that are necessary but low-interest. Increasingly, their importance in the overall smooth running of machinery is being understood. There can be a tendency to view equipment and processes as a collection of parts, rather than each being part of a whole. Organisations need to have an end to end understanding of the impact of both machinery and lubricants to gain optimal performance and lubrication excellence.

Tip 12. Take a holistic view of financial operations

Typically, lubricants make up about 3% of an operator’s overall maintenance budget. But that 3% can have a huge knock-on effect down the line. Economy oils may mean lower initial outlay but a higher number of oil changes and unplanned stoppages, which can pile losses on top. Premium oils are designed to extend lubricant lifetime as well as minimise unplanned stoppages. Further advances mean premium lubricants can also reduce the frequency of planned maintenance through lower overall wear and tear. Total cost of ownership is an important metric when comparing lubricant suitability.

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