That’s why lubrication is vital. Hydraulic fluid transmits power mechanically throughout the hydraulic system and protects moving parts to prolong equipment life. However, not all technical managers are aware of its critical role in operations.

In a survey conducted by Shell Lubricants, over half of respondents didn’t have a clear understanding of how reduced production, equipment availability, or unplanned downtime can be influenced by their choice of lubricant.1

To help injection molders take advantage of this essential tool, we’ve come up with three steps to improving efficiency with better lubricant.

How to Enhance Injection Molding Operations

1. Reassess Lubricant Impact

Today’s injection molding machines face ever-increasing operational challenges from working harder and longer. Typical application challenges include corrosion, contamination, leaks, wear and formation of sludge and varnish, which leads to issues like blocked valves, filters and worn-out pumps.

These failures are often blamed on the equipment rather than the hydraulic fluid, but multiple surveys conducted by hydraulic equipment manufacturers and other industry bodies have shown that 50% to 70% of equipment failures are related to ‘improper hydraulic fluid condition.

It's easy to overlook the importance of hydraulic fluid because it represents less than 2% of the overall operating cost of an injection molding plant. However, the reality is that high-performance lubrication can deliver significant long-term savings for businesses as enhanced equipment protection that mitigates the risk of equipment breakdown and its associated costs.

2. Determine the Best Lube for Your System

Hydraulic systems are expected to deliver peak performance while operating at high pressures and fluctuating temperatures. With such tough demands on lubricants, it pays to opt for product formulations with advanced protection and stability properties. Prioritizing lubrication within a balanced maintenance strategy will help lower the total cost of ownership (TCO), through reduced start-up times, decreased energy consumption, and optimized cycle times. Start-up time is particularly important to productivity because it means the plastic injection molding machine reaches optimal operating conditions more quickly.

While advanced lubrication can often have a premium price point, it is important to take a total cost of ownership approach to purchase, taking into account the long-term savings these investments can help achieve. For example, since SMP, a leading global plastic processing company, switched to Shell Tellus S4 ME at its Neustadt plant in Germany, the company has achieved energy savings of 3.4%, shorter cycle times, and doubled its oil drain interval (ODI) which has resulted in a total annual saving of over $56,1040 USD.

3. Train Staff in Lube Maintenance

Once the right lubricant is selected, companies need to make sure they have processes and practices in place to maximize its benefits. To do this, proper lubrication maintenance is a must. That means staff must be trained to extend oil drain intervals and correctly handle and store oil in the plant. Look to your lubricant supplier for help administering this education with training programs delivered by technical experts who offer practical insights and best-practice techniques.

Keep an eye out for online tools that provide answers on-demand and regional, field-based lubrication engineers who can carry out lubrication surveys, conduct plant assessments, and offer customized lubrication and operations advice to improve efficiency.

While your team trains up, injection molders can also send out oil samples for analysis from an oil condition monitoring service. These services act as an early warning system that allows customers to regularly monitor the condition of their equipment and lubricant.

Hydraulic fluid is the lifeblood of a hydraulic injection molding machine. In addition to transmitting mechanical power, it can also serve to extend the life of the machine, reduce downtime, improve productivity, and repeatable precision. That’s why implementing these three steps could contribute to savings far higher than the cost of the lubricant itself and make a significant difference to your total cost of ownership. To get more injection molding insights sent straight to your inbox, sign up for updates from Shell Polymers.

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1 Unlocking the hidden potential of manufacturing: how lubricants can help increase productivity and reduce total cost of ownership. A study commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, polled 493 decision-makers in the manufacturing industry in eight countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and the US) from November to December 2015 

2 Multiple surveys by industry bodies including additive companies, filter manufacturers, hydraulic equipment manufacturers. One source includes Parker Hannifin GmbH Bulletin: HY30-3248/ UK: Hydraulic Fluids for Parker Axial Piston Pumps Series PV

3 The savings indicated are specific to the calculation date and mentioned site. These calculations may vary from site to site and from time to time, depending on, for example, the application, the operating conditions, the current product being used, the condition of the equipment and maintenance practices.

4 The savings indicated are specific to the calculation date and mentioned site. These calculations may vary from site to site and from time to time, depending on, for example, the application, the operating conditions, the current product being used, the condition of the equipment and maintenance practices.

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