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Oils ain't oils

There used to be a television advertisement where the old hand sagely told the newbie that selecting the right oil was a very important decision. While we agree with the sentiment we think there is a more important point to be made, and that is ...

Of all the service and maintenance tasks that need to be planned, scheduled, managed, completed, recorded and reviewed, the single most important one is lubrication.

Sure, replace air, oil, and fuel filters religiously; ensure nuts are tightened to their certified torques; keep prestart inspections as a high priority on all equipment usage; do all these things and more, but if you do not have thorough, comprehensive, on-time lubrication performed on your machinery you will never get the upper hand over runtime failures, equipment breakdowns and premature wear.

For all the smart people we meet running workshops and service teams, the lack of understanding about the importance of proper lubrication is alarming. Let me say it again so there is no mistake. Lubrication is the number one PM that should be completed on cycle without fail. Lack of proper lubrication is the #1 killer of machinery reliability.

It may be that a machine needs to come into the workshop for its scheduled service but leaving it on the job for those extra 12 hours will get everything else done, but make sure you understand what that decision costs you. It's not a matter of lubing the machine when you can; and it's also not a matter of keeping your services within some 10% margin. Letting lubrication take a back seat to other priorities means two things:

  1. Lube servicing that hits the >10% mark each time will miss a complete service every 10th cycle. That's not a big deal on non-critical gear, but an excavator, pump, B-Double or drill unit that is the backbone of a crew's day will cost you dearly in unscheduled downtime when it hits some trouble that its under-maintained components cannot cope with.
  2. It's surprising how many potential break conditions can be found while lubing. The process of lubrication means your people are becoming intimately involved with the machine or piece of equipment in question. If there is something lurking within the working internals that will fail prematurely chances are good that it may be found before it has a chance to throw a spanner in your works schedule. Skimping on lubrication means your team does not get the chance to get close to those issues before they arise.
If you only improve one portion of your PM load this year (and I hope you aim higher than that), then make it lubrication. A great place to start is to send one of your workshop guys to a course to become certified in lube practices. After all, a certification in lubrication for brand "X" will cover you for 80% of how to lube brand "Y" properly.

After you have lubrication where it belongs in your priorities, right at the top, you can begin to consider what the best brand of oil is to use.

Posted by Mark Chimes
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