History of Lubrication

After thirty years of continuous innovation in computerized maintenance technology, improper lubrication still accounts for more than half of all industrial equipment failures in the world today. In theory, these sophisticated systems are supposed to solve fundamental maintenance problems like lubrication. But in practice, as valuable as these tools are in most aspects of plant maintenance, when it comes to lubrication, they miss the whole point — the lubrication point, that is.

Computerizing lubrication: attempt number one

Thirty years ago, before computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) came along, lubrication-related failure hovered at about fifty-four percent. Lubrication seemed ideally suited for management by CMMS. These systems captured lubrication information in elaborate, detailed work orders. The work orders told maintenance personnel where lube points were located, which lubrication to use and how often. At last, lubrication management had been computerized. At least that’s what everyone thought. The result? More than a decade and a half after CMMS software came into being, lubrication issues were still behind roughly fifty-four percent of plant failures.

Next at bat: predictive maintenance

To get a better handle on maintenance issues, the industrial community began to incorporate more proactive approaches such as those found in predictive maintenance (PdM) tools. Over the next decade, manufacturers of PdM systems and their customers invested millions of dollars in vibration analysis, oil analysis, shaft alignment, infrared technology and ultrasound — all extremely useful capabilities for anticipating trouble spots and reducing unplanned downtime. 

So what’s the current failure rate due to lubrication since these predictive innovations were introduced? You guessed it. Still right at about fifty-four percent, according to most industry experts. In fact, many feel things have gotten even worse.

Relying on the wrong tools for managing lubrication

A key reason why the rate of lubrication-related failure has remained stubbornly unchanged for decades is that computerized maintenance solutions such as CMMS and PdM give people a false sense of security about the reliability of lubrication in their facilities. Many have come to trust that these methods, whether used individually or in combination, effectively manage industrial lubrication. The reality is that they don’t. Make no mistake. These approaches have revolutionized machine maintenance. But they are not designed for the many complexities of lubrication management.

In the case of poor lubrication, early detection tools like PdM will let you know that a piece of equipment is compromised, but they can’t tell you that improper lubrication performed at a specific point in time is the cause.

And CMMS, which is comprehensive by design, provides only a broad view of lubrication. Moreover, it does so through cumbersome work orders. While they provide basic guidance about what lubrication to apply where and how frequently, they are time-consuming to update with data and difficult to organize and manage. Out on the floor, they can be impractical to use as a reference, enough so that lubrication errors are often commonplace.

One missed lube point — or thousands?

Yet another inefficiency of CMMS is that its work orders are processed in batches. If a lube point was missed during a maintenance routine, the assumption is that it was taken care of in the next work order batch. But was it? To know for sure, you’d have to manually sift through masses of work orders to determine the status of that one lube point — assuming it was even captured in a maintenance log. Often there is no record at all. It’s a very serious and compounding problem, one that plays out across thousands of lube points and hundreds of thousands of individual lube tasks each year.

Lack of insight and oversight

But perhaps the biggest shortcoming to CMMS is that it provides no way to monitor and confirm whether specific lubrication tasks have actually been performed. That’s because for all its computational power, CMMS doesn’t capture granular data about each individual lube point — when it was last serviced, by whom, with which lubrication, in what amount, and the myriad of crucial details required to ensure consistent lubrication integrity across diverse facilities.

Solving lubrication-related failure — for good

To finally overcome the nagging problem of lubrication-related failure requires a solution specifically designed for lubrication management — one that makes it easy to track, monitor and manage the state of each and every lube point and lube task throughout your industrial operations. Unique in the industry, LUBE-IT software ensures that you get the right lubricant, at the right time, to the right place, in the right amount, using the right procedure — every time, all the time.

To see a demonstration of LUBE-IT go to www.generationsystems.com or call Bill Correll at 800.613.5525.

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