The right lubricant, consistently applied at the right interval, goes a long way in extending plant life, minimising downtime and maximising the usefulness of machinery. This is why Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa suggests businesses engage a specialist lubrication consultant to help put in place the ideal lubrication schedule and complete reliability solution.
“A lubrication consultant should be able to identify problem areas related to lubrication,” says Jurie Reichel, lubrication consultant at LE South Africa, “For example, when I evaluate open gear applications, these could include things like vibrations that are too high, a decibel rating that’s over spec or excessively high temperatures.”
After compiling a report on the challenges a client is experiencing, Reichel checks what lubrication products are in use. “Nine times out of 10, the wrong lubricant is being used,” he says. “I also inspect how the product is being applied. Improper lubrication application can cause problems – even if you are using the right product. For example, over-greasing a bearing can actually cause internal friction within the lubricant, which is the opposite of what you want.”
Signs that lubricant is being incorrectly applied include grease leaking out through seals and the smell of fluid friction. With oils, the sight glass will reveal milky oil, dirt or oil leakage on the seals or at the breather.
After making an obligation-free assessment, LE South Africa supplies companies with a recommendation form, which makes suggestions on changes to lubrication products, application and schedules, and sometimes lubrication management systems (for example, automatic lubrication dispensing equipment) that will help to solve the problems identified.
“The changes I recommend most often with regards to open gear equipment include lowering the pulses on the spray system for a month to see whether or not there is a difference in vibration and noise,” says Reichel. “If not, I suggest switching over to the LE Duolec 1609 gear oil to clean off the existing product without needing to shut off the machinery. Then I’d advise running an NDT test on the gear, as well as an alignment check. Then, switch over to LE’s Pyroshield 9011 – which is specifically designed as an open gear oil. I then play with the pulses until we find a normal vibration reading, get the noise down to a level where the decibels are in spec, and the temperature is consistent. Generally, this approach fixes all the issues, and often results in a cost saving for the client. Once they are applying the right lubricant at the right time, they need to use less, and less often.”
Other considerations that can affect lubrication efficacy include incorrect storage. “We’ve found that 90% of lubrication contamination happens before the lubricant reaches the machinery,” says Reichel. “We therefore help our clients to address any problems in their lubrication storage as well as the actual lubrication of their equipment.”
He emphasises that when it comes to lubrication for different businesses, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution “Each client is unique in the way they function and what problems they have,” he says. “We design programmes specifically to accommodate the needs of and solve the issues for the customers we do business with. We will also accommodate the budget the client has available and do our best to assist, whatever the circumstances.”