Not enough time to improve productivity?

In order to implement new solutions, you have to have enough resources - time and money. Regardless of how big the benefits of the new solution are, in practice attention is paid to the day-to-day necessities of the work. Often people feel there is no time for strategic improvements. However, there are ways to overcome the challenges of introducing improvements.

Improving equipment utilizing lubrication and hydraulic oil requires a long-term effort. Depending on the baseline situation, the situation may even deteriorate first. This happens when fixing the system exposes hidden issues that have not yet escalated into damage.

The development of operational reliability in lubrication and hydraulics is also possible by means of small, very low resource-consuming methods. Here’s how to do it:


1. Statistical monitoring

You can’t trust gut feeling, you need monitoring and data. It is the starting point for all development. In order to get more resources for development, it must be possible to demonstrate the cost impact of the current situation. Similarly, the return on made investments has to be monitored and their effectiveness assessed.

Once you have been able to create an overall understanding of the current situation, you can focus more on the development of monitoring. For example through root cause analysis and countless other ways. However, there are some pitfalls you might want to avoid. Even if 8/10 of the machine breakdowns are due to lubrication problems, damage caused by other causes may lead you to a completely wrong direction. Halving the lubrication problems does not reduce the total amount (if it is defined as 10 cases). Other disturbances are only emphasized.


2. Simple principles to use 

When lubricating oil is used, it must meet normal requirements and must not contain any external particles, i.e. impurities. The absolute amount of impurities increases as the size of the impurities decreases, with even the smallest impurities being significant in maximizing reliability. The use of a high density filter is always recommended and the blocking of filter is not a filter problem, but an oil purity problem.

Viscosity is also sometimes a challenging question. Viscosity changes as the temperature changes. Other oils react less than others but in all cases the operating temperature is important. The rule of thumb is that the viscosity halves when the temperature rises 8 degrees. The viscosity of the oil is determined in relation to the temperature. For example ISO VG 46 has an oil viscosity of 46 cSt when the temperature is 40 °C. If the operating temperature is 50 degrees, the viscosity is half of that, thus significantly reducing the lubricity of the oil. On the other hand, at a lower temperature than planned the lubrication film thickens and the oil flow is weakened, thereby weakening again the actual lubrication.


3. New solutions require a new kind of operating culture

New solutions as such are not enough, the staff needs to be committed and motivated to use the new solutions. The change resistance must be accepted as a natural phenomenon. The business culture enhances the operation and makes it more reliable. Changing the business culture always requires a motivation both for the organization and for the employees. Cost savings, though they will secure jobs in the future, rarely provide individuals with enough motivation to study new and implement demanding development projects.

With the introduction of new solutions, one must also pay particular attention to their application. Impractical information systems, unclear instructions, and difficult-to-use tools do not attract users. As you move to lubrication oil performance maintenance at different sites and also at the organization level, the entire staff should be able to understand both the whole and the importance of small details to the whole.

Often, when working with IoT strategies for maintenance we create an excellent system but don’t allocateenough resources for the introduction of it.


4.  Objectives need to be defined

Machine breakdown or hardware damage doesn’t happen as some kind of natural law. For example, when metal breaks it always requires a force that does the breaking. And this force tends to be unplanned for the object in question. If the conditions are and remain within the intended framework, the operational reliability of the equipment is completely different from usage that crosses the limit values.

The oil purity level must also be defined and the amount of impurities must be held below the target level. Use of impure lubricant does not work even if it the lubricant is new. Also, the meaning of soft impurities may be surprising, as the equipment rotates sufficiently firm and long soft smudges have an incredibly big effect. 

Mastering the maintenance of large entities starts with details and definition of processes. How to handle machinery, how to maintenance is organized and how to measure success in these.


5. Predicting a machine breakdown 

A fortuneteller has psychological advantage: when properly predicting a machine breakdown, he gets the admiration and recognition that he knows the machine. Conversely, if one maintains the system all the time in operating condition it is "business as usual," and does not give cause for praise or reward. Economically, machine breakdowns are a major cost, and the costs used for performance maintenance are a fraction of downtime and repair costs.

Many of us have come across a great system that is able to predict a machine breakdown with amazing precision. There is a well-known example of this in farming. In the transmission arm of a tractor there is a bolt that breaks when the machine hits a stone and thus prevents further damage. You don’t have to be a ”sherlock holmes” to understand that this bolt breaking on a rocky field is just a matter of time. If the equipment is well-known, it is not impossible to predict a machine breakdown.

Well-organized maintenance should keep track of factors that may and will eventually escalate into machine breakdowns. For example, the presence of metals should be in your interest. With metals in oil it is relatively reasonable to say that a machine breakdown is coming. Understandably this also gives the opportunity to sell and buy new equipment and maintenance. Vibrations also indicate a damage that has been developed in the equipment, but with vibration the damage has already occurred. Instead focusing on factors that jeopardize lubrication, predicted breakdowns can be reduced.


Written by Mikko Oksanen, Leading Oil Expert, Fluid Intelligence.