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Lubricants are often thought of as a machine’s lifeblood. If they are to protect machine investment and perform as designed, their needs and end-user requirements must be understood and met with diligence. Getting the most out of your lubricants calls for a “cradle-to-cradle” (C2C) lifecycle-management strategy.

In a “cradle-to-cradle” lubricant management program, a lubricant begins life as base oil refined from mineral crude or synthesized stocks, into which various specialty additives are blended. Those additives serve to make up the proprietary lubricant product ready for delivery to market.

From the refiner/manufacturer, the finished lubricant is transferred into bulk containers and starts its journey to the market supplier, that offloads the bulk oil into its own storage tanks. Once the oil is sold to the end-user, it’s transferred and delivered in a variety of pre-packaged vessels/containers, i.e., pails, drums, totes. Alternatively, it is transferred into a bulk container/truck for delivery and transfer into the end-user’s bulk storage totes.

The lubricant is then stored at the end-user’s facility in a general or specialized stock/containment area. When required, the product is once again transferred into smaller, more convenient containers, transported to specific machines, and put into their reservoirs for use.

When a lubricant is no longer deemed fit for use, it’s syphoned or drained from a machine’s reservoir and collected in select used-oil containers. The lubricant is then classified and stored separately in a temporary holding space. from which it will be sent to a re-refiner for recycling into marketable oil stocks.

Each time a lubricant is stored or transferred prior to use in a machine, it’s at risk for solids and water contamination, both of which are highly detrimental to bearings. As an end-user, we gain control of lubricant cleanliness when we receive it from the supplier. Our success in controlling that cleanliness is achieved through an effective in-house lubricant storage and handling program. (Prior to a site’s receipt of a lubricant, it can exercise a degree of cleanliness control through an audited purchase program set up in conjunction with the lubricant supplier.)

For More information On A Lubricant’s Journey,
Click Here To Read The Author’s Feb. 13, 2021 Article
“Do Lubricants Have a Shelf Life?” 

Designing and building an appropriately sized and outfitted world-class lubricant management storage and handling facility requires the end-user to understand three requirements from the onset: 1) all of the plant’s lubrication requirements; 2) the logistical requirements for efficient storage and movement of lubricants throughout the plant; and 3) Corporate, Federal, and State sustainability and environmental stewardship requirements.

Foundational to any lubricant management program is assuring the right lubricant choice is made for each end-user machine. This decision is ideally based on actual machine operating conditions, associated working environment factors, performance, and economy.

Choosing the right lubricant is a specialized task that’s often best left to lubricant engineering experts. Fortunately, virtually all major lubricant manufacturers and their suppliers offer the end-user some form of lubricant-engineering service(s). This involves an audit in which one or more lubricant engineers visit a site to determine the least number of lubricant types suited to the end-user’s working environment and engineering requirements. This lubricant-consolidation service is a mandatory requirement of any lubrication management program.

In preparation for a consolidation audit, the maintenance department can facilitate the process by compiling information for all assets requiring lubrication that will include as much of the following as possible:

◊  list of all machines/equipment that employ/use lubricants (oil, grease, pastes, waxes)

◊  general assembly drawings of equipment

◊  operating schedules for all lubricated machinery

◊  lubrication schematics for automated and manual lubrication points. (If unavailable,,
consider preparing 1-D and 3-D lubrication system schematic sketches for each machine
system. Number each bearing point and line and identify any lubrication settings already
in use, if known.)

◊  gearbox specifications

◊  hydraulic-system specifications

◊  Bills of Material (bearing take off, lubrication-system components)

◊  list of equipment already employing thermostat-controlled reservoir-heating devices
and/or lubrication-line heat tracing

◊  operations and maintenance (O&M) manuals

◊  photographs of installed lubrication systems

◊  recommended lubricant list for all lubrication points and systems

◊  an actual list of current lubricants used on all lubrication points and systems

◊  machine warranties that are still in effect (Check to see if use of a non-recommended
lubricant equivalent affects the machine warranty.)

◊  OEM lubricant system flushing procedure(s), if known

◊  list, location, and inventory of all lubricants found on sitelist of all active lubricants on
the approved corporate-purchase list

◊  copy of lubricant purchase history for previous three years

◊  copies of all Safety Data Sheets for on site lubricants

◊  drawings of current lubricant storage facility/area(s)

◊  copy of current corporate sustainability/environment/toxicity requirements

◊  list of corporate restrictions on lubricant, lubricant type purchases

◊  copy of current lubricant supplier agreement.

Armed with your current state lubricant usage and documentation, the third-party consolidation-engineering team is able to accurately assess your asset needs, based on usage patterns and purchase history. Similarly, the operation and ambient working conditions are also assessed to evaluate the best lubricant choice for each lubricated asset. The deliverable from that assessment is a tailored list of consolidated lubricants that can be supplied at a guaranteed cost and quality. If, for some reason, the consolidator is unable to match a highly specialized or warranty-required lubricant, the existing choice of the supplier/manufacturer is then recommended for purchase outside of the consolidation agreement.

Many consolidation audits are offered as a no-cost, value-added service in return for an exclusive (multi-year) lubricant-supply contract. Consolidation exercises have proven to lower costs considerably by reducing the number of different products that a site carries in stock. A typical plant can stock up to 20 lubricant types (sometimes more), which can often be reduced by 50% (or more) depending on the type of operation. This translates into immediate savings in areas of operating capital, storage and handling, and administrative costs. In addition, through improved lubrication knowledge and management, improvements in bearing life expectancy and your energy reduction are much easier to attain.

Throughout the consolidation process, all unwanted and unused open and closed lubricant containers can be collected for recycling, as only the consolidated lubricants are to be allowed on site once the program is activated.

Part two of this article will discuss how to leverage your consolidation exercise to effectively design, prepare, and operate a world class-lubricant storage/dispensation area.TRR

Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, lubrication, lubricants, bearings, gearboxes, consolidation audits