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Over the course of several recent discussions in The RAM Review, we’ve highlighted various lubrication strategies and issues, many of them related to long- and short-term storage of industrial equipment. Among other things, we have emphasized the pros and cons of conventional and better, more advanced lube technologies and solutions, including oil mist. We continue in that vein here.

Editor’s Note:
This article is based on a chapter in the author’s book
“Optimized Equipment Lubrication, 2nd Edition, 2021;”
De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston, (ISBN 978-3-11-074934-2).
Additional chapters will be highlighted on this website in the future.

In 2014, a company in South America insisted on field trials before accepting a recommendation from its Reliability Engineer to solve bearing problems with better lube-application strategies. This article establishes that reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary in the face of facts that are readily available.

The success of oil mist lubrication on a scale ranging from just one machine to 30 plant-wide oil mist systems serving 2,000 or more machines at a single site has been a matter of record since the mid-1960s. Oil mist experts with access to many plants and reliability professionals with decades of applicable experience consider oil mist lubrication a fully proven and superbly reliable technology. They have become experts by learning from others, being inquisitive, and considering it their obligation to read books, articles, and conference proceedings on the subject matter.

Not one of these experts would find it plausible to request or endorse field trials. Even today, field trials would add nothing to the existing knowledge on the subject. We mention it because the issue comes up when uninformed persons call for field trials to prove that oil-mist lubrication is not just wishful thinking.

On the two known occasions when field trials were requested in the 35 years from 1986 until 2021, there was no justification for such demonstrations. Perhaps it was a subcontractor’s attempt to turn experience-based technical advice into a “make work” project. Or it could have been a matter of “seeing is believing,” and the individuals making the “show me” request hoped they would not need to spend time reading. Whatever the case, it is inappropriate and wasteful to demand proof of concept and/or selection of beta sites for mature technologies such as oil-mist lubrication and oil-mist preservation. Hundreds of full-scale installations attest to its effectiveness and reliability. Mature technologies are the exact opposite of ideas or pursuits that warrant prototyping.

With regard to conventional methods of equipment preservation using several products discussed in Chapter 13 of our book, Optimized Equipment Lubrication, 2nd Edition (2021), and the suitability of using those protection methods from a technical point of view is undisputed. Competent manufacturers and vendors have continually improved such products. Their product- summary books and applicable brochures are informative and helpful. All available brochures have been carefully reviewed and, where needed, updated. These updates occasionally include clarifying or amplifying some of the recommendations issued by lube marketers when they align with the field experience of experts.

Today, lubricant technology is accessible worldwide. Accordingly, the recommendations and summaries of major U.S. providers of industrial lubrication could probably be joined by similar summaries available in electronic form from providers in other parts of the world.

Expert providers of oil-mist lubrication and other preservation technologies usually have access to transparent polycarbonate or plexiglass (acrylic) demonstration models. For example, a transparent bearing housing replica equipped with ball bearings and a steel shaft is an ideal visualization tool. Mechanics, operators, supervisors, and managers can readily observe oil mist in operation.

Generally, expert providers would agree to develop, sign, and adhere to contract clauses that show machine interiors in the “as-received” versus the “as removed from storage” condition. The provider would have a service contract with the client and be able to monitor the storage yard, quality of instrument air supply, adequacy of lubricant, and so forth. The contract terms may include corrosion-monitoring details and an up-front definition of remedies.

What have we learned here? Best practices do not involve re-inventing the wheel. They do, however, require familiarization with the steps and procedures that have allowed the competition to prosper.

Familiarization with best practices may be facilitated with demonstration videos and/or scale models. Such items are often available at minimal cost outlay. Some can be purchased, others rented or leased.

But, when it comes to oil-mist technology, with its decades of success at well over 3,000 plant sites throughout the world, field trials proving that it works (in-plant “proof of concept”) are never justified. On the other hand, in-plant demonstrations showing operators how oil mist works are part of an intelligent training routine that makes sense.TRR

Editor’s Note: Click Here To Download A Full List Of Heinz Bloch’s 24 Books

Heinz Bloch’s long professional career included assignments as Exxon Chemical’s Regional Machinery Specialist for the United States. A recognized subject-matter-expert on plant equipment and failure avoidance, he is the author of numerous books and articles, and continues to present at technical conferences around the world. Bloch holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and is an ASME Life Fellow. These days, he’s based near Houston, TX. 

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, equipment storage preservation, lubrication, lubricants, oil mist