Industrial lubricants play a critical yet often overlooked role in manufacturing operations. These specialized oils and greases help reduce friction, wear, corrosion, contamination, and heat buildup in machinery. Using the proper lubricant improves efficiency, prevents downtime, extends equipment life, and reduces maintenance costs.
However, given the wide variety of industrial lubricants available, choosing the right product for each application is essential. This guide provides manufacturers a comprehensive overview of selecting and applying the optimal lubricants.
Understanding Key Properties
Industrial lubricants can be formulated from petroleum oils, synthetic fluids, or vegetable-based oils. Within these broad categories are thousands of options with properties engineered for specific uses. Key characteristics like viscosity, viscosity index, pour point, flash point, oxidation stability and additive packages differ greatly across lubricants. Manufacturers must match these properties to operating conditions like speed, load, temperatures, harsh environments, and contamination risks. Using lubricants designed for the application delivers significant performance and reliability benefits.
Common Types of Industrial Lubricants
The most common industrial lubricant categories, each with unique characteristics for different uses, include:
- Hydraulic Fluids – Transmit power in hydraulic equipment. Different viscosity grades offer optimal power transfer and efficiency.
- Gear Oils – Protect gears against wear and pitting. EP additives provide extreme pressure protection under heavy loads.
- Greases – Provide lasting lubrication to rolling element bearings and metal surfaces. Thickeners give greases unique properties.
- Compressor Oils – Withstand high temperatures and pressures inside compressors. Prevent wear and leakage.
- Turbine Oils – Resist oxidation and thermal degradation in turbines. Minimize deposits and provide long service life.
- Metalworking Fluids – Cool and lubricate machining operations. Types include straight soluble, synthetic, and semi-synthetic oils.
Consulting Lubricant Experts
With so many options, partnering with a lubricant supplier is invaluable when selecting products. Look for partners that:
- Offer extensive product selection and custom blending
- Help choose optimal lubricants for equipment and operations
- Provide oil analysis, reliability services, and technical expertise
- Have experience developing specialized formulations
- Offer training on lubricant best practices
Strict Quality Control
Be sure potential suppliers have stringent quality control and use the latest lubricant testing methods. Request data on how their formulations meet or exceed industry and OEM specifications. High quality lubricants match exact standards repeatedly for consistent performance.
In addition to choosing the optimal lubricant, proper application methods, maintenance, and contamination control are equally important. Follow equipment manufacturer guidelines for oil and grease change intervals, volumes, and procedures. Training maintenance personnel helps ensure correct techniques. Store lubricants properly in clean, sealed containers away from moisture, dirt, and extreme temperatures.
The Cost of Poor Lubrication
While high-performance lubricants may cost more up front, the total cost of ownership is significantly lower than using inferior products. Poor lubrication leads to increased wear, frequent breakdowns, replacement part costs, and unnecessary maintenance expenses. By extending equipment life, quality lubricants deliver strong return on investment.
Understanding Equipment Lubrication Needs
Successfully choosing industrial lubricants starts with thoroughly understanding equipment lubrication needs. Consider factors such as:
Operating temperatures – Lubricants must remain in their suitable viscosity range at minimum and maximum temps. High temps require formulated oils with greater thermal stability and higher viscosity indexes. Low temps call for lighter viscosity grades.
Speeds and loads – Higher speeds and loads increase friction and mechanical stress, requiring lubricants with anti-wear additives and viscosity grades that minimize shear. Oils too thin may leak away from contact points. Too viscous can choke oil flow. Match viscosity to load.
Shock loading – Sudden high impulse loads need EP lubricants to handle extreme pressures. These prevent metal-to-metal contact during momentary overloads.
Environment – Corrosive, wet, or dusty environments require enhanced corrosion protection and demulsifying additives that resist water and contaminants.
Contamination risks – Particulates, water ingress, chemical contact can quickly degrade lubricants. Meet ISO cleanliness standards. Use filtration. Choose lubricants with detergents, dispersants and antioxidants.
Food/pharmaceutical applications – Require non-toxic lubricants meeting FDA and USDA standards to avoid product contamination.
Documenting Lubrication Needs
Creating detailed documentation of equipment lubrication needs aids product selection. Include factors such as below.
- Equipment components needing lubrication
- Lubrication points – sumps, circulating systems, grease fittings etc.
- Operating parameters – speed, load, temperatures, cycles
- Desired lubricant performance – wear reduction, rust prevention etc.
- Potential contamination risks
- Maintenance schedules – oil change intervals, re-greasing frequency
This documentation also helps train maintenance staff on proper lubricant selection and application. Keep records to track consumption and know when to replenish lubricant inventory.
Implementing Effective Storage and Handling
Proper lubricant storage and handling prevents contamination and degradation before the lubricant even reaches equipment. Recommended practices include below.
- Use sealed containers and drums to keep out moisture, particulates, and dirt
- Avoid temperature extremes which can alter lubricant properties
- Ensure containers are properly labelled for easy identification
- Follow FIFO (first in, first out) inventory management
- Keep lubricants segregated by type to prevent cross-contamination
- Ensure dispensing equipment and transfer containers are clean
Protect lubricants from open flames, sparks, and chemicals
Contamination Control Best Practices
In-service lubricant contamination can cause up to 80% of equipment failures. Controlling contaminants with filters, oil analysis and planned maintenance is key.
- Use desiccant breathers to block moisture from entering reservoirs
- Fasten latches to prevent contaminant ingress on sumps, filler caps
- Install kidney loop filtration to continually clean circulating oil
- Take frequent oil samples to identify particle counts and fluid condition
- Stick to OEM recommended change intervals
- Proper lubrication is vital to manufacturing productivity. Follow these best practices to maximize uptime, extend equipment life, and optimize operational efficiency through superior lubrication.
In manufacturing, equipment is only as reliable as its lubrication. Selecting the right industrial lubricants from quality suppliers helps maximize uptime, efficiency, and productivity. Combined with proper application and maintenance, optimal lubrication keeps operations running smoothly now and into the future.