Changing bad gear oil habits.

Here, Mark Burnett, VP of the Lubricants and Fuel Additives Innovation Platform at the water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe, explores how businesses can improve the effectiveness of their gear oil.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “it is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.” This rings true for the industrial sector, where it is easier to form a habit of good predictive maintenance than to recover from machinery breakage or downtime.

nch_tan_lubricationHowever, this is easier said than done. Predictive maintenance requires constant vigilance in order to be effective, ensuring that maintenance engineers know when it is the right time to lubricate bearings, apply a rust-preventative coating or treat their water supply. These tasks will vary in frequency, so there can be a steep learning curve to getting it right.

Unfortunately, we all know that problems do not wait until you’re ready and, especially with gear oil changes, failure to get it right often leads to problems. Changing oil too soon, for example, leads to higher costs as more changes will be needed than necessary. Conversely, forgetting to change the oil at the right time increases the likelihood of machine damage and breakage, which itself leads to elevated operational costs.

Despite both extremes leading to increased business costs, only 20 per cent of oil changes happen at the right time. This is not surprising when considering the fact that many variables can determine how regularly oil needs changing. While many engineers may fill up a machine and expect it to require a change after a certain amount of time, it is actually the quality of the oil itself that must be measured.

This is understandably difficult without a comprehensive approach to industrial gear oil analysis. In order to reliably measure the quality of the oil and when a change is due, engineers must identify the quantities of external contamination and metal wear, as well as the general condition of the oil.

For example, oxidation is a naturally occurring process that affects oil over time. In the presence of oxygen, the oil begins to break down and this reduces the service life of the oil itself. In addition to this, it also produces sludge that makes equipment work harder and drives up operation costs.

If left long enough, the acidity of oxidised oil will steadily increase and result in corrosion and pitting. While this is problematic if left for extended periods of time, this acidity allows more accurate assessment of oil condition. By measuring increases in the system’s total acid number (TAN), maintenance engineers and plant managers can identify when the oil acidity is reaching the maximum acceptable level and act accordingly.

However, TAN only accounts for one part of overall gearbox system condition and there are many other considerations such as the operational health of the machinery itself. It is crucial that engineers consider all aspects to ensure optimum performance.

To this end, NCH Europe has developed the NCH Oil Service Program (NOSP) to help businesses keep their machinery in working order and their oil changes timely. Samples of gear oil are analysed and user-friendly reports are generated so that plant managers can see accurate results at a glance, giving a clear overview of equipment condition and the TAN of the oil.

Accurate analysis helps to prevent engineers falling into the bad habit of incorrect oil management. By combining this insight with an effective cleaning solution and a suitable gear oil, further bad oil-change habits and breakages can be kept at bay.

@NCH_Europe #PAuto

It’s the little things that trip you up!

By Brian Booth, VP of the Water Treatment Innovation Platform, NCH Europe

There’s a lot of chemistry, physics and maths involved in perfecting your water treatment solution. To make sure you successfully treat and protect your system you need to get the equilibrium right, and this relies on balancing all the appropriate equations – even the little things you may not give much thought to. Missing something like half life out of your planning can have serious negative implications for your water treatment, especially when it comes to complying with regulations such as those for Legionella control.

When dosing your water cooling system with biocides it’s imperative that the concentration is correct and that it remains at a continuous concentration for a suitable period of time. While this sounds simple, it’s easy to forget that any bleed water required to compensate for water that may evaporate out of a system, will take a portion of your biocide with it.

Say you put 10 tonnes of make-up water into your system, and every hour 1 tonne runs off as bleed water, this will determine the half life for your system. So for example, let’s imagine the chemical you are using to meet the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Legionella control L8 Code of Practice needs to remain at a concentration of 100 parts per million (ppm) for three hours to be successful.

If you just dose 100ppm and walk away, the concentration will gradually fall from the time of dosing and will not remain high enough for long enough as the bleed water will take a portion away with it. This will result in a failure to meet the regulation, making you negligent and leaving you liable.

This is why it’s vital to be aware of half life so that you can increase the dose of your biocide accordingly. Do you know how many hours it would take to reduce a 100ppm dose to 50ppm in your water cooling system?

Although it’s hard to be 100 per cent accurate, you can work out your half life with this simple equation:



If you know your biocide is going to take three hours to be effective, but the half life of your system is one hour you’re going to have to make some adjustments to maintain appropriate concentration. For instance, using our above example of legionella control biocide, to stay at a minimum of 100ppm for long enough you’ll need to dose to 800ppm.

A bit of predictive mathematics goes a long way towards protecting your water system and keeping you compliant. Don’t let a little thing like half life leave you vulnerable to negligence claims – do the maths first!


“What 35 years in engineering has taught me!”

Brian Booth, VP of the Water Treatment Innovation Platform of global water, energy and maintenance solutions provider with NCH Europe shares what he has learned.

Brian Booth of NCH Europe

I’ve worked in the engineering industry for the last 35 years, starting out as a chemist in the water treatment sector in 1985.

One of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed over the last three decades is the rise of legislation covering every aspect of the industry. It started with basic health and safety and now reaches into countless niche areas, such as the consideration of industry challenges including legionella outbreaks.

While my generation were classically trained chemists recruited to solve problems with scale, corrosion and bacteria in the water industry, new graduates are now required to have a deeper understanding of general issues affecting the whole industry. Engineers are under increasing pressure to show how localised issues fit into the wider socioeconomic and legislative context.

Another change has been the industry’s approach to transparency, traceability and accountability. In this age of globalisation, formal contracts and job responsibilities allow each action to be traced to an individual. This maximises resource allocation, improves training accuracy and improves safety.

However, all of these changes pale in comparison to the opportunity provided by mobile technology to communicate in real time. The rise of the internet has fundamentally altered the way we interact.

Engineers whose jobs involve working in the field might be asked to respond to another incident while on a job. Twenty years ago engineers on the road used carbon paper to record actions. Now smartphones, tablets and laptops allow a continuous link to the office, using graphs and charts to visualise data on the go. This technology has improved productivity and means that engineers in the field can get more done than ever before.

Building trust
Despite all of these changes, some things have stayed the same. The importance of building valuable customer relationships is as great today as it’s ever been. Inspiring confidence in a customer and building trust wins contracts.

Once you’ve got trust, being able to deliver on your promise is vital. The need to prove reliability and credibility, especially in a service industry, is something I don’t think will ever change. At the end of the day, people like to do business with real people and not faceless corporations.

However, there is no doubt that the industry will see significant changes in the future. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already allowing us to make use of embedded sensors in engineering environments to provide better big-data transparency and interpretation, using novel graphing and visualisation techniques. I’m already seeing this evolve to the point where our engineers can remotely prompt customers to turn off a valve in response to a cooling system alert, a change in the pH of process water or if the level of a specific chemical such as bromine is too high for example.

Advice to graduates
My advice to new graduates is that, now you’ve left university, you can no longer expect to be spoon fed. You are responsible for your own continuous professional development (CPD) and, while employers provide on-the-job skills to allow you to work on profit-making business functions, you have to read around the subject, to develop professionally.

This might mean becoming a member of a professional body such as the Water Management Society for Chartered Chemists, attending networking sessions, conferences or trade shows or finding a mentor who can guide you to success.