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

Plant maintenance and safety


Worker health and safety threatened by plant maintenance failures
Europe-wide safe maintenance campaign officially launched

Dr Jukka Takala

Launching the Campaign at the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels, Dr Jukka Takala, Director of EU-OSHA, alongside the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Mr László Andor, outlined the campaign’s objectives and the basic rules for safe maintenance as a key contribution to healthy workplaces.
Mr Andor giving his backing to the Campaign, said: “Maintenance is a daily part of every workplace and sector. The 20% of accidents currently linked to maintenance is too high and shows it’s an area where we have to raise awareness and step up our efforts”. He added: “Our overall strategy is to cut work-related accidents in the EU by 25% over the coming years. This campaign will help to raise awareness about maintenance-related risks, saving lives across Europe and bringing us closer to our overall goal for safer and healthier workplaces”.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has launched its new Healthy Workplaces Campaign for 2010/11, promoting safe maintenance across Europe. In some European countries as much as 20% of all workplace accidents are connected with maintenance and in a number of sectors over half of all accidents are maintenance-related.

A Challenge to  industry – do you know whether your maintenance is being carried out properly?
Good plant maintenance is essential to prevent workplace risks, but can be itself a high risk activity for the workers that carry it out.

It is estimated that in Europe 10-15% of fatal accidents at work can be attributed to poorly executed maintenance operations. It is vital therefore, that maintenance is carried out properly, taking into consideration workers’ safety and health. To do this, companies need to understand and measure their Maintenance and Asset Management Performance.

MCP’s AMIS auditing and benchmarking service has been used by over 4000 sites worldwide to measure maintenance performance, taking into account areas such as:

>      Equipment Condition

>      Workload Planning and Control

>      Productivity and Maintenance Effectiveness

>      Training and Safety

>      Motivation, Culture and People Management.

The AMIS programme assesses your systems and procedures, in particularly your Health, Safety and Environment process to ensure Best Practice in Health and Safety.

At a company level, the Board of Directors is required to demonstrate their responsibility for the assets and ensure a safe working environment, commensurate with generating the required return on investment.  The AMIS best practice programme helps companies meet these requirements by:

>      Defining consistent ways of working

>      Ensuring a process for effective management providing the basis for driving increased return on investment

>      Providing a link and support framework for effective Lean Manufacturing application.

Do you know whether your workforce is competent and sufficiently trained to maintain and operate your equipment?
Achieving the highest standard in equipment maintenance is all well and good, but even well maintained machines can still be hazardous to a badly trained operator and it goes without saying that competent technicians and operators are a prerequisite for good business.

Competence is linked to safety and plant efficiency.  Section 2 of the British Health and Safety at Work Act requires all employers `to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all his/her employees’.  Section 3 extends this to non employees. (See British Health and Safety Executive site.)

In order to do this, an employer must understand the legal duties facing him/her, and keep up to date with any changes.  Section 2 also requires employers `to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable the H & S at work of all employees.’

The IMechE published an article in April 09 on the need for managers to protect themselves with respect to corporate manslaughter, with more cases now being brought against individuals.  If there is not enough evidence for a corporate manslaughter charge, the HSE focuses on getting a conviction under section 37 of HSW Act which applies to individuals.

MCP has researched over 350 companies to understand their approach to maintenance related training, and their findings show that many organisations still have some way to go to improve performance in the provision of effective training.

To ensure safe and productive operation of equipment requires operators to be fully competent in the operation of the equipment.  All too often training is based on the ‘watch Nelly approach’ or initial training is not followed up with checks to ensure the standard operating procedures are being adhered. It is also a common practice to transfer operators to equipment on which they have not being trained when staff shortages occur.

MCP’s Research highlights include:

>      Only 16% of companies have provided their staff with formal training in maintenance management techniques.

>      Only 18% of companies reported that all their plant operators were fully trained and competent to operate the production equipment.

Adopting a structured approach to training that provides the right training at the right time can not only prevent safety risks, it can also improve equipment performance and plant efficiency.

Poorly managed maintenance activities and procedures raise the risks of workplace accidents, including fatal accidents, involving workers at all levels across a wide range of industries. In one of the worst incidents of its kind in Europe, the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988 saw the North Sea oil and gas platform turned into a blazing inferno within seconds, killing 167 workers – a tragic example of the potential consequences of inadequate maintenance procedures.