How to implement an award-winning Lubrication Program. What we learned from Hibbing Taconite Co. and Cliffs Mining Co. at IMC-2012

February 5, 2013

The Hibbing Taconite Company, managed by Cliffs Natural Resources of Hibbing, MN, won UPTIME Magazine’s Best Lubrication Program award. At the heart of their condition monitoring efforts is the Oil Analysis component of their lubrication program, key to helping them identify problems at an early stage of failure.Uptime Awards Best Maintenance Reliability Programs 2012

During the first phase of the program, which they called “First Evolution”, reliability engineers were trained as Level I Machine Lubrication Technicians (MLT1). Thereafter, dedicated lubrication mechanics were assigned in the plants to monitor the condition of the oil. They engaged with their vendors to identify needed parts and reviewed their planning, scheduling and work execution. They selected critical equipment on which to prove the concept.

During Phase 2, MLT1 training continued, including lubrication mechanics and supervisors. Critical equipment underwent lubrication upgrades with the addition of desiccant breathers, sight tubes, sample ports and quick couplers for filtering, allowing for safer filter changes and reducing cross contamination risk.

Today, 80 employees have been MLT1 trained on machinery lubrication and basic oil analysis. Employees are fully engaged and enjoy wholehearted management support as significant consumption reduction was realized. Management views the program as an investment.

During their presentation at the IMC-2012 International Maintenance Conference, Reliability Engineer Dan Lerick shared that in certain applications, they have proved a 3.5% energy reduction by switching to synthetic gear oil, which also extended oil drains from 5 to 15 years. Another positive was the switch to synthetic engine oil where they observed a reduction in fuel usage and fueling time, with an extension in engine life and extended drain and maintenance intervals.  Overall ROI was under 1 year!

In addition to their award-winning Lubrication Program and as part of their reliability efforts, the company uses CMMS software and other Predictive Maintenance technologies such as Ultrasonic examination, Laser Alignment with ROTALIGN ULTRA, etc. Learn more.

Congratulations to Dan Lerick and his team for this award and a job well done!

Program Highlights

1) Fluid Analysis consolidated across all Cliff operations. They now use a single oil lab after carefully ranking and comparing sample results from eight different labs. The benefit was consistency and the ability to review and compare data.

2) For Fluid Sampling, they developed sample standards per equipment specs, installed sample ports and trained personnel on how to collect samples. Their CMMS system controls their sample frequency.

3) The use of Grease Systems and Grease Routes wherever possible along with ultrasonic technology on motors.

4) Implementation of condition monitoring (CM) via oil moisture sensors and CM sensors for real-time monitoring. The immediate benefit was a reduction in overall site oil consumption by removing water contamination.

5) Cleaner and safer fluid changes with the use of dedicated Lube Carts to eliminate drips and spills.

6) All machines were tagged with machine identification and lubrication information to reduce mixing and cross contamination.

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