We previously discussed in this series, Acoustic Lubrication Implementation – Part 1 The Big Picture. In this follow-up blog, we will discuss The Right Mindset.
“MAN CANNOT THINK OUTSIDE HIS CULTURE”- JACQUE FRESCO
To lay the foundation for implementation, the right mindset and culture must take top priority. Both technology and skills need a fertile environment to bring benefit. “Change” is obviously the critical word, not only in lubrication but in every aspect of our lives. As Heraclitus said, “Everything changes except change itself” translated to present-day industry terminology, “If you are doing it the same way as last year, it is probably wrong.”
Changing culture and getting the right mindset certainly involves asking a lot of questions and accepting answers, even when those answers are painful. Painful answers are helpful answers. Correct diagnosis is a necessary step to prescribe treatment. Here are some questions, some quite obvious answers, and diagnoses that might help.
Look at the fact that between 40 and 80% (depending on industry) of bearing failures are rooted in lubrication. These statistics have been around for years, they are everywhere. Yet it seems that some accept them as “normal.” Just to be clear, it is not about 40-80% of the bearings themselves, their price in this story is irrelevant. It’s the 40-80% of downtime, work hours in repair, overtime, middle of the night phone calls, collateral damage, lost production, lost clients, poor quality, urgent work, urgent spares shipping, and poor safety during urgent work. We can even be more pedantic and look at how much energy we waste to overcome increased friction. It’s an interesting amount with lots of decimal places. By comparison, the cost of the bearing itself is negligible. Why do we accept that?
Diagnosis 1: No dollar value assigned to the problem. No price – no problem – no problem – no solution
When we ask our audience, “how important is lubrication on a scale of 1 to 100?” the usual answer is somewhere between 98 and 100. Excellent! It is absolutely clear that lubrication is a top strategic priority, but what happens when we make the question more personal? “How many of you dream that your children will one day become a grease guy?” Here, the usual answer is somewhere between ZERO and ZERO, and a lot of people cast their eyes uncomfortably to the floor. Why? Because it is a “dirty, poorly paid job, that requires no education and everyone can do it.” Do you see the problem? A noble and highly important profession degraded for so long. Considering the answer to the first question, one would assume that only the best of the best of the most highly trained and specialized people in each organization would be authorized to walk around with a grease gun. But it is not so and that is quite a paradox. Turning our heads to the problem does not make it go away. Ask yourself this simple question, “Who can destroy reliability fastest?” The answer is probably the person who can also improve it, at least by not destroying it. When you think about the answer, keep in mind that your lube tech is the one who has the most intimate, closest relationship with your rotating assets. He is the only one to put something inside. Give me 10 minutes and a grease gun and I can destroy 10 electrical motors. Your lube tech can do it too…or not.
Diagnosis 2: Lubrication as highly important activity – DECLARATIVELY only
How and who is involved in our lubrication practices? There is a lubrication chain in place, whether you create it or not, it is there. If not created properly, the chain will create itself poorly. Both good and bad lubrication chains consist of:
- Management – strategic decision-makers
- Lubrication engineer/strategist – builders of the program
- Lubrication technicians – aka grease guys execution level
These three links create the chain and each of them is EQUALLY important. When there is a lack of awareness or involvement at any of these three links, the results are disastrous. Wherever the chain breaks, bearings pay the price and the grease gun becomes a machine gun. Most bearings do not just fail – they are executed. The lubrication chain can fail in many ways, mostly when fine fibers around them are missing. Those fine fibers are awareness, ownership, communication, discipline, control, responsibility, and recognition. When fibers fail, all connections are lost. Management doesn’t hear, lube manager doesn’t see, grease guy doesn’t speak, and communication breakdown leads to a total lubrication collapse. It does not happen as an explosion, it is slow, silent, and painless. It simmers slowly and nobody reacts until they are surrounded by ruins. No lubrication excellence can be achieved if even one of the fibers is missing. The chain disintegrates.
Diagnosis 3: Lack of awareness/ ownership/ communication/ discipline/ control/ responsibility/ recognition
Why do we do what we do? What proves it correct? Even in a broken system, someone is doing something. Bearings are being greased (probably) so there is a system, and we even call it a strategy. A bad strategy, but still it’s present. There are many strategies out there, from real nightmares to relatively disciplined but not precise ones:
- “No approach” approach: The “No approach” approach is actually very popular. This means that someone sometimes goes around and squeezes some grease. And sometimes not. It is not even clear who that guy is.
- “Feelings-based” approach: The “Feelings-based” approach is also very popular. There is always someone who has a good feeling for it and he is the only one who, by some kind of magic given by higher power, “feels” when bearings need grease and knows how much grease to give.
- “Friend told me” approach: The “Friend told me” approach is out there much more than one might expect. Two friends, they were university campus roommates, worked in the same industry but different companies. One of them has a lube plan that works fine for him and of course, shares the plan with his friend. Nice gesture, but it never works. Machines are like humans, unique in so many small details yet with circumstances constantly changing.
- “Time-based” approach: The “Time-based” approach is widely used because it seems so simple and easy. First, it is a release from liability, “It is not my fault, the formula told me so” Second, it is an effective lullaby; calculation is here, execute it, and that’s it, forever. We know there are many different factors impacting the calculations; temperature, load, speed, vibration, humidity, contamination, start/stop operating regime, and variable operating conditions. I personally believe in formulas, but I also believe that outcomes directly depend on the accuracy of input data. The data represented as operational correction factors are mostly assumptions based on estimates. While the formula may be scientific, the data is only a best guess, but scientists don’t guess. These assumptions produce huge errors. Should we lubricate in one month or nine months? Depends on how well you guessed. Both numbers can be defended as mathematically correct, and both have nothing to do with the real needs of any particular bearing. Too often we see replenishment intervals inscribed on motor plates as 2786 hours or 3125 hours, and a suggested quantity of 37.6 grams. It is so strange that nobody asks questions like, “Well how do they calculate it so precisely?” or “How do they know about humidity in my area?” they don’t. Calculations are done based on what should be a reality, there is no intent here to make accusations. Those calculations are done with the best intentions and within the limits of available data. But we all know a story about best intentions and hell.
Diagnosis 4: Wrong approach or assumptions-based approach
Let us see the path that one lubrication work order goes through. Someone in charge generates a work order and gives it to the lube tech to execute. Later that afternoon, he comes back with the same work order, with all the boxes ticked with a green checkmark. Seriously? A green checkmark? That’s all there is to support the responsibility of his task? A checked box only proves one thing…that my lube tech owns a green pencil. It certainly does not prove that he did anything to improve the condition of that bearing. The elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about is a simple question, “Is the bearing better now?”
Diagnosis 5: Lack of data
Why don’t we take a walk and take a look? If you really want to see it, you will see lots of horrors, and it has nothing to do with technology. It has everything to do with culture. This is probably the most difficult challenge organizations face. While technology answers, “what is done and how”, culture is built on making clear, “why is it done and why is it done that way?” Culture is rarely achieved by rules and procedures. Culture, by definition, consists of four elements: values, beliefs, behavior, and rituals.
Procedures are rituals, they occur as a result of the first three elements. Surely culture is built from the top down, but it can be destroyed in both directions. Culture comes from understanding WHY. Does everyone understand why?
Diagnosis 6: Lack of culture
Many years back, the industry experienced a long, and in some cases, painful transformation when condition monitoring and the whole concept of condition-based actions evolved from planned and easy to evidence-based. Sure, there was a lot of resistance, and still, we can find resistance in some areas, in some industries, and at a certain age. By some miracle that I simply don’t understand, lubrication was left out of this transformation. From today’s point of view, it is simply unbelievable. Let’s look at it this way: lubrication certainly falls in the group of “do” activities, while condition monitoring falls (in most of the cases) in the “observe/conclude/recommend” group. The mindset of CM people is, essentially, not to accept time-based as a rule, but to believe in condition-based as determined by measurement. Condition-based on evidence. All CM people will unanimously say that lubrication is critically important. Still, most CM people gave their silent blessing to the very same critically important job being done based on time. At the same time, they do not believe in it. Quite a paradox, isn’t it? Looking at this entire process from the present time, I would improve both the “do” and the “observe” part in one unique process. The entire LUBExpert Solution transforms lubrication practices to fit in the same work frame and mindset that we all know from condition monitoring, evidence-based. You will see, at least those of you who will implement this solution, how natural and aligned to the common sense of all stakeholders it is.
In essence, it is driven by the very same questions you should ask yourself every single time you take something as lethal as a grease gun in your hands:
- Does it need grease?
- How much?
- Is it better now?
Each of those questions represents a Mount Everest of complexity, but there are brains within both LUBExpert and UAS to help you navigate to the peak. Still, it is essential to understand the importance of those three questions and use them as a driver. Once the lube team members start working with the same mindset as CM, collecting extremely valuable data, they become the first line of defense in the full meaning of that word. That is now a reality. Until now, it was normal practice for the CM team to sometimes recommend lubrication. It is not a secret that when a vibe tech is not completely sure of the problem, he simply tells his lube tech to add some grease. Maybe it is a lubrication issue. Grease administered as a painkiller does not bring much benefit. It may, at best, temporarily treat some symptoms. Combining time-based lubrication with occasional requests coming from CM tech actually causes a lot of damage. The good news is that there at least exists a communication connection between CM and Lube, now let’s just make it the correct one.
Diagnosis 7: Evidence-based mindset
A long list of serious possible diagnoses. Luckily those are not in Latin, so even we, non-medical people, can do something about it. With a clear view of the big picture and now the right mindset, it is time to do it.
Watch our 5-Step Acoustic Lubrication Procedure motion graphic for an effective way to grease your bearings right and brings you one step closer to best practices for your lubrication program.
Thank you Haris Trobradović with SDT Ultrasound Solutions for sharing this informative article with us!
Lubrication by Diana Pereda