Understanding the economic effect of oil in a manufacturing environment
Whether you’re a Technical Director, Maintenance Manager or Production Engineer, you’ll be responsible for the efficient and economic operation of your manufacturing plant. And you’ll be acutely aware of the profit-sapping results of production downtime, unplanned maintenance costs and machinery replacement.
Lubrication issues are often at the heart of mechanical problems – research from Shell has revealed that 80% of all equipment failures are related to poor or improper lubrication practice. What’s more, research from Professor E Rabinowicz in the US found that, amazingly, between 6 and 7% of GDP is required to fix the damage caused by mechanical wear.
There’s no mistaking oil contamination puts production at risk. Here’s how:
- Wear and tear in oil systems
The condition of the oil determines the life of the components in your gearboxes and hydraulics. Surface clearances are typically between 2 and 5 microns – any solid contaminates larger than the clearance will cause damage.
Chemical and water contamination also contribute to component and oil degradation.
As a result, reducing contaminant levels improves the life expectancy of both the machine components and the oil. And a longer life expectancy reduces replacement costs.
- Machine breakdown frequency
The British Hydromechanics Research Association (BHRA) conducted a controlled field study of hydraulic machines to analyse the correlation between fluid cleanliness and breakdown frequency.
Over the space of three years they looked at 117 hydraulic machines covering injection moulding, machine tools, material handling, mobile equipment, marine hydraulics and test stands. What they uncovered is astonishing.
On average, at a cleanliness level of ISO 4406 10/7, machines lasted 20,000 hours between breakdowns. In contrast, at ISO 4406 24/21 they lasted only 200 hours. The machines with the cleanest fluid operated without breakdown 100 times longer than those with the dirtiest fluid.
When you factor in the costs of machine downtime and repair, that translates to a significant sum.
How to protect your machinery and optimise productivity
The first step is to specify a cleanliness goal for your system, based on ISO 4406. This is the basic requirement to ensure reliability at the lowest possible cost. (For details on setting your cleanliness goal, read our blog post ‘How clean does your oil need to be?’)
You then need to analyse your oil at regular intervals to ensure it meets your goal – the frequency will depend on the equipment. The results of the oil analysis will tell you if filters or additives are needed to maintain the right standard. Your oil analysis reports will also flag any component wear and tear before it becomes an issue, so you can carry out preventative maintenance.
You can then track the economic benefit to your company. For example, one of our customers saw its maintenance spend fall by 32% when they started analysing their oil in this way. Another saw component life in an injection moulding machine increase by a factor of 1.6. And yet another saved 48% on HP filters alone.