|Oil industry veteran Richard Clancy blows the whistle on industry’s poor attitudes and practices towards lubrication.
Time to educate on lubrication
Oil industry veteran Richard Clancy blows the whistle on industry’s poor attitudes and practices towards lubrication.
According to Richard Clancy, lubrication is not being given the consideration it deserves across industry. He admits that the importance of lubrication is being taught at various conferences around the country – but this is largely a case of preaching to the converted. Conference attendees may be up to speed, he says – but it’s management who’re not getting the message.
Compounding the problem, he adds, is the fact that the person charged with performing lubrication duties is often well down the organisational ladder.
“The Mobil lubrication schedule always used to have a page that stated that the “lubrication mechanic” should be considered a valuable member of the maintenance reliability team. They are often the first to see that a gearbox is running hot, leaking oil or some-such, or that a belt is out of alignment. However, because of their lowly status in the organisation, their observations and comments are often ignored until the situation worsens and a much more advanced situation occurs.”
Maintenance engineers often have to battle with management, who see maintenance engineering as a ‘cost centre’, rather than what it actually is – a ‘profit centre’, says Clancy.
“Management is often reluctant to release money for correct lubrication practices, including training. But this expenditure is rewarded many times over in improved reliability, and therefore profit to the ‘bottom line’.”
He believes another problem is the lack of courses on lubrication being offered by training institutions.
“I see this as a basic. If people trained as mechanical engineers are not aware of the importance of lubrication: the basic terms; the properties of base oils; the functions of additives, and how these factors influence the life and reliability of machines, then they will not be able to adjudicate the reasons for failure – if they are lubrication related. They may be easily convinced by a smooth-talking ‘snake-oil salesman’ that his product will solve a particular problem, rather than addressing the root cause.
“I consider the study of tribology as important as understanding higher mathematics when it comes to the skills needed to operate equipment efficiently.”
Clancy suggests various business management courses, including accounting, should have a module on equipment reliability – because most graduates will later rely on some form of equipment to generate income.
“If these young managers are aware that engineers need their assistance in promoting ‘Best Practice’ for maximized profits by utilising correct lubrication practices, then profitability will improve.”
Summing up the current situation, Clancy sees the problem between engineers and financial managers as a “fundamental lack of appreciation of each others' roles”.
“If a company has slack financial controls on engineering spending, it’ll fail. In another scenario, if it has overly restrictive controls on spending, it will also fail. It’s the same end result. The road to success is an appreciation of the roles of engineering and cost management, and that can only be achieved by educating both parties.
“History has shown that conflict only achieves short-term gains. The philosophy of the people will always prevail. That, I believe, is the role of education, to change debilitating entrenched beliefs.”
Beware the counterfeits
This case also started Clancy down a path of identifying counterfeit product in equipment while in use.
Time to educate on lubrication
Tuesday, 11 January 2011