Stickers or lube identification tags have been employed for years to guarantee the right lubricant is put in the right place. However, few organizations utilize lube tags to their full potential, while some fail to use them at all. These simple devices not only can help ensure the proper lube is being used, but if managed correctly, they can also improve machine reliability.

A good tagging system is frequently overlooked as a key part of a world-class lubrication program. There are many solutions on the market for color-coding devices that are commonly used in a lubrication program. Some of these include top-up containers, filter carts, grease guns, totes, pumps and other similar products. Although color-coding is a great practice, simply using a color for a single lubricant is often ineffective. With most facilities having more than 10 different lubricants, it can become difficult to distinguish between subtle differences in color, and more clarification is needed.

Examples of LIS labels for oil and grease


Some organizations have taken the additional step of utilizing a symbol along with a color to specify a particular lubricant for an application. By adding a second identifier, such as a shape scheme, you can exponentially expand the number of unique color and shape combinations to suit the amount of lubricants in your facility. For example, if you were to only use yellow to identify a particular gear fluid, you are limiting the color yellow to a single application. If you were to use yellow and a shape, such as a square, you can then employ yellow for other applications, provided that you utilize a different shape combination.

While using a combination of shapes and colors is an excellent approach, it can be hindered by a lack of creativity. One common practice that should be avoided is simply utilizing the lubricant’s product name to label the component in question. If the lubricant supplier changes the name of the product or your facility switches lubricant brands, this type of labeling system would be rendered useless and each machine would need to be relabeled. This would require constant monitoring of lubricant names along with increased manpower, especially when product names change. The best practice is to employ a generic system that doesn’t rely on product names.

One solution that provides much more information than most simple lube tags is Noria’s Lubricant Identification System (LIS). In the center of the LIS tag is the lubricant’s ISO 6743 designation. This designation explains the formulation, base oil type and applications for most lubricating oils. Also listed on the tag is the specific viscosity grade and base oil type for each lubricant. In addition, each viscosity grade has its own color that can be standardized throughout the plant. For oils, the LIS tag is square-shaped, while for greases the tag is round.

Where Lube Tags Should Be Used

  • Storage tanks
  • Drums, tote bins, pails
  • Grease guns
  • Top-up containers
  • Filter carts
  • Waste oil containers
  • Machines
  • Drum pumps
  • Portable transfer hoses
  • Funnels
  • Portable sampling hardware

The LIS system incorporates all the best practices for tagging and does not employ product names. This allows it to remain valid even if lubricant brands are changed. The system provides a generic specification for a particular lubricant, which can then be matched by a new lubricant supplier to ensure similar products will be used, thus reducing the risk of machine failure caused by applying a lubricant that isn’t suited for a specific application.

As technology advances and the use of handheld devices for maintenance activities becomes more prevalent, lube tags may come to be even more important in the future. Many of these handheld devices are able to read barcodes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and a list of other coding options. Combining your lube tags with these types of codes could allow the lube technician to scan a piece of equipment and see the lubricant type as well as any outstanding work orders. This provides the opportunity to integrate all of these systems together with a single tag.

LIS labels implemented in a lube room


The lube tag’s construction material should be aligned with the operating context of the equipment on which it will be attached. Steel offers many advantages over other materials, as it holds up to extreme temperatures and caustic environments much better than plastics and other metals. However, steel is hard to form to fit machines unless it is thin. Therefore, consider plastic, aluminum or vinyl for equipment that doesn’t operate in such harsh environments. These other materials are much easier to bend, which helps them stick to rounded equipment faces. Likewise, the adhesive to be used should be matched to the operating conditions, along with any UV coating for tags that will be exposed to direct sunlight.

A lube tagging system is a great way to mitigate failures caused by lubricant cross-contamination as well as introduce barcodes or similar items into the field. Keep in mind that you want to label all products that will potentially touch a lubricant, not just equipment. With a robust tagging system, you can ensure that even an inexperienced technician will be able to put the proper lubricant in the right place.

38% of plants do not use lube tags to prevent adding the wrong oil, based on a recent survey at