"We are in the early stages of implementing a lubrication program and would like to know how much detail should be included in our lube procedures? What is the best format?"

The first thing to remember when developing lubrication procedures is to use a format that works for your plant. One size does not fit all. Some plants may be able to use a pen and paper, while larger facilities may require mobile handheld computers. The details that come with daily, weekly or monthly routes will depend on the information's purpose.

When selecting a logging system, consider things such as documenting, analyzing and ease of use. Many organizations can achieve sufficient documentation by utilizing a predetermined layout which is printed and supplied to personnel to check and record. These records may or may not be archived.

Advanced systems that deploy handheld devices give users numerous options for data entry, analysis and archiving of results. Parameters can be set to generate work orders based on unsatisfactory results. Trending data is another benefit, as you can record the oil temperature and use trends to detect problems such as a heat exchanger that is not working correctly.

The format of your lube procedures will depend on the task at hand. Tasks that involve multiple individuals, additional safety steps or skilled personnel will require more details written into the procedure. Simpler tasks like checking oil levels may be brief one- or two-line steps. For example, when checking oil levels in a common reservoir, high and low limits should be defined. This could be as simple as marking the sight glass with maximum and minimum levels. Data recording should also take into consideration whether the machine is running as well as the current conditions.

In addition, parameters should be set based on the breather's condition to detect when a replacement is needed. The procedure should stipulate that yellow desiccant indicates it is still active, whereas black desiccant signifies a breather change should occur. Providing specific details about the color change activation will also help to indicate machine problems. Depending on the breather type, a change in desiccant color from the bottom upward usually signifies that the machine has a considerable amount of moisture in the headspace.

Of course, a plant may begin with paper logs but then see the need for a more advanced system later. Including additional details in your procedures generally will lead to increased "catches," resulting in reduced downtime. Indeed, a little extra time spent designing your procedures can prevent major issues that could arise. Finally, use training aids to teach new personnel the proper procedures along with why it is important to complete the tasks as specified.