'I'll Triple-Size, Please!'

ken_bannisterI've always enjoyed spending time with people older than myself. As a young design engineer, I would seek out draftsmen, engineers and managers who were close to retirement and spend quality "think" time with them.

This gave me a chance to learn about innovations that took place long before I was born. That's how I became so fascinated with the 1920s—an era marked by phenomenal thinking and change fueled by the likes of Einstein, Edison, Ford and, of particular interest to readers of this magazine, Bijur.

In 1923, Joseph Bijur revolutionized industry by developing a self-contained, engineered lubrication pump and centralized lubrication-delivery system for oil. Known as the Centralized Single Line Resistance (SLR) system, it was designed for the automobile, which, at the time, had over 50 points the driver had to lubricate on a per-trip, daily or weekly basis. Bijur's invention reduced this effort to a mere pull of a handle that would send oil everywhere it was needed via a metering device set up at each lubrication point. Centralized automated lubrication was born!

Bijur clearly would have studied the single-point gravity oiling devices in use at the time. They employed a small reservoir, a variable-aperture bleed screw, a spring-tensioned follower plate (for grease) and a wick or brush first developed in the early 1800s for steam-engine bearings. He also probably studied Elijah McCoy's steam-pressurized single-point oiling device that used engine steam to automatically force-feed lubrication to a point. (This product worked so well that from the 1870s on, railroads would shun other designs in favor of "the real McCoy.")

Later, Bijur harnessed the automobile's own vacuum system to truly automate his lubrication system, making his product a common part of every car in the '30s and '40s (and up until 1961 on Rolls-Royce cars). It also became a standard option in the machine-tool industry, which ultimately led to it being the most copied automated lubrication system ever. It was so efficient that the rate of mechanical failures was reduced to a third of what it had been previously. Tripling equipment life was great for the equipment itself—but not so good for those who were selling OEM automotive parts!

In 1924, a year after Bijur's centralized system hit the market, Chicago's Alemite Die Casting bought out Cleveland's Allyne-Zerk Company. The deal mated Alemite's High-Pressure Lubricating grease gun (designed in 1916) with Oscar Zerk's compact push-style grease and oil fitting. This union was significant in that the grease zerk fitting eventually replaced Bijur's centralized system, based on cost—and, of course, the fact that many more parts could be sold!

Bijur went on to introduce other automated lubrication systems, as did companies like Trabon (the Series Progressive Divider system); Lincoln (the Single Line Positive Displacement Injector system); Farval (the Dualine Positive Displacement Injector system); and Tecalamit (the Pump-to-Point system). All of these players essentially produced iterations of each other's designs—and today offer sophisticated computer-controlled devices that self-diagnose system effectiveness.

Two things haven't changed over time: 1) Automated lubrication systems still triple effective equipment life; and 2) Manual greasing/oiling systems are still cheap to purchase, but terribly expensive to manage effectively. Isn't it about time that you learned from the past? Isn't it time to triple-size your equipment's life? LMT

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