Lubrication Checkup: Automated Systems

"We're working through an RCM process on our major equipment. As most of our machinery is fitted with automated lubrication equipment, I am looking for typical failure scenarios and prevention strategies."

Although centralized automated lubrication systems can triple the economic life cycle of bearings, they're not immune to abuse, neglect, poor maintenance or incorrect setup.

Take note of these common issues associated with automated lube systems:

  1. Your automated system's finely toleranced components are NOT dirt-tolerant. Absolute cleanliness is critical when transferring lubricants to system reservoirs. Clean reservoirs before filling and ensure that bulk lubricants haven't been exposed to airborne contamination.
  2. Mixing of lubricants can damage bearings. Mark reservoirs for the correct product and fill via dedicated transfer equipment.
  3. Single-line-resistance, fixed-injector or progressive-divider-type systems are engineered by the OEM and only require the pump output delivery and sequence timer to be tuned. Once tuned, record settings and place inside the sequence controller.
  4. For variable-output, single-line or dual-line injector systems, users must tune the pump delivery output, sequence timer and each delivery point output. (This system type is especially vulnerable to overlubrication due to users changing delivery point outputs.) Once tuned, physically scribe the injector set-point mark, record settings and place inside the sequence controller. If settings continue to be changed, install a physical guard over the injector points.
  5. If blocked-line or broken-line indicators are employed, train operators to recognize faults and perform regular inspections for system damage. Neglecting these warning devices can shut down the system and put bearings at risk.
  6. Do NOT paint see-through reservoirs or sight-glass level indicators. Mark reservoirs with a RAG (Red/Amber/Green) indicator system: GREEN indicates the high-fill line; AMBER indicates the early-warning fill requirement; RED indicates the final-warning fill requirement before the system shuts down. Train operators to monitor the fluid level and notify maintenance once the AMBER level is reached. If a unit is not filled prior to reaching the RED level, maintenance is again notified. If low-level alarms are employed and disconnected, the units must be protected with physical shrouds.
  7. Moving lubricant reservoirs and controls outside equipment lockout perimeters will allow maintenance and filling while equipment runs. MT

Lubrication questions? Ask Dr. Lube, aka Ken Bannister, author of the best-selling book Lubrication for Industry and the Lubrication section of the 28th edition Machinery's Handbook. He's also a contributing editor for Maintenance Technology and Lubrication Management & Technology. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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