The seven most expensive words in business “we have always done it this way”

  • Story

    2016 August 03, 10:00 CEST

    Lubrication management can make or break asset performance. Get your lubrication management right and you have a sound foundation for asset reliability. Get it wrong or manage it incorrectly and you will be paying expensive consequences.

    There are many technologies available in relation to lubricants and lubrication that ensure the right amount & type of lubrication applied at the right time. However, identification of potential negative impacts on HACCP have led to the emergence of a different approach in managing lubrication proactively.

    Lubrication practices are not always effective. And costs can be daunting.
    As good lubrication practices are widely accepted to be fundamental to plant reliability, the question is not about re-lubricating, but about the choices made to achieve the right outcome.

    How effective are your current lubrication practices?
    If you are manually lubricating – do you know how much, with what and how often?
    Some typical answers throughout the industry are: “I relubricate when I feel it is the right time”, “how much – depends on the size of the man using the grease gun”, “ what with – depends on what grease cartridge is in the stores”. In other words, in the food and beverage industry relubrication can be still an ad-hoc activity and not scientifically applied.

    Why you should be concerned
    The consequences of ineffective lubrication can be excessive downtime, high spares consumption, food and operator safety risks and ultimately an expensive toll on the maintenance budget. In other words, lubrication actions can often cause as many problems as they solve:

    • Frequent re-lubrication implies grease and labour costs, re-lubrication to purge bearing positions
    • Contamination risk: food safety can often be compromised by over-lubricating
    • Operator safety: re-lubricating in hazardous working area with difficult access. Additionally - leaking seals can cause slips and trips. The cost of absenteeism due to injuries is high
    • Resources & skills: challenge of skill level in the industry to perform the correct re-lubrication and retaining that knowledge

    The industry is sending warning signs
    Ever tightening industry regulations to ensure food safety are demanding different ways of managing lubrication. Very often lubrication management review is part of the HACCP certification and is checked by third party regulators, which can be employed by the producer or imposed on them by their customers, often retailers. The new Food Safety Modernisation Act (2011) for example is designed to prevent contamination in the food chain, rather than define reactive procedures for dealing with problems, once they arise.
    You certainly would not wish to be one of those companies faced with a recall due to food safety issues.
    As a result of safety or health recall of food product:

    • 55% would switch brands at least temporarily
    • 16% would never purchase the product again
    • 17% would avoid any product with the recalled brand (Harris Poll, 2014)

    Furthermore, companies are pressured to set targets for environment and sustainability, which can be impacted by the way lubrication and relubrication is executed. Zero landfill is one of the common KPIs to follow and the trend is to change from a disposal oriented to an avoidance focused environmental strategy. (The Zero Landfill Initiative)
    For example, it is common practice to re-lubricate bearings after each washdown. During this process, excess grease is dis-charged past the bearing seals (purged). This can compromise food safety, people safety and of course asset reliability. At the next wash down cycle, the grease is washed away and into the plant’s waste water.

    Managing lubrication as a strategy instead of lubrication management as a practice
    It is now time the food and beverage industry should reconsider the way lubrication is practiced on sites and look into alternative technologies that provide food & operator safety, optimized costs and environmental benefits in the same time.
    Among the dedicated technologies available to support management of the lubrication of food and beverage processing machinery, relubrication-free bearings and advanced sealing systems have emerged as potential solutions that can mitigate against risk of food and operator safety, also avoiding excess lubricants being washed into the waste water stream or disposing of grease cleaning wipes.

    Start with pro-actively assessing costs, risks, opportunities and benefits of managing lubrication
    At SKF, we have found that a Technical Assessment of a production process provides the structure to readily identify potential issues, risks, opportunities and benefits in moving from current approaches. And the good news is that it does not require much of your time and from this it should be easy to plan short, medium and long term activities.

    Challenge the “always done it this way”
    Identification of potential negative impacts on HACCP can lead to areas for improvement where SKF offers a range of technology and service offerings dedicated to helping you manage lubrication. These cover for example

    • Re-lubrication free bearing technologies
    • High efficiency seals that keep lubricants in and contaminants out
    • Lubrication management: we can review and optimize lubrication strategy and lubrication routines in order to:
      • Apply the right amount of lubricant at the right intervals manually or through automatic systems
      • Use the right tools following the correct methods
      • Set up an appropriate training program for maintenance technicians and operators
    • SKF can also provide a smart way to detect poor lubrication condition by analyzing vibration data through ‘vibration parameters’.

    There are different ways to meet this challenge - at SKF we can do more than traditional lubrication management looking only at lubricants and the way to apply them; we can bring technologies that take away the need to re-lubricate, adding value from a food safety, cost , reliability or environmental perspective. What makes the difference is our deep knowledge of rotating equipment, industry experience and commitment to reduce your cost of ownership.

    Fact box 1:
    “15-25% of maintenance budget is lost due to poor lubrication management” – food and beverage industry estimation

    Fact box 2:
    Unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees. (

    Aktiebolaget SKF

    For further information, please contact:
    Press Relations: Sabine Hergenröder, +46 31 337 6418, +46 705 77 6418;

    SKF is a leading global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems, and services which include technical support, maintenance and reliability services, engineering consulting and training. SKF is represented in more than 130 countries and has around 17,000 distributor locations worldwide. Annual sales in 2015 were SEK 75 997 million and the number of employees was 46 635.

    ® SKF is a registered trademark of the SKF Group.

  • Image

Download press kit

Press kit (26.7 KB)

SKF logo