Basics - Part 3: Lubricant Storage
Many facilities underestimate the importance of proper lubricant
storage and handling to avoid bearing failure, replacement and
downtime costs. The more varied your operating conditions (such
as when water, heat and fine particulate matter such as dirt
and manufacturing debris are present) the more these fluid and
airborne contaminants can affect your equipment's reliability
and lifespan. Proper lubrication is not only about using the
right amount of lubricant at the right time, it's about the
storage and handling of lubricants to increase the life and
performance of your bearings and ensure the overall success
of your operations.
Here are 7 key things to look out for when storing and handling
1. Design of lubricant storage room
A lubricant storage room must be designed to meet all the storage
and handling requirements of the facility. The design should
accommodate maximum storage capacity without too much bulk storage
to ensure oils are used timeously. Some key factors to consider
are a limited access door that will log when a lube technician
enters and leaves the room, a visible landing area for new lubricants
and a log for lubricant deliveries.
Other design factors must allow filtration of stored lubricants,
proper safety devices and enough floor space for fireproof storage
cabinets (or a separate storage area entirely) to store top-up
containers, grease guns, bulk totes, drums, buckets etc. without
allowing contamination. The design should allow sufficient space
for a desk and computer to receive and log lubricants as well
as conduct and log sampling and filtration processes. The lubricant
storage room can also contain room ventilation with positive
or negative pressure or exhaust-air ventilation to reduce or
remove airborne contaminants.
2. Bulk Oil Storage
Whether you're storing lubricants in large storage drums or
a massive tank, it's important to remove the risk of contamination
or the settling of additives by using the right-sized container
for the lubricant. You can choose the correct container by determining
how much lubricant should be stored at one time to meet the
rate of consumption and ensure maximum shelf life - while allowing
backups for emergencies and supplier turnaround time.
If lubricants are required in large capacities, large storage
drums or a rack mounted storage system may be required.
3. Receiving requirements
The way in which a plant receives lubricants can provide opportunities
for contamination or the improper mixing of lubricants. By maintaining
proper written receiving procedures in your storage and handling
unit, you can ensure consistency and cleanliness throughout
all receiving procedures to mitigate the risk of contamination,
from filtering incoming oils (to ensure they meet your defined
target particle cleanliness level) to correct labelling and
storing of incoming lubricants.
4. Dispensing Stored Oils
When transferring stored oil from the bulk storage system to
the top-up container, we recommend filtering the dispensing
oil to ensure limited exposure to atmospheric conditions.
This becomes simple if you use a hard-plumbed filtration system
and a rack mounted storage system with dedicated dispensing
nozzles. If you're using 55-gallon drums, fitting these with
quick-connect fittings, a hand pump, an inline filter manifold
breather and a sight glass will serve the same purpose.
Lastly, make sure that when you transport the oil from a top-up
container to the machine, you utilize a top-up container that
is sealed from the environment with a built-in spout, hand pump,
etc. to minimize contamination and allow easy cleaning and maintenance.
5. Storing equipment and tools
Poor housekeeping is a sure-fire way of introducing contaminants
into your lubricant. We recommend storing top-up containers,
grease guns, rags and other equipment in dedicated fire-proof
storage cabinets and keeping these organized and accessible.
When storing grease, use sealable washable containers; grease
tubes and drums that are used over an extended period (and opened
often) have an elevated risk of contamination. If you can't
use sealable containers, use Velcro-style covers and snap-on
caps to keep lubricant clean.
6. Shelf Life
Whether you're using oil or grease, it's crucial to be aware
of your lubricant's shelf life. Exceeding OEM shelf life can
hinder the lubricant's performance or worse, render it useless.
This can have long-term consequences for your facility and result
in unnecessary maintenance or repair costs. We recommend the
First-In, First-Out (FIFO) method where you use the oldest lubricants
first and the newest lubricants (those most recently placed
in the storage unit) are used last.
The National Lubrication Grease Institute offers the following
best practice recommendations:
- Store lubricant indoors in a cool, dry area to limit airborne
- Use the oldest container of lubricant first
- Keep containers tightly covered
- Wipe off the edges of a container before opening it to prevent
dirt getting in
- Where necessary, bring grease to the correct dispensing
temperature before using it
- Clean grease-handling tools (such as spatulas, drum pumps,
grease guns etc.)
- When partially using lubricant from a container, refill
the container and smooth and level the surface before closing
- Store grease tubes upright with the removable cap facing
7. Labelling and Identification
Lubricant labelling is an aspect of storage and handling that
is often overlooked. Without proper labelling, it's easy for
cross contamination to occur. Decide how to label each lubricant,
from bulk storage requirements to the equipment it will be used
for. Any labelling system, whether alphanumeric or colour coded
or any combination of these, ensures lubricants are kept in
the right location and prevents cross contamination. However,
you must make sure that labelling is consistent and up to date.
Matching stored lubricants to the machines should be the primary
goal of your labelling system. All maintenance personnel must
be able to correctly identify lubricants in storage and to correctly
identify their applications to match the lubricant appropriately.
Feeling like lubrication storage is just too much to handle?
Call our toll-free number on 1-800-367-4180. We have experts
on hand to advise you on lubrication storage and handling. And
to answer questions about things you've previously tried gone