Because lubricants shouldn’t just lubricate… they should also protect!

7 Questions for Facility Managers

Facilities managers, when was the last time you had a good hard look at your lubricant inventory and reassessed your lubrication practices? If you can’t remember, this post is for you.

Chances are, workplace lubrication is really just a line item under a broader category in your monthly or yearly budget. You may not think about it much. When something squeaks, you spray a quick blast of whatever aerosol brand you’ve been using for years. The squeaking stops. You walk away and get onto the next thing on your list. Problem solved.

But is it really? Or have you just pushed it down the road, unknowingly making the problem worse? And are you using the right kind of lubricant for your facility, considering the many diverse needs your clients, workers, or students may have?

Many lubricant sprays are quick-fixers. They stop the squeak or make the thing run more smoothly, but that doesn’t mean the issue won’t be back, and next time it could be worse. How? Some well-known sprays aren’t lubricants at all--they’re actually solvents, which may be good at breaking up rust but do nothing to lubricate or protect. Other high-viscosity lubricants gather particles like dust, rust, dirt, and whatever else happens to be floating around. Eventually, these turn into an abrasive paste that ends up causing more damage to chains, bearings, or gears. These lubricants may also provide a false sense of security. They might not last as long as you think they do, which means wear-related damage could be occurring sooner than you realize. Damage leads to costly maintenance, repairs, and downtime.

Another cost that doesn’t get as much attention: energy. How much energy is required to run the machine when it’s sticky and dirty? Answer: much more than is required to run it clean. The correct lubrication can lower your energy costs by 5-10%. In large facilities with lots of equipment, this can add up to massive savings very quickly.

A far better solution is to degrease the application, blast it clean with compressed air, and treat it with a lubricant that is designed to both last a long time and repel dirt particles instead of attract them. Yes, this process takes a few minutes longer, but it means the situation has been approached head-on and dealt with, rather than just put off for a while. Think of it as Present You doing Future You a favor.

Dry lubricants that create a solid, long-lasting film, repel water, and offer a low coefficient of friction are your best bet. They don’t leave a sticky residue, they won’t drip or attract dirt, and they can outlast more commonly known lubricants by many times, prolonging the life of your equipment and saving money on labor, repair, and replacement. Think of these products as both a lubricant and a protective coating.

Ask yourself these seven questions to gain a clearer picture of whether your lubrication regime needs a checkup.

1 What does your OEM recommend?

One lubricant is not like another. Most people can rattle off the names of the most popular brands of lubricants, but they don’t actually know what’s in them. Well, you may think, so what? I don’t have a degree in chemistry, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be on the market if they were harmful, so what’s the problem?

The issue is that your particular application probably came with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. If it’s expensive automated equipment, you are more likely to know what lubricant is recommended--or you should be. But what about more standard pieces of equipment found in every facility, like HVAC systems? Do you know what your manufacturer recommends and why? Using the wrong lubricant can lead to big problems, and they’re not always for reasons that you might be able to foresee… for example, due to the way certain chemicals react when lubricants mix, or the way some surfaces react with propellants.

2 What NSF rating do your lubricants hold?

If your facility is involved in the production of anything consumable--even pet food--it would be ideal if you used only NSF H1-rated lubricants everywhere. Or, even though you may not produce food as a business, if your facility contains a kitchen or cafeteria, the lubricant you’re using may still end up incidentally contaminating consumable items. NSF H1 lubricants are considered safe for incidental consumption. They are not to be added to food, of course, and they aren’t meant to be applied directly to food preparation surfaces. But in certain concentrations, they are considered acceptable for accidental contact with foodstuffs. HVAC systems, forklifts, cafeteria doors or other fixtures… all these are good candidates for H1 replacement, because the lubricants used on them may end up in the food supply for reasons you can’t predict.

There are also H2 and H3 rated lubricants, but why take the chance? H1s aren’t much more expensive, and they lower the chances of unhealthy contamination significantly. Most importantly, in the event of an inspection, you know you’re covered.

3 Are your lubricants certified kosher and/or halal?

A diverse clientele or workforce means being considerate of many needs. For some, knowing that you are taking this extra step goes a long way toward cementing goodwill and building a positive reputation. You can check to see if your lubricants possess kosher or halal ratings on the product label or the manufacturer’s website. Many Interflon products have both kosher and halal certification.

4 How long do your lubricants last?

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t done more than a cursory cost comparison. You just bought whatever was cheapest or most readily available. This is a common mistake, because one lubricant is most definitely not like another. Many lubricants are easily flung off by rapidly-moving parts, but the manufacturers won’t mention this on the label. Also, just because a product is promoted for its moisture-dispersing abilities doesn’t mean it won’t mix with water or let it back in as soon as it’s evaporated. Choose a lubricant that doesn’t just disperse water, but actually forms a long-lasting barrier against it.

5 How do your lubricants react with electrical or electronic components?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, then for the sake of safety you should assume it’s “Not well.” Look for a lubricant that has dielectric properties. These are insulating, and can be applied directly to bare wires, circuit boards, and connections with no fear of shorting. Not only that, they will actually protect the circuitry from the effects of moisture and corrosion.

6 Can multiple lubricants be replaced by one product?

Many lubricant manufacturers will repackage the same product in umpteen different ways, using a different label in each case. Take an inventory of your lubricant cabinet and count how many different brands are there. If the answer is “More than three,” you need to do some purging. Lubricants exist that are not only food-safe, kosher, halal, and dielectric all at once, but they also last a very long time and do an excellent job of repelling water. They are more expensive than your most commonly-known brands, but they are worth every penny, and in the long run will end up saving you money in energy, repair, and replacement.

Many Interflon lubricants fit this description! In addition to providing protection and the lowest possible friction, they are food-safe, kosher, halal, and dielectric. To find out which of our products suits your needs best, visit our Products page or give us a call at (877) 346-5823.

7 Are your lubricants being stored properly?

Lubricant storage rules are something that may not be on your radar, but depending on what type of facility you operate, there may be stringent rules determining the storage of lubricants and other materials that may be considered hazardous. This is especially true in food processing facilities. Make sure you and all your staff are well trained in what goes where, and follow all appropriate guidelines for avoiding cross-contamination and accidental exposure.

As we’ve seen, the benefits of reassessing your lubrication situation are many. From cost savings to safety, it’s a critical part of your role as facilities manager to stay on top of your lubricant situation.