Protect Your Investment, Protect Your Grease

Grease: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Most lubrication fundamentals are fairly well understood in this day and age. There are plenty of websites with documentation on topics ranging through a variety of lubricating systems and analysis. There are even a lot of manufacturers, laboratories and literature on the key points and fundamentals of the variety of other fluids used today, such as fuels, solvents and even coolants.

However, one area that is still shrouded in mystery to most: Grease.

Grease: A History

A semi-solid lubricant, grease generally it consists of a soap, emulsified with an oil, (though clays are used in place of the soap in some extreme temperature applications). Some of the first recorded applications were used by the Egyptians and the Romans, thousands of years ago, though modern greases really came about during World War II.

Manufacturing Complications

In the recent years, the manufacture of greases has been described as an art. The processes is very complicated and requires:

  • High temperatures and pressures
  • Oil charges added at specific times and flow
  • Accurate application – if not, the grease will fail and turn into slop

The tests designed to qualify the greases from the production environment were designed many decades ago and mainly designed to ensure quality during manufacturing. They were not designed to qualify greases, in the most part, for use in the field.

Grease Formulations

To make matters more complicated, most literature from OEM’s specify a NLGI grade, a soap type and if you are really lucky, a base oil viscosity requirement. Grease manufacturers have made a huge number of formulations and in many cases, these three parameters may be identical, yet the actual formulations could be significantly different and in fact incompatible with each other. Not all greases are compatible. Even greases of the same soap composition may be incompatible with each other, resulting in a complete loss of lubrication in the component.

Grease Sampling

The next issue is related to sampling. The process of lubrication utilized in a greased system is different compared to a similar oil-lubricated system. Grease is designed to release the lubricating oil charge with the soap holding it into the area where the lubrication is required. As a result, the grease in the compartment will most likely be extremely non-homogeneous. If the grease is sampled from the outer surface or from the corners of the system may not been representative of the grease next to the area being lubricated. Taking a representative sample that will provide a valuable maintenance recommendation is a really challenging activity. There are some excellent resources available to combat this issue, I suggest reading the ASTM D7718 Practice for Obtaining In-Service Samples of Lubricating Grease.

Grease Testing

The final step of conventional condition monitoring and equipment maintenance is normally testing of the fluid. As noted above, a number of conventional grease tests, are designed to qualify grease manufacture. These tests, such as penetration and dropping point, may not give any significant information for reliability purposes. This may seem of great concern to most, but in-service grease testing is an area where most current research is focuses on.

Why Test Your Grease?

Grease is rather complicated compared to conventional lubricating system’s condition monitoring systems. You might ask, why bother? Really, it comes down to cost. Grease is generally more expensive than the equivalent lubricant, sometimes by a factor of 10 or more. In addition, a large number of grease systems are designed to last a much longer periods between re-greasing compared to some conventional oil lubrication systems. As a result there is a real financial gain to be found from obtaining effective maintenance reliability recommendations.

POLARIS Laboratories® will be adding grease to our fluid analysis capabilities in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
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Published March 21, 2019

Harsh Environments Halting Production?

Harsh operating conditions, extreme load variations and the high-dollar costs involved in downtime and equipment replacement make fluid analysis a necessary part of doing business in the mining industry. Routine testing identifies small problems before they become major failures allowing you to meet the high demands of your customers on time and on budget.

The heavy-duty equipment required by mining applications is often exposed to extreme, uncontrollable environmental factors for long periods of time, yet is still expected to maintain maximum performance levels. Contamination and wear are imminent and when left unchecked, can halt production in a heartbeat.

Condition Monitoring

Monitoring the condition of both the fluid and the unit through analysis identifies wear-causing contaminants and their effect on component performance. Monitoring the condition of coolant along with engine oil creates a clearer picture of what’s occurring in the engine. Sampling frequency should be based on the unit’s criticality to production, as well as the costs involved in replacement or repair.

  • Is Your Diesel Engine Protected?
    • Routinely monitoring a diesel engine oil’s viscosity, as well as its ability to neutralize acids and disperse and suspend soot particles produced during combustion, can indicate if anti-wear additive and dispersant/detergent levels are providing sufficient engine protection.
  • What’s Wearing on Your Gear Systems/Wheel Motors?
    • Although contamination by dirt and water should be closely monitored in manual/auto transmissions, electric wheel motor bearings, differentials, final drives and planetaries, the biggest concern for these systems is the type of wear occurring.
  • Is Your Hydraulic System Adequate?
    • Hydraulic systems, including automatic powershift transmissions, require the fluid’s viscosity to be low enough to minimize friction loss, yet high enough to prevent fluid leakage and provide satisfactory protection against wear. It should have good oxidation stability to prevent sludge from forming, sufficient water separability and air release properties and resistance to foaming.

Learn how you can reduce the risks of unexpected failure by better protecting your equipment:

Maximize asset reliability and regain control of your production schedules with an effective fluid analysis program and partnership with POLARIS Laboratories®.

It costs so little to protect so much.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published March 12, 2019

Keeping the Coast Clear from Safety Issues

Nothing derails your equipment reliability more than a critical failure or accident whilst in operation. Performing maintenance is a perilous activity, and lack of inadequate processes can also lead to dangerous situations for engineers to work in. Adding maintenance to an already high-risk operation can lead to serious safety issues for your team.

Marine Operational Safety

Failure or unplanned maintenance in the marine industry puts the vessel and crew members at a greater risk. Quickly addressing unplanned problems usually means tasks being rushed and compliant procedures not being followed, in order to complete the task as soon as possible – and to get back on track. One of the largest causes of maintenance-related accidents in the marine industry is unidentified equipment failures – and the required maintenance to fix the issue. So, how can you keep the coast clear from safety issues for your team and identify these failures before they happen? Using lubrication analysis as a reliability tool and taking action on the maintenance recommendations provided on the report can:

  • Resolve unplanned, rushed maintenance
  • Improve equipment reliability
  • Provide a safer operating environment

Go Beyond Your Report

We see many companies utilize oil analysis as part of their condition monitoring program, but not efficiently act on the results and recommendations we provide on the report. Simply reacting to sample reports that show critical results does not improve reliability – because the problem has already occurred.

Vessel operators and fleet managers should look beyond the standard sample report and utilize all of the Data Management Reports and Statistical KPI’s available in HORIZON®. Using the management reports provides an overview of all of the sample data and recommendations provided by the laboratory to be analyzed, allowing operators to plan accordingly, perform maintenance at a safe, suitable time, improved vessel performance and reliability, and ultimately, reduce risk of accidents.

Want to learn more about our solutions for the marine industry? Download our solution sheet:

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published March 5, 2019

One-Stop Shop for Maintenance Management

Fluid analysis data is a key component to a successful asset reliability and maintenance tracking program. Do you and your maintenance team feel the frustration of accessing multiple systems just to manage your fluid analysis data and equipment information? Is utilizing multiple systems for program management starting to cause inefficiencies resulting in lost production time for your team? Looking for a one-stop shop for accessing and managing your equipment maintenance that will save you time and money?

The solution: DataConnect

This advanced solution allows all of your HORIZON® sample data to be automatically imported into your internal maintenance tracking program. By doing this, frustration, inconveniences and inefficient practices are eliminated. Organize your equipment data, submit samples and evaluate the testing results – all within one system.

  • Increase visibility
  • React quickly to high severity results
  • Cut maintenance costs
  • Prove the value of fluid analysis to leadership

Contact us for more information on how to set up DataConnect for your fluid analysis program!

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published February 26, 2019

Cooling System Do’s and Don’ts

40% of engine failures can be attributed to issues within the cooling system. Knowing the do’s and don’ts for maintaining your cooling system will help protect your equipment, increase reliability and avoid failure. Here’s few things to do and a few things not to do.

Do:

  • Use a water that meets specifications
    • This includes water being used for top offs, mixing a concentrate and if you are unable to remove the majority of the flush water.
    • Water that meets specifications will not add contaminates to cooling system and will help maintain fluid properties.
  • Use the same coolant formulation for maintenance adjustments
    • If you are unable to use the same coolant in the cooling system (this is recommended), then select a coolant that has similar corrosion protection inhibitors (this will maintain the inhibitor levels for adequate corrosion protection)
  • Test your engine coolant and observe fluid at every PM
    • Every engine sample should have at least one coolant sample tested by the laboratory to ensure equipment health and fluid properties are adequate
    • Catching issues early will stop further corrosion or potential for corrosion by proactively correcting the issues found before catastrophic failure occurs
  • Ensure the correct coolant testing is included in your test package
    • Testing all inhibitors in the formulation will help determine if the corrosion protection levels are adequate or not
    • Advanced testing will help determine if degradation acids are present, identify mechanical issues and determine if the system was contaminated with sulfate and/or chloride
    • Using the right test package will provide the best recommendations and protection for your equipment

Do not:

  • Use any type of water to mix with antifreeze
    • This includes top offs, diluting a concentration or leaving excessive amounts of flush water in the system
    • Using hard water that does not meet specifications, will cause scaling of the system components resulting in loss of heat transfer abilities of the cooling system
  • Mix different coolant corrosion protection formulations
    • Be aware, if you mix an organic formulation with a conventional formulation, some OEMs or coolant manufacturers will state the coolant now must be treated as a conventional antifreeze
    • Some OEMs and coolant manufacturers may also only recommend to change out the coolant if mixed. It’s important to know what recommendations for mixing are for you equipment
    • Mixing formulations will hinder corrosion protection levels and could cause inhibitor drop out, leaving the system vulnerable for corrosion. Concerns of incompatibility between inhibitors can be concerning for the equipment health, too.
  • Put coolant in and forget about the cooling system
    • The most preventable engine failure is not maintaining the cooling system. The cooling system should circulate, absorb heat and dissipate heat from the engine. If issues within the cooling system hinder the removal of heat from the engine then equipment issues and eventually engine failure will occur
  • Simply choose to just test the cooling system
    • Not understanding the proper testing needed for the coolant formulation may not provide the whole picture of corrosion protection levels, equipment health and contamination that may be present in the cooling system
    • These can lead to premature engine failures if the cooling system is not being properly maintained

These simple do’s and don’ts are some of the ways to maintain your cooling system from premature engine failures. The cooling system is part of the overall health of your equipment and should not be ignored.

If you aren’t sure what coolant testing is best for your equipment, reach out to us for guidance and explanation. We’re here to answer your questions – and help you save your equipment!

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published  February 19, 2019

Why Is Fuel Testing Important?

 

Cleanliness Standards

Today’s diesel engine fuel systems are designed with tighter clearances and operate under higher pressures than those of the past. Fuel cleanliness is critical in keeping your fuel system operating efficiently and preventing premature wear of vital components.

But, That’s Not All…

The cleanliness of the fuel is not the only thing that should be considered. The correct fuel test package can help identify the root cause of many issues, including:

  • Engine performance concerns
  • Fuel filter plugging
  • Excessive engine smoking
  • Lubricity concerns
  • Fuel quality concerns for both winter and summer operations
  • Bio fuel concerns
  • Growth of bacteria, fungi & mold
  • Sulphur content validation

At a minimum, routine fuel testing should consist of:

  • Fuel cleanliness
  • Fuel quality
  • Fuel contamination

When To Test Your Fuel

The recommended interval for fuel testing is dependent on the industry and the volume of fuel consumed. For industries with large consumptions, with resupply of fuel on a daily basis (tanker loads), you might consider checking fuel cleanliness on each delivery. For others, a fuel quality and contamination check may only be needed twice per year, at the start of the winter months when switching to winter grade fuels, and then again when switching back to the summer blend.

Based on the results of these tests, or if you suspect fuel-related issues, advanced fuel testing should be considered.

At POLARIS Laboratories®, we offer a wide range of fuel test packages. Please feel free to contact us and we will gladly assist you in customizing a fuel test package to meet your needs.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published  February 12, 2019

How to Optimize Your Off-Highway Performance

Operating off-highway operations means exposing your expensive equipment to harsh conditions daily, including moisture, abrasives and temperature. Despite these harsh conditions, the equipment is still expected to perform at high levels and complete jobs on time. When it comes to off-highway equipment, there are four major issues to be aware of that could affect your equipment performance:

  1. CONDITIONS | operating in extreme environmental conditions can cause excessive wear and shorten the life of your equipment
  2. DIRT | dirt and silica can contaminate your oil, causing excessive wear on the engine
  3. WATER | water can wreak havoc on the operating performance and cause severe damage to the equipment
  4. OVERHEATING | operating under the above circumstances will result in overheating of the equipment- causing your equipment to fail

Breakdowns usually occur far from any mechanics shop, meaning repairs are slow, expensive and they put projects behind schedule. Be aware of these four issues to optimize the performance and preserve the life of your off-highway equipment – and be able to predict problems before they occur.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published February 5, 2019

Take Your Fluid Analysis On The Go

The need and desire for people to have access to information continues to be in demand for many industries – and predictive maintenance is one of them. Utilizing HORIZON®, POLARIS Laboratories® program and data management system, creates viable solutions for saving time and equipment. HORIZON can be accessed with personal computers and mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones.  The application is compatible with Apple and Android devices.

Take Your Fluid Analysis On The Go

The features and benefits of HORIZON mobile allows you to perform fluid analysis-related tasks and manage your program in the field:

-Remotely submit sample information

-Utilize management reports

-Receive sample status alerts

-See faster total turnaround time (TAT) for sample results

-Quickly review previous sample reports and specific recommendations

The mobile application’s best benefit is the ability to submit sample information remotely. This can be performed while the user is performing routine maintenance and sampling – right at the component. This results in fewer errors and time savings. Submitting samples online also moves your sample to the front of the laboratory testing queue, expediting your turnaround time – getting you your results faster.

What’s New in the App

Download or update your app to experience the latest added feature: component transfer. The mobile app now

allows you to transfer components between pieces of equipment – letting you manage your

equipment faster and easier.

 

Going Mobile

From mobile banking to meal delivery to staying connected with your friends and peers, our lives are becoming more and more connected through mobile apps and devices – so it only makes sense to take your predictive maintenance program mobile, too. HORIZON mobile app can improve your ROI, lower your maintenance costs and it is a free service when you partner with POLARIS Laboratories® for your fluid analysis services.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published  January 29, 2019

 

Equipment Reliability: How to Ensure Your Success

The Number One Objective

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines reliability as:

The probability that a product, system or service will perform its intended function adequately for a specified period of time, or will operate in a defined environment without failure.

Equipment reliability is the number one objective of any predictive maintenance program, but often times programs are started without completing the first, most important step – know the age and performance of the equipment you have.

Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse

Often preventive maintenance programs are kicked off without having enough asset knowledge to be successful. As they say, “don’t put the cart before the horse.” Before you launch your program, it’s important to:

  1. Survey | Take inventory of all of mechanical components you own.
  2. Organize | Make sure that they are cataloged in a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or other organized system.
  3. Rank | Put together a team to rank the criticality of the equipment.

Criticality rankings can be based on a number of different criteria. There is no one right way to do it, but the important thing to keep in mind when assessing criticality is risk – primarily safety, quality, and cost. For example, at POLARIS Laboratories®, we have a preventive maintenance schedule for all of our laboratory instruments, but if our air circulation system experiences downtime then none of those instruments can be operated. It’s a piece of equipment that is often taken for granted, but the risk associated with any downtime is catastrophic and impacts safety and cost.

Once you know what equipment you have and how critical it is to operations, then you can start to assess your fluid analysis program and other predictive tools.

Are you getting the right testing?

If the cost of failure for a specific asset is high, it might be worthwhile to pay for more advanced testing or do analytical ferrography routinely. If the cost is low, you may be able to reduce the sample frequency of some of your equipment. We often talk about preventive maintenance optimization – talk to POLARIS Laboratories® about how we can help you optimize your predictive maintenance intervals.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published  January 22, 2019

Making a Difference in the Transportation Industry

There are numerous elements that go into a fluid analysis program achieving operational efficiency and program success. For the transportation industry, that could be compliance with consistent sampling, seeing the return on investment, saving on fleet maintenance costs or gaining buy-in from leadership. But, what really makes the difference for a transportation company when participating in a fluid analysis program is a program champion. A transportation company could have anywhere from just one single maintenance facility handling all samples, to more than 100 locations. The program champion provides effective communication, ownership and consistency – all affecting the success of the program.

Communication | managing all shop or facility managers can be time consuming – the program champion makes certain that any updates, changes, etc. are communicated properly to the appropriate people.

Ownership | having one individual own the fluid analysis program helps the program stay compliant

Consistency | the program champion ensures everyone is on the same page and is meeting compliance goals

A program champion who communicates effectively, owns the fluid analysis program and consistently checks in to see if the team is meeting their compliance goals, will lead their teams to the ultimate goal: success of the fluid analysis program.

What does it take to be a program champion? Check out our checklist:

 

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you. 

Published  January 15, 2019