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Lubricants News

Q&A: Lowering manufacturing TCO with effective lubrication

In the face of an ever changing industry landscape, manufacturing businesses are striving to increase productivity and reduce downtime while maintaining the highest product quality.

Many companies are aware that evaluating and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) can help them to extract the best possible value from their machinery over its lifetime. However, the impact of effective lubrication on reducing TCO through equipment productivity and lower maintenance costs is often overlooked.

Here, we explain how choosing the right oils and greases for your manufacturing business can play a key role in maximising productivity while minimising maintenance costs.

1. Why is it so important to choose a high quality lubricant?

Lubricants play a unique but vital role in maintaining optimum equipment productivity and reliability but many businesses underestimate their ability to deliver cost savings and performance benefits.

Lubricants account for around 1% to 2% of maintenance expenditure, so with pressures increasing on businesses to cut costs where possible; selecting a lower priced lubricant may appear to be an attractive solution in the short term. It is only in the longer term that the costs of a less effective lubricant become apparent; increased component wear, leading to greater downtime and higher maintenance costs that could have been prevented by using a higher quality product.

A recent survey commissioned by Shell Lubricants revealed that manufacturing businesses recognise but undervalue the opportunity for TCO savings. While nearly 60% of companies recognise that effective lubricant selection can help to reduce costs by 5% or more, fewer than one in ten think that savings could exceed 25%[1]. The reality is that lubricants can help businesses save up to 30% of their maintenance costs through extended equipment life and increased productivity.

Following expert, tailored advice from Certas Energy Lubricants on the most appropriate lubricants and management processes for its operations, Jubilee Clips®️, UK manufacturer of the Jubilee brand clamp, achieved a maintenance cost reduction of 80% using Shell Tellus S2 V (X) 46 hydraulic fluid.

2. What is TCO and what savings can lubricants deliver?

A recent survey of manufacturing companies revealed that 43% of decision makers1 do not believe choosing higher quality lubricants can help improve productivity, but this is simply not the case.

When looking at savings that can be made in manufacturing businesses, it’s important to take a holistic, longer-term view. TCO refers to the end-to-end product, maintenance and business costs of a piece of industrial equipment. We use this to evaluate the impact of lubricants not only on maintenance budget and processes, but also any costs related to lost productivity through equipment downtime.

Selecting a higher quality lubricant can generate significant TCO savings by extending equipment life, reducing frequency of breakdowns and increasing equipment availability. The advanced protection against wear delivered by lubricants enables machinery to able to operate for longer without interruption, boosting productivity and reducing downtime while maintaining quality of output. With less maintenance required on a machine as a result of prolonged component life, businesses can significantly reduce expenditure on spare parts and maintenance.

3. What are the main considerations when upgrading lubricants?

To truly realise the cost-saving and productivity potential of lubricants in manufacturing operations it is vital that businesses choose the right product for their needs. Each piece of individual equipment has its own specific requirements for a lubricant or grease. While original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have minimum lubrication standards in place for machinery, not all products that meet these standards deliver the same level of performance.

There are also multiple additional factors that can impact the effectiveness of lubrication. Equipment design, operational parameters and surrounding environment can all pose challenges to lubrication. As a result, it is hugely important that businesses consult a lubricants expert with in-depth product knowledge who can advise on the best product to meet specific needs.

Managing lubricants effectively is another key element that must be taken into account to unlock the TCO savings of lubricants. With the correct processes in place, effective lubrication management can deliver improved productivity and reductions in product consumption, maintenance and operating costs.

4. How do I choose the right lubricant for my business?

Lubricants are as individual as each business, and when choosing products to achieve TCO savings one size certainly does not fit all. Firstly, manufacturing companies must evaluate the needs of their business by developing a unique TCO programme. To do this, companies assess their operations and ascertain their risk tolerance in relation to OEM warranties, how many products they want to maintain and their staff skill level in applying and managing lubricants.

The main aim of a TCO program is to find a balance between minimising the number of lubricants and maximising their applications to realise low-cost, long-term product reliability. This is where the Certas Energy team acts as an expert partner for manufacturing businesses.

Our technical experts are committed to understanding your business’s individual needs. With combined expertise and unrivalled product knowledge through our long standing partnership with Shell, the leading global lubricants supplier, we work to create a tailored solution to fit your specific requirements to help manufacturing operations run more efficiently and deliver maximum TCO savings.

Shell’s technical partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) helps to ensure that lubricants and greases are optimised for the latest equipment. Shell Lubricants works closely with a number of key OEMs to develop products that are technologically advanced and can meet and exceed equipment needs both now and in the future.  With guidance from our expert team, lubricants and greases from Shell’s products in the Tellus, Omala and Gadus ranges, customers can have confidence that their machinery is operating at optimal performance.

5. What are the key things to keep in mind when it comes to lubricant management?

Even if you have selected the right lubricant for your business, without effective application and management processes in place the product will not perform to its full potential. Proper storage and handling, staff training and product monitoring are the key lubricant management challenges that can have significant impact on TCO, yet only four in ten manufacturing[2] companies have the correct lubricant management procedures in place.

For many businesses, the shift from a short-term view of lubricants’ cost impact to a TCO-driven approach requires a significant change in mindset. The necessity of a TCO programme that addresses lubricant management challenges therefore cannot be understated.

As with any new project, it’s important to have senior buy-in to ensure successful implementation of upgraded processes without disruption of day-to-day operations. It is vital that a TCO-driven approach must be implemented throughout the business by upskilling staff who lubricate equipment on the correct procedures to leverage optimum product management, monitoring and handling. 63% of manufacturing decision makers1 think they do not conduct staff training on lubricants as regularly as they should, so there’s a big opportunity to support staff in getting the most out of lubricants.

The storage, handling and transportation of lubricants is critical to getting best results from your product. We recommend following these steps to maximise the overall performance of your lubricant:

  • Storing drums in a sheltered place, cleaning the top of the drum before it is opened and applying filtration can help to prevent contamination and preserve the integrity of the lubricant
  • Product monitoring and analysis can give operators advance warning of any problems that are likely to damage equipment, reduce productivity and increase maintenance costs, making it easier to avoid costly machinery downtime
  • Applying the right amount of lubricant at appropriate frequencies ensures that the product reaches the surface at the right time, so that moving parts can stay protected for longer

Ultimately, at the core of lubricant management best practice is industry knowledge and technical expertise. As an expert partner to the manufacturing industry, Certas Energy Lubricants is proud to deliver tailored management solutions via a thorough assessment of your business operations and requirements. Our technical experts are able to offer expert advice on where best to upgrade your lubricant management practices to maximise equipment productivity while reducing TCO.

(1) This study commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, polled 493 decision-makers in the manufacturing industry in eight countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Russia, the UK and the US) from November to December 2015

(2) Recommended procedures are delivery and storage, oil change, oil dispensing systems, efficient grease lubrication systems, oil analysis and training employees in lubricant selection or management