Maintenance Jigsaw: Do you have a piece missing?Follow article
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The Maintenance Jigsaw: Do You Have A Piece Missing?
Maintenance: whether it is at the dizzying heights of a power generation asset in the North Sea, in a factory processing food items, or in an advanced automotive production line, it always has a number of commonalities and challenges to the modern professional engineer. These shared experiences allow a natural cross-over of tried-and-tested knowledge between those employed to keep the equipment working despite everything that operators, the weather, and increasingly narrow life-cycle tolerances demand.
“Maintenance”, as a broad term or its equally well-known “MRO” abbreviation typically focuses on lubricants and greases. Lubricants are just one aspect of the maintenance process: so why, when it comes to maintenance and maintenance chemicals, lubricants are the usually the only chemical type talked about?
It’s probably a historical preoccupation with lubricants keeping the wheels of industry turning that has been reinforced in the media over the years, but to talk of maintenance chemical and lubrication as interchangeable and inevitably linked terms does not show the complete maintenance chemical situation.
The Maintenance Jigsaw: Not Just Chemicals & Oils:
A typical ‘MRO’ or ‘maintenance’ operation involves many components, each equally as important as the others to ensure a reliable, productive and efficient inter-maintenance-cycle operation. No one wants unexpected down-time.
Whether it is ‘invisibles’ such as:
- timely schedules/planning,
- and service agreements;
Or physical ones:
- components & parts,
- and chemicals;
Each combines with the others to deliver a service greater than the sum of its parts. Should one piece be missing, sub-standard, or overlooked, then it is often the case that the trinity of ‘reliability, efficiency, productivity’ is compromised resulting in increased maintenance frequency or breakdown.
The Maintenance Jigsaw: Cleaning & Inspection Vital Before Lubrication:
To say that lubrication is the primary focus of the chemical constituent of a maintenance process is not incorrect as often a squirt of grease or top-up of oil is all that is required to complete the works order, but should more extensive servicing be called for it will require some component or part of equipment to be taken apart, inspected, and replaced in order to identify if it is the cause of (or likely to cause) problems.
This is where the maintenance chemical options open up revealing the true extent of the choice: cleaners/degreasers, lubricants, anti-corrosion, metal cutting, welding, wipes and more.
Cleaners and degreasers are designed as a critical first stage of the servicing process, ensuring that all lubricant, grime and dirt contamination is removed allowing the clean surfaces to be inspected without the risk of dirt obscuring faults, getting into close-tolerance gaps and preventing recontamination during re-lubrication and assembly. So a maintenance schedule needs to start and finish with cleaning to ensure a thorough job.
Key Fact: Lubricants and greases degrade with use and time, the rate at which depends on a great number of variables. Should re-lubrication be carried out without inspection, contamination and old lubricant may mix with the new resulting in inefficient operation or premature failure. It is good working practice to completely degrease and clean in these situations to avoid unplanned down-time and inefficient operation, particularly if the asset is sited remotely or offshore.
The technology behind cleaning chemicals is complex: through the manipulation of chemical formulations specific, cleaning properties can be displayed: fast evaporation, foaming action, grease removal, dry deposit removal, material compatibility, and so on. Typically solvent and citrus based cleaners are better at removing greases and heavy/light oils, with water based products able to remove drier or staining materials. Material compatibility must also be taken into account.
A poor quality cleaner or the wrong cleaner is sometimes selected, whether it is due to perceived cost savings or simply using the same cleaner as always, in either case more product will be used as cleaning efficiency is reduced, but the real cost is more easily seen in lost time; waiting for the chemicals to remove the grime. With lower quality/imported products, the active ingredients may be present in reduced quantities than in ‘market leaders’, such as Ambersil.
Ambersil offers one of the most comprehensive range of industrial cleaners and degreasers available in the UK, backed up by lubricants, anti-corrosion products, metal cutting oils, welding aids, paints, and more; which are all available nationwide through key distribution partners. The comprehensive MRO range enable engineers and buyers a single source supply where cost savings may be had without compromising on premium quality and top-line performance.
Many products are specified to military, aerospace and industrial standards including NSF food industry registered products.