Investing in economic efficiency

State-of-the-art specialty lubricants contribute to economic, success, or how a small investment makes the difference


Figure 1: Lubricant costs are just the tip of the iceberg. The real costs—and thus the savings potential— are not visible at first glance. Courtesy: Kluber LubricationThe most recent lubricant developments contribute to economical and successful plant and machine operations. Be it the lip of a tool, rolling or plain bearings, or compressors or gears, taking a close look at lubrication and unveiling new potential always pays off.

Regarding the lubricant as an investment in economic efficiency rather than just as a commodity pays off in many ways. Of course, the price of the lubricant is an important factor, but it is more important to look at the entire cost-benefit calculation of a given application.

If synthetic high-performance lubricants tuned to the particular application are used, the total cost of operation decreases. Such lubricants help to save costs even though their purchase price is higher than that of standard lubricants, as the price is just the tip of the iceberg. The real cost, and hence the potential for cost savings, can only be detected at second glance.

The term “return on lubricant” expresses the profitability and the amortization of synthetic specialty lubricants and contains the submerged part of the iceberg, for example, costs for stoppages, maintenance, energy, spare parts, storage, disposal, and of course, lubricant consumption.

Synthetic specialty oils prove their efficiency when it comes to gear lubrication, for instance. Mineral oils should be changed after 5,000 operating hours, while synthetic, polyglycol-based gear oils can last for 25,000 operating hours or more, not only because of their improved ageing resistance, but also because they show high load-carrying capacity and low friction values. The potential for cost savings of synthetic oils is even more impressive if gear maintenance and gear efficiency are included in the cost-benefit analysis.

When it comes to bearing lubrication, specialty greases also ensure extended maintenance intervals. The savings potential can be illustrated by an example from the wind energy sector: if a turbine’s generator bearing has to be replaced after five years due to under-performing lubrication, the resulting costs are considerable. Maintenance work and lost profit, in addition to costs for personnel and materials, can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. If we assume that a turbine’s lifetime is approximately 20 years, the total maintenance cost is more than $20,000. If a suitable synthetic specialty grease is used, only the purchase price must be paid.

Figure 2: It is important to regard the lubricant as a machine element just like rolling or plain bearings and gearwheels whose quality contributes to the performance capacity of plants and machines. Courtesy: Kluber LubricationHigh-performing greases can even ensure lifetime lubrication of bearings so that relubrication becomes unnecessary and already in the design, cost savings can be generated, as relubrication facilities need not be included in the construction.

Another important cost factor is energy. Synthetic specialty lubricants decrease the electrical current consumption compared to mineral oil-based lubricants, for example, when used for the lubrication of compressors or gears. The efficiency increase can amount up to 18% due to the improved friction behavior of synthetic oils. The energy savings generated lead directly to lower operating costs.

It is also important to regard the lubricant as a machine element just like rolling or plain bearings and gearwheels whose quality contributes to the performance capacity of plants and machines. If the lubricant is unable to live up to the requirements of a particular application over the specified time, there will be trouble ahead. Unscheduled stoppages can incur substantial costs due to lost production, personnel costs, and wasted materials. Lubricants tuned to the application at hand help to avoid such costs. They are instrumental for trouble-free operation of plants and machines.

Specialty lubricants also help to combine economic and environmental-friendly operation. High-performance lubricants tailored to a particular application facilitate reliable low- or minimum-quantity lubrication while making efficient use of energy and therefore contribute to conserving resources.

It is best to consider the total benefits a lubricant provides, rather than cost. Looking at the cost-benefit calculation with particular regard to performance capacity and consumption, typically the higher-priced lubricant is by far the lower-cost option.

Florian Held is sales manager for Austria and South East Europe for Kluber Lubrication Austria Ges.m.b.H.

See below for more stories on lubrication strategies.

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