Lubrication is an essential step in maintaining your industrial equipment. Choosing the right product extends the life of your machines, reduces your maintenance costs and ultimately increases the performance of your production line.
How to choose the right lubricant? What is the role of lubrication in industrial maintenance? What are the benefits of lubrication to the company? Loïc Bébin, Grease Product Manager at FUCHS Lubrifiant France, has agreed to answer our questions.
Can you tell us about the FUCHS Lubrifiant France offer?
FUCHS Lubrifiant France has a very wide range of products: cutting oil, machining oil, heat treatment, metal-forming lubricants, etc. Our product range is segmented into different poles according to the possible applications, such as, for example, the “maintenance” pole. This division includes different product ranges. There are a large number of oils, each with a specific use (hydraulic reducer, chains, compressors, etc.), aerosols that can be used for all types of applications, and for which I am in charge of development. In the manufacturing industry, they can be found in applications for the upkeep of rotating mechanisms: bearings, sliding bearings, chains, reducers, axles, etc.
Product choices are made according to the characteristics of the application and all the constraints associated with it. Industrial greases can be a substitute for oils to avoid any disturbance of liquid flow. The higher viscosity of grease helps contain it with the mechanism. Depending on the application, a more or less thick grease will be used. This type of lubricant is classified from grade 000, which corresponds to a fairly fluid product, to grades 4 or 5, much thicker. A grade 2 consistency grease is used for standard applications and a grade 3 grease can be used, for example, on fans or on a vertical axis to avoid it leaking.
There too, there is a great diversity of applications: from cement manufacture to the food sector, the automotive sector and the steel industry – one of the biggest consumers of grease in industrial maintenance. For each related issue that may arise in a factory, FUCHS can offer at least one product to resolve it.
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Finally, as soon as a raw material is transformed, by human intervention, into a finished product there will be a need for lubrication. Greases will be especially useful for all aspects of conveyors, chains, electric motors, etc. The FUCHS Lubrifiant France ranges are suitable for all equipment, match every industrial maintenance strategy.
According to you, what is FUCHS’ expertise?
In addition to being present in all fields of application, we are known for certain specific ranges or technologies. This is the case for the products in our CASSIDA product range designed for the food industry, for greases developed specifically for the lubrication of machine tools or biodegradable greases for applications requiring ECOLABEL approval. This is also the case for greases with complex calcium sulphonate thickeners, which will be adapted to challenging environments or heavy loads, or those with a complex lithium soap.
With the complex e-lithium thickener, high resistance to high temperatures, up to 180°C (356°F) or 200°C (392°F) and higher repeated stresses is obtained. They are more stable than simple bases and are used in particular on medium- or heavy-load bearings, and those that operate at high speeds. This technology is found, for example, in the lubrication of vehicle wheel bearings or paper machine bearings.
The complex e-calcium sulfonate thickener allows us to withstand very high loads, a fairly high temperature, but at medium or low speed. They are resistant to water aggression and corrosion and are also resistant to a low chemical environment. These are therefore products that will be found in heavy industries such as steel or cement plants, but also in applications with high loads and impacts such as screens or pellet presses and in some mechanical industries.
What impact does lubrication have on predictive maintenance?
The choice of grease will have a great impact on your mechanisms’ lifetime. A poor lubrication routine is often associated with an increased risk of equipment failure. As we explained earlier, for each mechanism or environment, there is an appropriate lubricant typology. If a technician uses the wrong type of grease on his installations, he may notice abnormal wear and repeated breakage. Our approach at FUCHS is to provide the most appropriate solution by analyzing the application and operation of the machine.
As a result, RENOLIT greases are perfectly suited to predictive maintenance. Depending on the product used, our teams are able to plan the necessary maintenance intervals. We sometimes provide calculation bases for a given type of bearing, for example, depending on the rotational speed, operating temperature and type of grease used.
Several tests are carried out on greases to assess their lifetime at a certain temperature threshold. This is how we can estimate the service life of the bearing, and by extension calculate a lubrication interval to optimize the service life and condition of the bearing.
We sometimes provide customers with this information if we need to respond to a specific issue. This may be an objective of reducing breakage, improving maintenance or optimizing the use of resources. This should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. To provide this data, we need to have knowledge of the machine, its environment and its use.
How to choose the right grease?
There are of course slightly more generic lubricants and greases, associated with certain uses, with families of machines, but this is not sufficient to determine the best lubricant. We need to dig a little deeper.
Consider the operating environment
Sometimes we have several suitable greases for the same machine. Let’s take an example: an electric motor that runs at 3,000 rpm. Depending on the temperature or operating speed, five or six different greases can be offered. If the temperature increases, for example, the nature of the soap and/or base oil and its additives will have to be changed to enrich and increase the resistance of the grease. The objective is, of course, to maintain a high quality of operation and avoid breakages.
Temperature, speed, friction or load are all factors to consider when choosing a lubrication solution. In other words, it is important to consider the application and the environment of the application as a whole.
Consider the company’s goals and challenges
It also happens that customers wish to change lubricant, no longer for sole technical purposes, but for more strategic purposes. Whether it is to increase their production rates by X% or to reduce their consumption and therefore their cost but also their environmental impact, we support them in achieving these objectives.
Thus, the strategic orientation of the technical teams or the company will guide the choice of lubricant. If there is no corresponding product in our ranges and we consider that it is a real lack, we can sometimes launch a development – either by pure development or by improving the existing products.
We once dealt with an interesting case of a customer specializing in the manufacture of cutting tools. He was confronted with the washing of a rotary system (bearings, pins, and hinges) as well as cylinders, linked to projections of hardening fluid during the manufacturing process.
This has resulted in sporadic but problematic breakdowns. The customer had to change his maintenance plans to ensure more accurate monitoring of these rotating components and increased the number of maintenance and re-lubrication operations on site.
The FUCHS teams offered him our RENOLIT CSX 15 grease, designed on a calcium sulphonate basis that is naturally more resistant to aggressive fluids. This replaces a grease with a simple lithium-based thickener, which is less suitable for this application.
As a result, the client was able to reduce the pace of his lubrication interventions by almost six times, with an equal amount of grease per intervention. In addition to a significant decrease in the number of annual breakdowns, the client witnesses significant improvements in several areas. First, despite a higher unit price, his lubricant expenses were halved. Then, labor expenses decreased, as monitoring and maintenance operations were carried out at longer intervals.
By choosing a grease that is closer to its needs, our customer has finally been able to reduce equipment downtime, reduce operational costs and improve the overall performance of its industrial maintenance strategy.
Customer proximity, at the heart of FUCHS expertise?
At FUCHS, we are aware of the importance of field presence. We offer our clients individual support. This is also what makes us special: our entire organization revolves around it.
On the one hand, we have sales representatives with whom customers can discuss their issues at any time. These sales representatives are then supported by application engineers, divided into geographical areas. The latter intervene on more technical issues: audits, line or machine inspections, etc. Finally, there are the Product Manager functions, which can, if necessary, launch new product developments according to changes in legislation, new customer needs, new raw materials available, to name a few.
This proximity is therefore sought by our customers. We want to position ourselves as a partner, more than just a supplier. We are in a process of improvement, supporting the client to meet his objectives and challenges in an environment of improvement and performance research.
It is the constant discussion and communication on the evolution of its needs that allows us to anticipate and implement the necessary tools and developments. It is a virtuous circle.
You can now contact your suppliers directly from Mobility Work CMMS
Mobility Work Hub supports us in this process. By importing our official catalog on the platform, we make it available to maintenance teams, and receive in return statistical data on the use of our products.
The expert’s advice
What is most noticeable and important is that industrial customers are not always prepared to choose a lubricant. They don’t understand that the lubricant could be used to improve their working conditions and play a key role in achieving their objectives.
My advice would already be to step back, assess your needs – not in terms of lubricant or associated direct cost, but in terms of the challenges and objectives for your department – and then consider your supplier as a real solution provider.
This is a key point, especially in this context, which is very often the decisive department for the proper maintenance of equipment and machinery. It is also linked to the improvement of their lifespan. These elements, among others, make it possible more broadly to achieve objectives that have been set by management or somewhat more general issues in its team or department.
Thank you to Mr. Bébin for his inspiring testimony. Mobility Work Hub is the first solution dedicated to linking industrial suppliers and maintenance experts.