Reliability Centered Lubrication

Are you killing your bearings? Too much grease too often? Are you using the right lubricant?


One often overlooked item in a reliability-centered maintenance strategy is reliability-centered lubrication (RCL).

Reliability-centered lubrication is a methodology used to optimize lubrication maintenance practices by designing applied tasks based on engineered calculations that consider specific component attributes and operation and environmental considerations. Additionally, it seeks to optimize procedural steps by standardization of component modification and consolidation of required lubricants.

Reliability-centered lubrication requires a different mindset to achieve optimal results . The old-school, low-qualified technicians with minimum technical work on the lubrication design, planning, and execution are gone. Now, lubrication precision, high-quality training, and better lubricant application technologies are enhancing the performance expectations of manufacturing and industrial production lines.

That said, traditional thinking that assumes lubrication is not as valuable as other maintenance and reliability strategies persist, even though poor lubrication practices may result in significant corrective maintenance and operational costs accrued over time.

Historically, no one looked at the lubrication function from a real cost perspective concerning dated or incorrect practices associated with lubricant selection and purchase, lubricant physical management, lubrication tasks, and machine condition monitoring through a lubricant analysis lens.

Many leaders are still unaware of the impact these unnecessary and unforeseen costs can have on their operational budget. Neither are they aware of the benefits they could derive from implementing an optimized reliability strategy, particularly a reliability-centered lubrication strategy.

Why Does it Matter?

Reliability-centered lubrication is a process that can produce results in multiple areas:

Mitigate Financial Loss: Many facilities are losing nearly 10% of the maintenance budget due to a poor oil analysis program and poor lubrication practices that fail to add value. While a solid reliability-centered lubrication program will not stop all failures, when reliability-centered lubrication is well designed and implemented, at least 50% or more of those lost dollars can be realized in cost avoidance.

Proper Storage: Allied Reliability can help streamline your lubrication products, resulting in less lubricant required to be stored on-site.

Prevent Failures: A good reliability-centered lubrication program will result in fewer lubrication-related failures.

Team Management: As a part of Allied Reliability’s program, reliability-centered lubrication experts will document established lubrication standards, procedures, and processes to ensure program consistency and maximize team efficiency by optimizing time spent in front of each asset.

Did you know that…

  • In engines, approximately 70% of in-service failures are due to contamination, of which 50% are wear-related problems.
  • Over 50% of rolling element bearings fail due to lack of proper lubrication, while 10% fail at the normal fatigue life limit.
  • Approximately 75% of gear failures are due to in-service problems. Of these, half are due to wear and the rest to overload.
  • Over 75% of hydraulic systems fail due to contamination.

Case Study

Through filtration system improvements, in three years, this rod mill achieved:

  • 92% sustained reduction in bearing failure rates
  • 140% mill speed increase

Why Choose Allied Reliability?

Allied Reliability’s approach to reliability-centered lubrication includes program review, reliability-centered lubrication design process, implementation, and continuous improvement to ensure a program tailored to the client's needs.

Allied Reliability delivers integrated condition monitoring applications as part of an overall equipment maintenance strategy and world-class service through a solid foundation of industry-acclaimed reliability consultants to deliver proven results through people, service, training, processes and standards, tools, asset health management, and reporting.

reliability centered lubrication design process

Steps to Create a Reliability-Centered Lubrication Program

The following is a summary of actions to take to reduce risk and reinforce onsite lubrication preventative maintenance to keep and use lubricants according to equipment manufacturers' recommendations. Note that the program may vary depending on the facility’s complexity and maturity of the current maintenance program.

  • Define equipment criticality and conduct risk analysis
  • Create/update a lubrication survey – a core document that supports implementing the industry’s best practices. It involves the development of a verified list of assets that contain lubricated components, with detailed information on types of lubricants, frequencies, amounts, applicable procedures, required training, and condition monitoring.
  • Create general lubrication guidelines for the reliability-centered lubrication program – this is the operating document that outlines the purpose of the lubrication program and sets the stage for its importance. It provides the parameters and scope of the program, including the equipment criticality and risk, as well as the selection and use of lubricants.
  • Select the right lubricants – having the right product properties and performance is key for a long machine life. The lubricant viscosity and formulation define performance.
  • Enhance contamination control practices for lubricants – the lubricants in service should be reasonably free from contaminants, including mixtures with other lubricants. Define filter specifications and decontamination systems, acquire filtration/decontamination units, modify machines for reliability, and implement best practices. Always thoroughly clean around lubrication points on equipment.
  • Create standard lubrication and inspection-related procedures – a detailed, written, and communicated procedure should be in place for every lubrication function to achieve precision and consistency of the executed work.
  • Redesign the machine condition monitoring program, including an oil analysis program – the purpose of a world-class lubricant analysis program is to maximize the detection of potential root causes of failure of both the lubricant and the machine. Most lubricant analysis programs are underused due to the maintenance team’s lack of technical expertise.
  • Provide all necessary training to the maintenance and reliability teams – training in reliability-centered lubrication awareness, advanced machinery lubrication, and oil condition monitoring is required to design, implement, and maintain an effective program.
  • Develop metrics and establish continuous improvement – monitoring the reliability-centered lubrication program implementation and improvements to machine reliability are critical to justify the program, demonstrate its benefits to the organization, and provide feedback for continuous improvement. Review the program’s effectiveness periodically and determine opportunities for further improvement.

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