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Proper storage of oils and grease is an essential part of a Proactive Maintenance strategy. The objectives for storage guidelines should:

  • Minimize the total volume in stores
  • Minimize the number of product types to the lowest reasonable minimum
  • Minimize the amount of open atmosphere stores
  • Minimize lubricant storage cycle – optimize shelf life
  • Maintain stable storage temperatures, ≤ 100°F, ≥ 60°F

To minimize the total volume in stores requires a pursuit of a 'safe' level of lubricant consolidation, typically that would be a 24-hour requirement for locally stored products. It is also important to secure next day service and delivery and purchase in bulk if possible and delivered to the sub-station level. In order to minimize cross-contamination and confusion, minimize the number of product types to the lowest reasonable count. There should be no more than one viscosity grade for each product type (AW, EP, R&O). Whenever possible, recognize OEM guidance for additive and VG grades, not brand allegiance. Purchasing quality lubricants is or should be a minimum part of the maintenance budget. Poor oil and grease storage have been shown to cause as much as 40% of the total equipment maintenance cost. Contamination from compromised storage can produce 70-80% of machine wear and can be attributed to storage derived contamination.

A proactive maintenance program that is supported by management and focuses on contamination, lubrication and reliability can extend equipment life by 10 times.

Lubricants often arrive in 55gal drums. Drums of lubricants should be stored inside, if possible, but they may be stored outside if they are under a shed or tarpaulin or placed on their sides and chocked so both bungs are horizontal at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions and out of the water. Make sure solvent drums and tanks are grounded and vented to avoid explosions from static discharge.

In a manufacturing plant, drums should be opened, and lubricants dispensed indoors. Ideally, the lids of grease drums should be removed, and special drum covers put in place to prevent the entrance of dirt. Appropriate transfer pumps fit into the covers. The bungs of oil drums are removed, proper-dispensing pumps inserted and made secure, and drip pans placed to catch spillage.

Faucets can be fitted into oil drums and they may rest on their side n a rocker-type rack, allowing oilcans to be filled from the faucet by gravity. Hand-trucks are used to move drums of lubricant over reasonably flat, smooth surfaces. Drums may also be moved by an overhead crane or by forklift.

When a grease drum is emptied, it should be inspected and properly cleaned before it is returned to the storehouse. Any grease remaining should be scraped from the drum with a clean paddle and added to the top of a new drum if it is uncontaminated. Replace drum lids and oil bungs. Proper inventory records should be maintained with the quantity of each lubricant in stock, its location, and minimum order quantities. Room should be made to handle the following:

  • Unopened containers and bulk tanks
  • Opened containers from which lubricants are being drawn
  • Lubrication accessories including rags, swabs, paddles, cleaning supplies, sample cans, and spare parts
  • Oil filtering equipment and supplies
  • Cleaning and storing of dispensing equipment
  • Record keeping
  • Empty returnable containers
  • Dispensing equipment, drum covers
  • Area for drum handling and movement
  • Expansion (if expected)

To prevent an oil spill from bulk tanks from harming the environment, the EPA requires the dike volume to be 110% of the largest tank. Where possible, machinery should be stopped before attempting to oil, clean, or repair it. Notify the operator to make certain that the machinery cannot accidentally be started up again. If machinery cannot be shut down, be careful not to reach over moving parts such as shafts and pulleys, and do not wear loose-fitting clothing that might be caught in machinery.

It is important to handle drums safely. Drums are not made to be dropped or bounced. Full drums weigh approximately 400 pounds, and empty drums weigh about 35 pounds. Even a pail of oil weighs about 35 pounds, so all should be treated with respect.

For inventory control, use the oldest product first, also called FIFO for First In, First Out. Avoid drum mix-ups. Segregate drum inventory by type and brand, and make sure identification labels are clear and adequate. Date drums to assure first in, first out turnover. When at all possible, store lubricants indoors, in a temperature-controlled, clean facility.

Contamination-free products received from the supplier must stay clean until they are applied to the machinery. Open original containers only when ready to use. Use dedicated dispensing equipment, if possible, to prevent contamination between different brands or types of products. Never use wooden paddles to fill grease guns from open containers. Never pressurize a drum to remove oil. Investigate the feasibility of bulk storage for those products such as hydraulic oil, where usage is high. In addition to price advantages, bulk dispensing avoids most storage and contamination problems found with individual containers.

A best practice is Tags and Labels. These create a visual system for operators and helps standardize processes and procedures and promote best practices. Tags and labels reduce lubricant cross-contamination issues as well. Lubricant tags and labels are made durable for factory use and can be customized with a nearly endless variety of options. You can create a single tag or thousands of different tags. Industrial grade plastic tags or adhesive labels.

A color-coded systematic approach to lubricant ID can help eliminate operator errors and start your organization on a journey toward reducing costs, reducing downtime and enhancing profits.