We Need to do Better (Tribology for Everyone)


One of the easiest ways to save your company money is to use the right lubricant and to use it properly. This can help reduce operating costs, reduce maintenance costs and/or reduce energy costs. In addition, they can be both environmental and safety advantages.

This field got a big boost with the 1966 Lubrication : (Tribology); education and research; report on the present position and industry’s needs (submitted to the Department of education and science by the Lubrication engineering and research) Working Group. This is often called the Jost Report after the Chair, Prof. Peter Jost. The cost of friction, wear and corrosion to the UK economy was estimated to be 1.1-1.4% of GDP. Similar studies in Canada, the US and other countries found similar results. In the US there is the 1977 report by MIT for the ASME. For Canada there is a 1986 report commissioned by the NRC Associate Committee on Tribology , NPCC Number 26556. In this, it was reported that Canada loses more that $5 billion annually due to friction and wear.

Unfortunately, in Canada and other countries the full benefit is apparently not been realized and the drive seems to have been lost. The NRC closed their Tribology lab in Vancouver, seemed to downscale the petroleum testing in Ottawa and worse canceled the activities of the NRC Associate Committee on Tribology. This was a shame. Despite growing emphasis on asset management.  While the ISO 55000 series of standards on asset management can really help, many do not seem to be aware of past work nor how easy it can be to save money. Most managers seem to be aware of energy efficient lighting, but when are they taught about tribological savings? Current engineers training also seems to be years out of data in this regard as well.

What does this mean for you? Examples of the problems are that 90% of rolling element bearings do not reach their design life. With most failures because of lubrication, installation and maintenance. Generally, such things can be easily corrected but a learning, productive working environment is key.

With hydraulics the leading causes of equipment issues are said to be contamination. This can be water, dirt, and/or wear particles.

In addition, better lubricants that last longer are usually readily available as are lubricants with less change with temperature. This can mean better morning or winter starts with less wasted fuel, time and damage. In addition, synthetic lubricants can provide a huge saving in worm gears with paybacks of a few months. While a $6 tube of grease might work to some extent, there are specific cases where spending a few dollars more can save thousands. The savings are in longer lives, less wear, and most importantly less downtime.

If so simple, why is more not being done? It is usually because management has not set up a learning and improvement based business culture that also considers life cycling costing. The cheapest product is seldom the most cost-effective.

Learn, ask, improve and see the rewards.

The attached are some studies that are publicly available.

US Energy Effeciency for Breweries
Energy Efficiency Canadian Lime Institute
The Role of Tribology in Energy Conservation MTI 1978
Real Cost Of Lubrication Roger
Energy Guide Brewers Association of Canada
Energy Efficient Industrial Gear Lubricants
High Performance Lubes vs costs
The Business Case for Lubrication Excellence Fitch 2012
The Business Case for Life Cycle Cost Ron Moore Reliable Plant
Poor Practises STLE 93 Paper
Energy Savings Opportunties Guidebook

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