Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sherlock Headphones and “The Case of the Buggered Bearings”

The Holiday spirit throughout Elmsford had just about dwindled down to an occasional “Happy New Year” and a few blinking lights on random houses.

I was skimming the morning paper, and enjoying a steaming cup of tea, when my morning routine was interrupted by my old friend and colleague, Headphones!

“The game is afoot Wastenot! Our cab is waiting downstairs, grab your pistol and let’s go!” (By pistol, he, of course, was referring to my Ultraprobe 15,000)

After a short silent ride, the cab deposited us at the front gate of the B&B Bakery company. Our old friend Albert Alwaysworking was eagerly awaiting our arrival, and after watching the obligatory safety video, we were on our way into the plant.

“I just don’t understand it Headphones,” Albert said. “We have done everything that we were taught in the 2.5 day technology Implementation course, and we are still having a rash of bearing failures!”

Headphones and I had recently helped Albert design and implement a condition based lubrication program, shifting them from their old “Time Based” program that was so common in many of the plants we had visited over the years.

“Well,” Headphones mused, “the best way to identify the root cause of the problem is to take a close look at the People, Processes and Tools that are involved.”

As Headphones, Albert, and I, reviewed the people he had in place to run the program, we realized that the Lube Techs had been properly trained, and were a highly motivated group. The “People” side of the equation did not appear to be the problem.  


Albert and his crew were following a procedure that Headphones, with the help of the UE Training department, had designed. It was fairly simple. A database was set up that contained all of the bearings that needed to be evaluated for possible lubrication. This database was uploaded into their UP 15K and monthly readings were taken, dB levels were stored, and a sound file was recorded on the initial reading, or base line reading. The readings were then downloaded back into the database, and the bearings in question were trended over time. When a particular bearing increased by 8dB over baseline, another sound recording was taken, and if there were no fault frequencies evident in the spectrum, the bearing was put on the “Lube Route.” A lube tech then lubed each bearing using a UP 201 Grease Caddy, to ensure that the right amount of lubricant was applied, preventing “Over Lubrication,” (one of the most common causes of bearing failure.)

“It appears that your people are following the process correctly, and are using all the right tools, evidenced by the lube tech over there applying lubrication while looking at the display and listening to the Grease Caddy 201,” Headphones pointed out to Albert.


“Processes and Tools, Check, Check!” Albert said, with growing frustration.
Headphones then began to ask Albert some questions:

“Are you using the correct lubricant?”

“Yes,” Albert said.

“Is the lubricant filtered for particles that can cause damage to the bearing?”

“Yes, we require our supplier to give us lubricant that is filtered to 10 Microns.”

“Do you have a clean, color coded area where each type of lubricant is stored?”

“Uh, sort of…” Albert slowly looked down at the floor.

“You have been doing all of the right things Albert,” Headphones scolded, “but storing the lubricant in a clean container, in a clean area separated from the dirt, dust, and contaminants that are ever present in the facility, is critical. You have been inducing microscopic particles into the bearings and CAUSING the pre mature failures!”

Albert reached into his pocket and pulled out his ringing cell phone. “Send him right to my office,” Albert said into the phone. “That was reception,” Albert told us, “there is someone named Terry Harris, of Reliable Process Solutions in the lobby, he says you called and told him to meet us here.”

Headphones explained that Terry and his company design turnkey Lube Storage rooms which was exactly what Albert needed to solve his contaminated lubricant problem and get his program back on track.

Albert and I looked at each other in utter astonishment, and I asked Headphones, “How did you know to call Terry before we even solved the mystery?”

“WE SOLVED THE MYSTERY!” Headphones said in a mocking voice, but with a good natured smile.  “My dear Wastenot, I observed the condition of the Grease caddy that the Lube Tech was using this morning and deduced that it could not possibly have been stored in a clean area. I assumed correctly, that they would store the lubrication dispensing and testing equipment in the same location as the lubricant, and called Terry when we took a coffee break.” 

“Brilliant Headphones!” Albert and I both exclaimed.

“Elementary gentleman, Elementary!”

Doug Waejten, CMRP

dougw@uesystems.com

For more information about effective lubrication storage plan to attend Ultrasound World IX where Terry Harris will be be presenting on this topic!

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