Greg Saffell doesn’t wear a fedora or a trench coat on the job, but he spends a lot of time doing detective work. As a technical adviser for Shell Lubricants, Saffell has learned to listen carefully the first time he walks through a customer’s plant and to ask a lot of questions. From aerospace to marine, from agriculture to mining, companies across a diverse range of industries often understand the need for proper equipment lubrication, but they may be overlooking issues that could impede greater reliability.

These are the issues that Saffell identifies in an effort to develop a total cost of ownership (TCO) program that can help increase equipment reliability.

By definition, maintenance is designed to avoid problems. While most companies understand the importance of good maintenance programs, the challenge can be taking a good program and making it better. By adopting a TCO program, companies can find efficiencies they didn’t even know existed, and reap benefits they didn’t even realize were possible.

“Typically, customers are having issues that they’ve come to accept,” Saffell says. “They might say `We just have to change this pump every few months.’ They don’t realize maybe they can do something to make that pump last longer.”

While simple fixes may cost a few thousand dollars, lost revenue from equipment failures can run into the millions of dollars in lost productivity and replacement costs. There can be longer-term impacts, too, if the downtime inhibits a manufacturer’s ability to meet customer needs.

That’s why it is important for companies to think about lubrication and equipment maintenance holistically, recognizing that short-term cost savings may be leading to bigger, preventable expenses over the long term.

Cheaper oil, for example, may save money initially, but it requires more frequent changes and provides less protection to the equipment, which could shorten component life. For many companies, the short-term savings simply aren’t worth the longterm cost risk. “Some companies don’t realize that they may be able to reduce their overall maintenance costs significantly by spending more up front on better quality lubricants,” Saffell says. “Their equipment may last longer and they are likely to see lower energy costs.”


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