Graham Wignall, product manager for lubrication at ERIKS UK & Ireland, explains that ‘the four Rs’ refers to: the right amount of the right lubricant, in the right place and at the right time.
“Specific guidance will vary depending on the type of equipment being lubricated, as well as where and how it will be used,” he says. “The four Rs provides a useful point-of-reference for any application, by breaking down lubrication into four key areas for maintenance managers to consider.”
The right amount
Over-lubricating a bearing can be as equally damaging as under-lubricating one. Wignall says that excessive quantities of lubricant could damage the surface area of a bearing, which can lead to cracks and the ingress of dirt. “It could also cause the bearing to overheat, which will lead to lubricant failure,” he adds.
The right lubricant
Many maintenance managers rely on the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) recommendation when choosing a lubricant. “This may be counter-productive,” Wignall warns. “The OEM won’t have a full understanding of the machinery’s working environment and may also be biased towards a particular brand.”
The right place
Storing a lubricant correctly has a direct impact on its performance and efficacy. Wignall advises that lubricants should be stored in sealed containers that prevent the ingress of dust, dirt or moisture. “Also ensure that lubricants are stored at the correct temperature, as stipulated by the lubricant’s manufacturer,” he says.
The right time
The frequency of application is often recommended by the OEM, but this is usually based on a general set of rules and assumptions regarding the machine’s operating parameters. “Use this as a guideline, rather than a steadfast rule,” Wignall says. “Consider your machine’s working environments and apply these to any lubricating schedule. For example, higher levels of temperature or pressure, or prolonged periods of operation, will require the frequency of application to increase.”
The right know-how
Not a part of ‘The Four Rs’, but an important part of creating a lubrication process that works. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to lubrication,” says Wignall. “You’ll need to consider a number of variables, from the process to the machinery, before deciding on a strategy. You’ll also need to be flexible and willing to change this strategy as your organisation scales and shifts.”