Delivery Systems Lubricants Lubrication Storage & Handling

Take Advantage of Shutdowns

Ken Bannister | March 26, 2019

Shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages are prime times to update and revitalize lubrication programs.

Spring is a time when many operations and maintenance departments are busy planning for annual/biannual production shutdown and turnaround events, due to take place during the upcoming summer. Shutdown and turnaround events are often confused and, depending on the type of industry, can have the same or different meanings. Both are, however, short-duration (days to weeks) events that cause large-scale planned cessation of work within a plant.

Historically, maintenance resources have defined shutdown events as unplanned equipment-failure situations that cause an operational production line, process, area, or section of a plant to be temporarily turned off or closed for emergency repair. Normal operation usually resumes immediately following the repair of the failed equipment. 

Turnarounds are different in that they are traditionally defined as planned downtime events that require the closure of an entire operational plant, or facility, to perform one or many pre-planned technology or system upgrades, equipment upgrades, and maintenance restorations, within a defined time period.

A third event, typically known as an outage, can be either a planned or unplanned event that can close all or a portion of a plant, i.e., process, line, machine, area, or section. Unplanned outages are typically caused by raw-material or manpower shortages. Planned outages are more common in lean-manufacturing environments when production totals have been achieved for the day or for the run. 

From a lubrication-program-management perspective, shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages present excellent opportunity windows to do a variety of jobs that ordinarily would be difficult to perform on assets that are operating in production mode. With found opportunity, why not improve your lubrication program by preparing for and exercising one or more of the following options?   

Perform a cleanliness blitz. Quite simply, lubrication systems and the machines they serve are not dirt tolerant. Lubricant-wetted surfaces readily attract dirt that can easily make its way into the bearing surface areas and significantly reduce their life expectancy. Clean machine surfaces, lubrication-system reservoirs, and delivery-system components facilitate the troubleshooting and elimination of leaks. Damaged lines are easily replaced; loose fittings can be tightened, and difficult-to-reach inboard bearings are more accessible.  

Perform an oil change. Now that the machine and lubrication system have been given a clean, fresh appearance, why not perform a simple oil and filter change? As basic as this sounds, this simplest-of-all preventive-maintenance strategy is often overlooked during machine downtime. 

Consolidate your lubricant inventory. Prior to a planned turnaround or outage, consider performing a lubricant-consolidation analysis. Also, use the machine downtime to flush and change out old machine lubricants in favor of the newer consolidated lubricant choices. Reservoir and pump lubricant labels should be updated at the same time. 

Modernize, standardize, and automate your lubrication-delivery systems. Performing a lubrication-system upgrade can substantially reduce maintenance effort, increase machine reliability, and lower energy consumption. Upgrades don’t have to be all encompassing the first time around. Consider an incremental upgrade program based on machine availability and cost. For example, the following upgrade suggestions demonstrate how a simple grease-point system can incrementally graduate to a full-blown automated delivery system in four steps:

• Upgrade individual grease nipples at bearing points to a single grease nipple attached to an engineered progressive divider block piped to all grease points.

• Upgrade the progressive divider block system by removing the single grease nipple in the block and attaching it to a fixed manual crank-arm grease pump and reservoir assembly.

• Upgrade/replace a manual crank-arm grease pump with an automated grease-pump and reservoir assembly operated autonomously by a programmable electronic controller.

• Upgrade an automated grease system by integrating system control and alarms into the production SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system or machine-control system set to trigger events and work-order requests in the lubrication work-management-system software.

Oil-lubrication systems can be upgraded in a similar manner, with the following additions specific to oil:

• Upgrade recirculating-oil systems to include engineered oil-sampling ports that allow sampling to be performed live in a consistent manner.

• Upgrade reservoir sight glasses to include hi-lo fluid-level markers to ensure the reservoir fill level is in the desired fill range.

If you don’t feel you have enough information to ready the work plan for system upgrading, use the next-available short-duration shutdown or outage to crawl over the machine to photograph, measure, and take stock of parts that are needed to perform an upgrade during the next major opportunity.

One of the easiest ways to improve your lubrication system is to upgrade individual grease nipples at bearing points to a single grease nipple attached to an engineered progressive divider block piped to all grease points. Photo: Engtech Industries Inc.

Be Prepared

The key to taking advantage of any opportunity is to be prepared. Turnarounds are the larger planned events that lend themselves well to major upgrades of the lubrication systems. These require more up-front system engineering, planning, and parts purchase prior to execution. Major upgrades may require that parts be staged in preparation for release. 

Due to their unplanned nature, shutdowns and outages tend to require an immediate-action response, as their duration is often short lived. To take advantage of the situation requires flexibility and ability to tailor a job plan to match the estimated available-time window to perform work. 

Regular reviews of current lubrication-
related issues lead to improved analysis and understanding of the required system/program needs. Of course, any changes to a lubrication system will affect its current PM work order(s), requiring assessment and updating to accommodate the planned upgraded system design.

If improvement/upgrade work is to be performed during a planned outage or turnaround, the turnaround manager or production planner must be engaged to determine when the event is to take place. In addition, because multiple projects will be performed concurrently and consecutively during the turnaround availability window, the turnaround manager and his or her associated turnaround team must determine the suitability and priority of each project to build an effective turnaround project plan. To improve chances of having your lubrication project included in the turnaround plan, provide the following:

• number of internal or contracted staff working on or around a machine during the shutdown process

• work orders with detailed, objectively written, work instructions for all work to be performed on the lubrication upgrade

• need for a secure, accessible, temporary lay down or staging area(s) for all materials and parts 

• any additional parking requirement for the additional persons on site

• permit requirements for items such as hot work or confined space 

• insurance certificates for all contracted staff

• shutdown and startup procedures for all affected equipment.

Lubrication-system improvements make a lot of sense. If improvement can be designed and implemented with little or no impact on the operations, they make even more sense. Shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages present non-traditional opportunities that, in the past, have often been overlooked. EP

Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., Innerkip, Ontario, he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact: or 519-469-9173.


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Ken Bannister

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