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8 KPIs To Improve Your Lube Program

Ken Bannister | April 25, 2019

Remembering the adage, ‘what gets measured gets done,’ is key to ensuring effective lubrication practices.

When mechanical/hydraulic devices and systems fail, the majority of their failure modes can be directly, or indirectly, attributed to ineffective lubrication practices. 

Direct-failure modes are most often attributed to applying to the bearing surfaces too little, too much, or incorrect lubricant. Indirectly, failure can be attributed to lubricant cross-contamination (mixing of two or more incompatible lubricants), and poor control of solids (dirt) and fluid (water) contamination. When the latter two are allowed to infiltrate lubricants and bearing surface areas, they result in rapid surface wear, seal deterioration, and major detrimental change to a lubricant state and its efficacy.

Remaining failures are primarily due to design issues (overloading), assembly, or set-up issues (warranty-related failures). Assessing the validity and success of any lubrication program, therefore, requires the capture and analysis of performance data surrounding the maintenance and availability of lubricated systems and assets.

Performance measurement is a big deal these days, playing a major role in assessing the success of any management program. Several years ago, we were introduced to the hallmark ISO 55000: 2014 Asset Management standard. This best-practice industry standard devotes its entire section 9.0, to performance evaluation:

• 9.1 Monitoring, measurement, analysis, and evaluation, require the organization (in this case the maintenance department) to determine what to monitor and measure;  methods for monitoring, measuring and results analysis (to ensure validity); and when to perform measurement, reporting, analysis, and evaluation so as to meet stakeholder expectations in the form of asset availability, reliability, and minimized cost.

• A set of performance indicators should be developed to measure the asset management activity and its outcomes. Measurements can be quantitative, qualitative, financial, and non-financial. Indicators should provide useful information to determine successes and areas requiring corrective action or improvement. The organization should consider the relationship and alignment between performance indicators.

• The asset-management system should use data from monitoring and measurement to identify patterns and obtain information regarding its performance. The data should be used to evaluate whether the organization’s policy and objectives are being achieved, as well as identifying corrective actions and areas for improvement.

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) allow us to set an end-goal target, or objective, based on multiple business needs, or objectives, and track whether we are successful in meeting or surpassing them. KPIs also allow us to analyze and understand, in a laser-like fashion, where we need to focus improvement efforts. 

Managing with performance measurement means that reliable data must be collected on a regular basis. The obvious maintenance conduit for tracking performance is the work-management system in which assets, type of work performed, and failure types are tracked simultaneously and reported. Lubrication work management can be tracked in a dedicated lubrication-management system (LMS), or can be tracked as a work type within a maintenance-management system such as a computerized maintenance-management software system (CMMS), enterprise asset management (EAM) system, or an information management system (IMS).

KPIs rely on system reports pertaining to labor, work type, occurrence events, and factors such as cycle, time, cost, inventory, and trend alarms, to populate the KPI data requirement. In addition to program performance, KPIs also test how well a software system is implemented and used by the quality and accuracy of data extracted.

Once the management system is able to produce the data required by the KPI calculation(s), reporting routines can be set up in the system to provide updates on a regular basis.

Where no dedicated lubrication-management-software system is used to singularly track lubrication-related work, identifying lubrication-related work is simply a matter of capturing and classifying all lubrication work orders as a specific lubrication work-order type. For example, many maintenance systems typically sort their work orders prior to release into lubrication (work specific to activities such as lubrication-system maintenance and servicing, filling of reservoirs, and filter changes), mechanical, electrical, facility, and general/service maintenance-related work. 

Failure occurrences are tracked based on the same classifications and, in addition, are tracked upon completion as to whether they are maintenance-caused or related issues (issues over which maintenance/lubrication technicians exercise full control), or non-maintenance-caused or related issues (issues that maintenance and the lubrication technician cannot prevent but must manage as part of their mandate. Examples include graffiti, operator damage, and denied access to an asset.) In addition, consequence of failure can also be simply tracked by categorizing the result of any breakdown or corrective work performed as no loss of service, minor service loss (as long as one shift), and major service loss (more than one shift).

To understand and report on the effectiveness of a lubrication program, the cost of all production downtime loss and the reactive cost of all corrective, repair, and breakdown work related to bearing and bearing-surface components (seals, pistons, valves, ways) failure/loss must be compared to the cost and effort of the proactive work related to the filling, cleaning, and maintenance of lubrication-delivery systems, hydraulic-fluid systems, and management of lubricants. Almost all maintenance related-failures are preventable.

KPIs allow a department or corporation to turn simple data collected on a work order into meaningful management information. This is often referred to as “data-driven decision making.” KPIs are primarily used to assess risk, performance, and cost. They are further categorized into strategic/long-term, tactical/mid-term, and operational/immediate. 

Calculating KPIs

The following represent the most commonly used lubrication KPI calculations. KPIs can be expressed in terms of a single equipment piece or rolled up hierarchically to represent the line, area, product, or plant:

KPI 1: Asset(s) (machine/line) availability (based on lubrication-related failures)

Total # lubrication hours from date A to B – (Total minor + major service loss hours from same date A to B) x 100


Total # lubrication hours from Date A to B

KPI 2: Lubrication-related maintenance cost as a percentage of total maintenance cost

Note: Can be calculated for just LPM work or all lubrication-related work

Cost of all lubrication-related maintenance work (parts and labor) from date A to B x 100


Total cost of all maintenance work (parts and labor) from date A to B

KPI 3: Lubrication-related maintenance cost as a percentage of total operating cost

Cost of all lubrication-related maintenance work (parts and labor) from date A to B x 100


Total department or corporate operating cost from date A to B

KPI 4: Mean time between lubrication failure (MTBLF)

Total operational time (shift/day/hours/minutes) from date A to B


Total number of lubrication-related failures from date A to B

KPI 5: Lubrication PM (LPM) work-order compliance (can also be used with other lubrication work-order types

Total number issued LPM work orders from date A to B – Total number incomplete LPM work orders that exceed days scheduled


Total number issued LPM work orders from date A to B

KPI 6: Lubrication Work-order aging report

Total number of lubrication work orders open for XX days (30, 60 ,90, etc. since issue date)

KPI 7: Lubrication work-spend analysis report

Total cost of all lubrication-related work from date A to B

KPI 8: OLE—overall lubrication (program) effectiveness (Production based)

OLE is a derivative of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). The only change in the calculation is in respect to availability based on lubrication-related failure as opposed to all maintenance failures.  

Lubrication-related availability x rate of throughput x rate of quality

OLE can also be expressed in terms of a percentage of OEE to demonstrate the overall effectiveness of the lubrication program on the manufacturing process.

Lubrication related availability x rate of throughput x rate of quality

The old adage “What gets measured, gets done” still holds true today. Measuring your lubrication-program performance allows everyone involved in your operations to intimately understand their business and the impact they have or can have on the business day to day.  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 him at, or telephone 519-469-9173. 




Ken Bannister

Ken Bannister

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