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False Economy In Industrial Maintenance

Economical lubrication systems

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False Economy in Lubrication Programmes

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Industrial equipment can cost hundreds of thousands of euros. Ensuring machinery lasts its full life expectancy requires a planned and carefully executed lubrication schedule.

Would you store Fabergé eggs in a paper bag? Would you hang a Picasso over an open fireplace? Of course you wouldn't. You wouldn't be protecting your investment.

Sadly, few of us in the industrial sector own fancy paintings, or eggs. What we do own is expensive machinery. When it comes to industrial machinery, not protecting an investment is a trap that many businesses fall into.

Most commonly this stems from reluctance to spend money following the purchase of expensive machinery, and the element that frequently suffers is correct lubrication. In the search for a cheap alternative to proper lubrication, many companies are blinded by totally false economy, and their mistakes are very costly.

Proper Bearing Lubrication

Improper lubrication accounts for as much as 80% of bearing failure. Roughly half of this is through poor lubrication practices, and another 20% can be attributed to contamination. It's surprising then that proper lubrication is so often the practice that suffers during cost-saving and streamlining procedures.

In electric motors, bearing problems account for over half of motor failures. This number can vary for different types of machinery, but faulty bearings often leads to catastrophic failure, And the one thing you can be certain of with a catastrophic failure is expensive repair bills, and a lengthy loss of production.

There are several ways in which incorrect lubrication can drastically shorten the life of shiny new equipment...

False Economy­­ Lubrication Practices

It's natural that many companies try to cut maintenance costs where possible. However, today's approach to maintenance - especially in the tough financial climate many industries find themselves in - should encompass a long term vision of cost saving and efficiency. 

As a result of cost-cutting we see two clearly apparent failures.

Poorly Executed Manual Lubrication

Manual lubrication can cause three huge problems in machinery maintenance. 

1) Over lubrication - Too much grease is pumped into the bearing or machinery, often until the operator can visibly see it coming through seals.

Over-greasing may not seem a big deal, but it can cause huge problems. It leads to high temperatures, which in turn leads to oxidation and lubricant separation, which means the lubricant is no longer doing its job. The separated thickening agent can then solidify or 'gum', causing further problems by preventing the ingress of new grease.

2) Under-Lubrication - Following the initial over-lubrication, grease is quickly lost, and long periods of under-lubrication can occur. Inadequate lubricant volume results in increased friction between moving surfaces, and that means higher rates of component wear. 

3) Improper Frequency - In many plants re-lubrication is performed on a time basis to suit maintenance operatives. This is the polar opposite to how lubrication schedules should be managed, and leads to long periods of intensified wear on the components. 

Thus manual lubrication results in an endless cycle of over-lubrication followed by under-lubrication. It also opens the door to human error, lube points can be missed, exacerbating wear and vibration. 

Spring Lubricators

Spring operated lubricators are another common pitfall of industrial maintenance. Despite still being prevalent on the market, this technology is wildly outdated. The force of the spring mechanism forces lubricant out of the reservoir, but unlike gas-driven lubricators these primitive versions cannot be properly controlled. 

Spring lubricators do not build pressure like automatic lubricators, so the spring luber's dispense rate will be affected by the backpressure of the system. Employing a spring-powered lubricator results in an initial period of over-lubrication, followed by increasing under-lubrication as the reservoir empties. 

A common argument is that the components still receive the same amount of grease overall. This is very true, but as we've discussed both over-lubrication and under-lubrication can be incredibly damaging to machinery and bearings. If you ate an entire week’s worth of food in one meal, and didn't eat for the rest of the week, you probably wouldn't feel great. 

The same applies to lubrication of machinery components, it's not just about the correct volume of lubricant, it's also about the precisely controlled flow of that lubricant across the entire maintenance schedule.

Yes, spring lubricators are cheap. And so is manual lubrication. But industrial equipment is not cheap. So why would anyone spend hundreds of thousands on a piece of machinery and not give it the aftercare it needs? 

The answer is false economy. It might seem like a good idea to cut costs on lubrication, but it is crucial to consider the long term implications of any decision. If you'll be saving $5,000, €10,000 even £20,000 by implementing a cheap lubrication programme over a reliable one, how will that impact your business when you consider...

The Solution To Cost-Effective Lubrication

Manual lubrication can work in some operations. But it should never be done on a time schedule. Every single piece of equipment must be treated individually, and specific calculations done for each lubrication point to ensure a proper frequency and dose for every re-lubrication. Staff must be trained to rigorously follow the maintenance schedule, without exception, without error.

In practice this can be difficult to achieve. A much simpler solution is to employ a reliable lubrication system with easy monitoring. It's true that this requires a larger initial outlay, but the long term benefits greatly outweigh the cost, and in fact the correct choice of lubrication system will pay for itself within a year. 

ATS Electro-Lube manufactures the most reliable automatic lubrication systems on the market. We are second to none not only in reliability, but in safety, pressure, durability, and operating temperature range. If you don't believe us, try our products against your existing lubrication set-up and you'll see the benefits immediately.

You will completely eradicate human error. Give every piece of machinery the exact quantity of lubricant required, avoid problems associated with over/under-lubrication, and enjoy up to 24 months of completely maintenance free lubrication. 

On top of this, trusting ATS to solve your lubrication needs will eradicate hundreds of maintenance hours across the 24 month lubrication period, ensure machinery lasts its full life expectancy, wipe out catastrophic failure whilst maximising productivity & uptime, significantly lower repair costs and replacement part costs.

Protecting Industrial Equipment

  • cost of new components
  • cost of labour for repairs
  • cost of lost productivity & earnings
  • cost of operatives standing idle
  • reduced life of machinery
  • safety risks of catastrophic failure

Lubrication Case Study: Paper Factory

A paper factory was manually lubricating up to 94 lubrication points, at a frequency of twice per week, based on a time schedule that every Tuesday and Friday two employees greased the points with a grease gun.

At around 3 minutes per lube point this was costing over 560 minutes per week, or 488 hours per year. Not only was this an unacceptable amount of hours spent on lubrication, but the company was suffering repeated breakdowns across a range of machinery.

After a short trial period, the company fitted Jack Lubers across the entire 94 lube points. Setting up the Jacks as multi-point lubrication systems each Jack fed 4 lube points or bearings (with the exception of one unit feeding only 2 larger bearings).

To replicate the twice weekly manual lubrication the Jacks were set to a 4 month dispense cycle. Taking roughly 1 minute to set & install each Jack, or to replace a cartridge, this switch resulted in huge savings of maintenance hours.

With 24 Jack 250ml units installed, replacing cartridges every 4 months, the company was now spending only an hour and a half every year greasing bearings! Less than 90 minutes per year!

But what about the installation cost? Well the Jack Luber is the most economical multi-point lubrication system on the market, for several reasons. It’s refillable by your maintenance team, so you buy the motor housing once, then simply replace grease cartridges when necessary. Because ATS manufacture the most reliable and durable lubrication equipment available each unit will last hundreds of refills, offering better long term savings than any other product.

Best of all, the Jack Luber costs approximately the same as other motorised single-point lubricators! And because the Jack can operate as a multi-point installation, a single Jack can do the job of 4 or more rival motorised lubricators. In this instance we’ve not only saved the company nearly 500 man hours, but the Jack provides a 75% saving over similar lubrication products!  

For the first year’s supply of their entire lubrication system, including lubricant and refills, this company spent less than €5,000, a figure which drops even further in subsequent years without the need to replace the motor housing! 

Couple this with the saving of 500 man hours which can be spent on pro-active maintenance, greatly reduced lubricant bills, minimised repair costs, and extended machinery life, it’s clear why the correct choice of automatic lubrication system is unquestionably the best choice for most operations. Contact ATS Electro-Lube today and see how we can save you money. 

Expensive machinery such as that pictured in thus recycling plant often suffers from improper lubrication practices, most frequently due to a lack of willingness to invest in an adequate lubrication system depsite the need to maintain expensive machinery.
  • Under-lubrication
  • Too long between re-lubrication, leading to wear
  • Over-lubrication
  • Contaminant ingress
  • Improper lubrication
Get a quote for single point lubricators, pictured here delivering bearing lubrication in industrial applications
A grease gun is used for manual lubrication, which often results in improper lubrication techniques
A multi-point automatic lubrication system being used in a water treatment plant toprovide economical lubrication to water treatment machinery

multi-point lubrication system

A multi-point lubrication system attahed to four boints for bearing lubrication, with added remote control capabilities and lubricant level sensor, offering the most economical approach to industrial lubrication on the market

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