Choosing the right lubrication program

The list of terms maintenance managers need to know to make their facilities successful, are seemingly endless.

Trying to filter through terms like good-grade, food-plant, NSF certified, FDA listed, USDA registered; standards and best practices for properly lubricating machines can be overwhelming for facility managers.

Correct lubricating equipment, however, is essential to any operation’s success. Choosing and implementing the right lubrication program will ensure that a plant operates more safely and efficiently, in addition to making it more profitable.

Lubricants for food industries

The first thing maintenance managers need to understand when evaluating industrial lubricants, as opposed to lubricants suitable for use in food-processing industries, is what the similarities and the differences are.

Products designed for use in food and beverage facilities must meet all demands made on conventional lubricants – meeting general technical requirements that include the ability to reduce friction and wear, protect against corrosion, dissipate heat and have a sealing effect.

In addition, they must comply with food regulations and be physiologically inert, tasteless, odourless and approved by various international standards. Lubricants for the food and beverage industries are reviewed by NSF Inter- national, an independent registration body, and registered as either H1 or H2.

H1 lubricants are suitable for incidental, technically unavoidable contact with a food, beverage or pharmaceutical product. These lubricants may be safely used for handling, canning, bottling, blending, chilling, cooking, cutting, slicing, and peeling, on machinery components, such as pumps, mixers, gear-boxes, chain drives and conveyor belts. H1 lubricants may be used above the line.

NSF H2 lubricants, on the other hand, are suitable for use in the food-processing, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, provided that contact with the food, beverage or pharmaceutical product is absolutely impossible. These lubricants are sometimes referred to as food-plant or food-machinery lubricants in the industry and may be used below the line.

The distinction between these two designations – H1 and H2 – is especially critical when dealing with issues of contamination and potential product recall. Many food-manufacturing plants are now using H1 lubricants for complete production lines in order to reduce the risk of the wrong lubricant being used in the wrong place. This can also result in lower stock inventory and lower costs.

It is a common misconception that one must sacrifice performance in order to meet H1 standards. This may have been true in the past, but today that is simply not the case. Advances in the industry now allow H1 lubricants to deliver the same, or better, performance than conventional industrial oils and greases and to offer the potential to lower operational costs.

For example, the Klübersynth UH1 6 gear oils series are H1 lubricants that offer superior performance in the areas of efficiency, operational reliability, and extended life. In some cases, gearbox manufacturers actually use this product for their first fill, even when the box is not intended for use in food or beverage facilities.

Regulatory bodies and standards

For the food industry, there are several relevant regulatory bodies. Until 1998, the USDA registered non-food compounds in accordance with regulations in the food and beverage industry.

To have his product registered as a lubricant suitable for use in food processing industries, the lubricant manufacturer had to prove that all ingredients used in its formulation were on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list of allowable substances, in accordance with the Code of federal regulations CFR 21, section 178.3570.

Lubricants were registered in two categories, H1 or H2, based on the specified raw material lists.

When the USDA stopped registering lubricants, there was a period of self-regulation where lubricant manufacturers provided certificates verifying that their products were still in keeping with the FDA mandates.

In 2001, NSF International stepped in and adopted the USDA procedures to register and list new H1 and H2 lubricants. Products that comply with these guidelines are listed in the NSF White Book Listing for proprietary substances and non-food compounds.

A new standard, which is being talked about a lot in the industry is ISO 21469, the next step in lubricant manufacturer regulations. Lubricants used in the food, food processing, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and animal feeds industries are included within the scope of this ISO standard.

Until now, a lubricant’s recipe and its intended use were the only items that were reviewed and regulated. However, the ‘ISO 21469 – Safety of machinery: Lubricants with incidental product contact – Hygiene requirements’ – certification program, is much more comprehensive. It specifies the hygiene requirements for the formulation, manufacture, use and handling of lubricants, which may come into contact with products during manufacturing or processing.

The product certification process will involve formulation and label review, auditing, risk assessment, and product testing. The basic ISO 21469 is a standard that considers the life cycle of the lubricant from manufacture through to storage and application by the food manufacturer.

Klüber Lubrication has started the process of certification according to ISO 21469, and the first Klüber H1 lubricants have already been certified successfully.

Standards of success

In a dynamic industry such as this one, it is important that facility managers stay on the leading edge of regulatory changes, product developments, and more. To help clear up confusion and deliver new information, some lubricant manufacturers have developed training seminars for OEMs and end users.

Klüber Lubrication supports customers in best-practice improvements on storage and application through the Klüber Lubrication Asset Support Service (KLASS). This integrated program provides lubricants, service and support that can help deliver measurable energy savings, increase plant efficiencies, reduce operating costs and support existing continuous improvement initiatives.

Beyond training, however, a lubricant supplier should be able to provide cost-benefit analyses, documentation of H1 or H2 registration, and additional services that help keep a facility running as efficiently as possible.

An internal auditing system that measures current lubricant consumption, relubrication intervals and associated costs of the lubricant program is the first step in creating a lubrication system that’ll work for any facility.

Although lubrication is an integral part of a food-manufacturing facility’s performance, many facility managers do not consider it important to invest a lot of time or money in their lubrication program, because it usually makes up for only around 1% of a facility’s operating budget. However, the real cost benefits of a lubricant, which facility managers cannot see in the lubricant budget, shows up in other areas.

A good lubrication program impacts on the three biggest pieces of the budget pie: energy consumption, components (spare parts inventory) and labour. If facility managers are using the right lubricant, which extends relubrication intervals, they can save on maintenance personnel’s time because they do not have to lubricate the machines as often. Facility managers also save money, when it comes to spare inventory, because components last longer. This capital can then also be used for other projects.

Energy efficiency is something which is important to everyone, and when using a high-quality, specialty lubricant, facility managers not only drive up efficiency, they also see a decrease in the amount of energy needed to operate the overall facility.

By learning more about lubricants suitable for use in food processing industries and the lubrication industry’s regulatory bodies and standards, facility managers will have a better idea about which lubricant to select, the safety practices that should be put into place and the best lubricant practices to follow, in order to save money and energy.

Adopting an ‘all-H1’ lubrication program throughout a plant will help limit the risk of contamination problems, while delivering the same or better performance than conventional industrial oils.

— Kimberly Eldridge is the market manager and David Laing is the industry group manager for food industry at Klüber Lubrication Australia.

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