Lubrication is key to plant and machinery running smoothly. Automated lubrication systems have been around for some time, but like any technology, a little tweaking here and there can make a huge difference in making sure machinery is not only being looked after, but the right volume of grease or oil is being supplied to lubrication points at the right time.
JSG Industrial Systems, which is a John Sample Group business, has introduced SKF’s EDL (Electric Driven Lubricator), which, as the name suggests, is an electronically driven and easy-to-use pressure-booster pump capable of generating high outlet pressures from low inlet pressures.
JSG Industrial Systems’ technical manager for lubrication, Rainer Bels, explained that the EDL is not only ideal for the food and beverage industry, but can save on labour costs, too. Plus there are other advantages.
“These EDLs can either bring together all individual machines in a factory into one lubrication system that is controlled from a single location, or they can work independently of each other, but still pump lubricant from a central container,” said Bels.
“Having individual lubrication systems with individual containers on machines means that people still have to go around and keep them topped up with lubricant, which can bring about contamination issues. This also means there is more chance of getting foreign material in among the recesses they are filling, which in turn affects the reliability of the machine. They are all factors that are needed to be taken into consideration with a lubrication plan.”
The EDL doesn’t have its own reservoir. It needs a lubricant source that is supplied to it under pressure, which means it needs an external pump to supply the lubricant source. It is more suited for systems where there are a lot of zones – whether they be separate machines, or a very large machine that has different sections within that machine, with groupings of lubricant points, according to Bels.
“It is electronic and has a motor in it,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be near the material that is being processed.
“The pump is with the rest of the electronic controls. The lubricant division system can be mounted in the cabinet with the pump, or installed throughout a machine if necessary. Those distribution blocks come in stainless steel and can be washed down.”
The main feature of the device is that it is compact and simple to use. It can be either controlled from a central place in the factory, or each part can be controlled individually depending on the application.
How available are the parts when things go wrong, or if more units are needed as the plant expands?
“Being a SKF lubrication distributor, JSG has large regional warehouses that have been supplying products and spare parts to many industries – including food and beverage – for many years,” said Bels.
Bels said the key information to note is that JSG has a wide network of distribution partners in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia who focus on the supply and installation, as well as after-sales service support of SKF lubrication systems.
And how does a maintenance worker know when the oil or grease needs refilling?
“These systems have all sorts of interlocks in them,” said Bels. “It depends on the sophistication of what the end-user wants to go to when needing to refill the oil or grease container.
“There will always be a pressure alarm that tells you that it needs refilling. There will be a level indicator with options to have a few days or a month’s warning – you just have to set the indicator at the right level and the alarm will be sounded so the maintenance worker can order another drum of lubricant. It’s as simple as that.”
It is common for food and beverage plant and machinery to have automatic lubrication systems in place.
Most breweries have existing systems. In fact, the vast majority of food and beverage companies, have them, according to Bels. As well as being suitable for new factories, they can also be integrated into premises that are being refurbished.
“Many aging lubrication systems are in need of refurbishment or upgrading,” said Bels. “That is where the EDL might be needed. The industry understands the importance of having an efficient lubrication system to extend the life of machinery in the long term. The EDL devices are more about delivering efficient lubrication in one centralised system by supplying multiple lubrication systems from a centralised reservoir.
“This increases the cleanliness of the lubricant and helps with the correct functionality of the lubrication system.”