In this day and age of fluid awareness does this statistic still surprise?

Given the multi -billion dollar Reliability Engineering industry that is dedicated to setting up maintenance programs to ensure machines are dependable and have an appropriate lifecycle. Yet, go into any hydraulic workshop scattered across the country, small or large and there are thousands of examples where a system has failed due to poor fluid quality.

Why? Is the fluid maintenance message not getting through?

Perhaps there are more machines then reliability engineers, or there is still the attitude, “She’ll be right mate” when it comes to fluid maintenance. Either way, not respecting the fluid quality in a machine is costing organisations unnecessary financial losses.

As an Application Specialist in the Fluid Power Industry, I am challenged by this thought; 70% of machine/equipment failures are traced back to poor fluid quality. Question; how do you articulate a value proposition for respecting and increasing Fluid Awareness attitudes?

Let’s start with the business; everyone faces the same pressure “improve competitiveness”, for many organisations this may start with reducing input costs, typically maintenance budgets are often the easy and soft targets to be reduced in order to improved competitiveness in the operation.

The trendy term that is used to describe this function is “life Cycle Cost Reduction” programs. Although, when it comes to reducing maintenance budgets, this comes with a level of false economic thinking, because a business operation still cannot get around the statistic that; 70% of machine/equipment failures are traced back to poor fluid quality.

A good fluid power technician with confidence will present a 3 step “life Cycle Cost Reduction” program, with the focus on improving the maintenance program; as a result this will improved cashflow savings by having reduced equipment failures. The 3 steps are:

Step 1 – Fluid awareness

In Article 6: Introduction to the amazing world of Fluid Power – Part 5 (Fluid), which touches on the general overview of what fluid is really about. In this subject of having “fluid awareness”, this is about expanding on the key fluid purpose with how it is used to carry out a “Work” function, but more critically how it is used to look after the machines health.

A key principal that must be recongised is that Hydraulic Equipment will last a very long time, if the fluid is looked after. The fluid itself will also last for years.

Fluid Awareness is about respecting the fluid condition in a piece of equipment, as it will provide an insight into the health and wellbeing of the machines life span. Fluid Condition can be measured at two important levels: “Fluid Cleanliness levels” and “Fluid Quality Condition”.

Step 2 – Fluid condition

The arch enemy in the fluid power system is Contaminates that can enter the system and be mixed with the fluid that causes a range premature wear issues to take place in a hydraulic system. It is these Contaminates that are often cited as the leading cause for the 70% equipment failure due to poor fluid quality.

The goal for maintaining equipment with Fluid Power circuits is to keep an eye on the fluid condition. There are many aspects for maintaining the fluid condition and for this second step, it is to understand how these two principals apply:

  • Fluid Cleanliness levels
    Fluid Quality Condition

Fluid Cleanliness Levels

Fluid Cleanliness is about determining the level of solid particles that are actually floating through the fluid into the critical parts of the hydraulic system. The fluid power industry at an International level uses an ISO standard (ISO4406/1999) as a benchmark and method for defining the level of particles in the fluid. This is referred to as a three part ISO code : for example 21/18/15.

Why is this important? A fluid power system will incorporate a range of components that will have a recommend fluid cleanliness level requirement. To achieve and maintain these levels a well designed filtration system will be required to protect the hydraulic components.

Selecting the optimum filtration solution contributes significantly to preventing damage caused by contamination and increasing the reliability of the system.

This means that sensitive components are protected over the long term and the filter has a significant longer service life.

Fluid Quality ConditionOilPour2

Fluid will last a long time, however the industry knows that the chemical makeup of oil can change and degrade when subjected to oxidation (oxygen), hydrolysis (water) and thermal degradation (high temperature) for example.

The technical descriptions of these effects will be explored in future articles, for this key point, it is important to recognise that the consequences of Oil degradation will:

  • Shorten fluid life
  • Reduced Oil performance – loss of lubricity, valve failure, restricted oil flow
  • Reduced productivity – slow start ups
  • Higher energy consumption – Friction and wear
  • Increased Maintenance Costs – Increased filter change frequency, Increased wear of components

Step 3 – Fluid Maintenance Program

The message in this article is that Fluid Management is a critical requirement for keeping equipment operating to it’s peak performance and in return will provide an organisation a true costing savings over the lifecycle of the business operation.