I remember my first day at a new job in 1981. This is the job that launched me into a 32-year career in lubrication. My first assignment was to conduct a telephone survey of industry professionals on various topics related to oil analysis and contamination control. I quickly learned that the industry was suffering from stagnant practices and lethargic attitudes. It was not too long thereafter when I began to have second thoughts about the wisdom of pursuing lubrication as a career path. Perhaps some of you have had similar feelings.
It took a while, but I eventually came to realize that what seemed like a dismal state in an old and generally unexciting field was actually a huge opportunity in disguise. It reminds me of the story of the two shoe salesmen. They were both sent by their factory to Africa to see if there was a market for their product. The first salesman quickly reported back: “This is a terrible business opportunity. No one wears shoes.” The second salesman reported back: “This is a fantastic business opportunity. No one wears shoes.” At first I saw the lubrication field like the first salesman. I soon came to realize the enormous potential that it actually represented.
The Optimum Reference StateThe lubricant Optimum Reference State (ORS) is a critical concept in the journey to world-class lubrication and enhanced machine reliability. In short, it is the prescribed state of machine configuration, operating conditions and maintenance activities required to achieve and sustain specific reliability objectives. Lubrication excellence is achieved when the current state of lubrication approaches that of the Optimum Reference State.
There are many different critical attributes of the ORS. These attributes relate to people preparedness, machine preparedness, precision lubricants, precision lubrication and oil analysis. Achieving the ORS almost always involves change or modifications. Each attribute must be:
- Precise and definable (e.g., a specific lubricant sump level),
- Measurable (e.g., a specific viscosity) or verifiable (e.g., a sample port location),
- Controllable (by modification) and sustainable (by program continuity),
- Able to achieve the desired reliability objectives related to the financial benefit, safety and machine readiness.
Now decades later it is gratifying to see the considerable progress that has been made in the world of lubrication. Of course, much work still remains. It’s this unfinished business that offers untapped opportunity for both users and vendors alike. Many have seen this opportunity and are moving in to capitalize, but there is still plenty more low-hanging fruit for those who have the vision and are willing to take on the challenge. As they say, “opportunity knocks.”