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The 5 Rights of Lubrication are Obvious….right???

Looking at the results of all the site lubrication audits we completed in recent years, we can conclude that they are clearly not as obvious or easy to achieve as we may hope!

The core problems were around lack of ownership and know-how, exaggerated by insufficient lubrication management information/tools to do the job.

Top 5 Challenges Affecting 5 Rights Achievement:

  • Nobody on site is really responsible for the lubrication program and/or has had any formal lubrication training. Common feedback being “We don’t know what good looks like”.
  • Management don’t have specific lubrication KPIs to work with so can’t pin-point improvement opportunities.
  • The stores are uncontrolled – no colour coding, lubricants are contaminated before even being used and disorganisation means the wrong lubricants are being used.
  • Lubricants are bought on price per litre/cartridge, not with whole-life costs or reliability considered (and by contrast, expensive products are wasted).
  • Lubrication is not seen as critical to reliability and maintenance; not reported, not checked or talked about.

If >60% of bearing failures are due to poor lubrication, then what are the key opportunities that will improve reliability?

The common scenario is that a Maintenance Manager’s time is extremely scarce. Lubrication improvement projects therefore must rely on “quick fixes” like new stores/handling equipment or relying on the keenness of the (often new) lubricant supplier to “review the schedule, do some product consolidation and sort the stores out”.

That’s great, provided you include some ongoing management and controls addressing the 5 Rights and, most importantly, make someone responsible for lubrication and train them!

Otherwise, it will be Groundhog Day fairly soon!

5-Rights success factors

We have summarised scores against our 140 question assessment survey;


  • Colour code charts in the storage area, colour coded grease guns and top-up containers, colour coded grease nipples and signs by machines. If kept accurate, visualisation has a very positive impact on the way that lubrication is seen on site and is an important factor in changing from a “grease monkey” to “tribologist” mindset


  • Any personnel involved in lubrication should have their lubrication role and responsibilities clearly described in their Job description.
  • At least one person on site should be trained & certified in machine lubrication; all personnel involved in lubrication should be trained.
  • Back-up personnel & processes should be in place in case of need for lubrication tasks.

 KPIs & Metrics

  • Schedules should be established down to lubrication point level, not just machine. Task completion should enable KPI data & reporting.
  • Schedule compliance (incl. % overdue).
  • Amount, type and frequency of lubricant per point. Ideally including machine criticality to aid focus.

 Task Management

  • Visual observations should be easily recorded and assigned to maintenance teams.

 Program Management

  • Regular “health check” of lubrication standards including; Product quality & effectiveness
  • Continuous improvement projects “moving into the best practice zone”.
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