Articles & Case Studies


Posted: Friday 28th January 2011

Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL) serves a population of a 2.6 million people in the north east of England with water and sewerage services and 1.8 million in the south east of England. The company prides itself on providing a sustainable, affordable, clean and safe water supply and on managing and treating the waste water ‘returned’ to the company in a way that protects the environment. This has resulted in NWL being awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the category of sustainable development.

NWL has recently completed a five year investment programme, the aim of which was to build a secure and sustainable future for the regions water and waste water services whilst maintaining low costs for customers. One of the main areas which aome under scrutiny by NWL is the lubrication of its machinery. It had long been recognised that pro-active lubrication management as part of a preventative maintenance programme is crucial to the success of any organisation that operates machinery. When combined with a comprehensive management and training programme, the use of advanced lubricants can have far reaching benefits and have a genuine impact on a company’s bottom line.

Until recently NWL had taken care of its own lubrication programme on both the waste water treatment and water treatment divisions. Whilst the results it achieved were acceptable, it was felt these results could be further improved and more consistent approach could be adopted by the business of lubricating and maintaining the high asset equipment. This was an innovative move from a forward thinking company to ensure its high standards were achieved and maintained.

Lisa Layburn, NWL’s performance improvement project manager, was appointed to manage this waste water lubrication project. One of Lisa’s first tasks was to research Tribology, the science and technology of interacting surfaces in relative motion. This includes the study and application of the principles of friction, lubrication and water.

Lisa comments: “One of the interesting points thrown up by research into Tribology is that the science also incorporates the behaviour of staff. If there is no buy-in from the staff; in other words if staff are not trained; then the desired outcome of undertaking lubrication work will not be achieved.”

Lisa then carried out an analysis of waste water planned preventative maintenance to determine current working practices. Based on current analysis and findings it became apparent that it was necessary to implement a more robust system to monitor lubrication work.

“We had to ask ourselves what we needed to do to ensure lubrication was carried out to a consistent standard in order to prevent asset failure,” continues Lisa. “One of the most obvious ways forward was to bring in an outside supplier to support this project and to ensure the right lubricants are applied, using the correct methods, in the right quantities, at the right time. It was essential that we implemented a lubrication standard throughout the company.”

NWL asked a number of suppliers to review its lubrication programme. One of those suppliers was ROCOL®, a leading supplier of lubricants for applications in the industrial, engineering and manufacturing industries. NWL analysed ROCOL® and a competitor company as to what each could provide in terms of service levels, the cost of that service and any contract buy in time.

After a thorough analysis ROCOL® came out with the highest score and were chosen to supply a wide range of its lubricants after fully defining the level of training it would provide and the level of service it would offer.

Lisa continues: “ROCOL has impressed us for a number of reasons but what sets ROCOL apart is the added value the company provides through its reputation, skills and knowledge basis. In addition, the training programme it provides as part of our overall contract is tailor made to meet our very specific requirements. The fact the company will train all our operators’ gives a consistent approach and message across the entire company.”

“Prior to appointing ROCOL we used many different lubricants which ROCOL reviewed and reduced this to 13 ROCOL products. Information gathered in the future about our product usage through its ROCOL care programme will help develop our list further to ensure our needs are continuously catered for.”

Shortly after winning the contract from NWL’s waste water division, ROCOL was approached by NWL’s water treatment division to look at its lubrication requirements. As mentioned earlier one of the pre-requisites of the chosen lubrication company was its ability to provide lubricants for both divisions.

ROCOL surveyed all the water treatment sites to determine the requirements. One of the requirements was for all lubricants to be of a food grade standard to eliminate any potential risk of contamination to the water supply.

This survey by ROCOL has initially resulted of stocks of FOODLUBE® being supplied to 11 of NWL’s main sites and initial training has also taken place. Foodlube is a range of lubricants which meets the NSF internationally approved requirements to ensure non contamination of food and is therefore an ideal choice when it comes to water treatment.

As part of the terms of the contract ROCOL is conducting surveys at all NWL’s sewage treatment and water treatment works. These surveys are the cornerstone of the ROCOLcare® premium service package which is supplied, as standard, to ROCOL customers. The surveys, carried out in close conjunction with NWL, review the lubricants in use across all the treatment works; application methods and frequency of application. The next stage is to develop a bespoke lubrication management package for the sites designed to deliver maximum machine time and minimal downtime.

Training is a major part of the ROCOLcare programme and was a significant factor in NWL’s final decision. The training is designed to allow operators to fully appreciate the importance of lubrication and the effects of both under and over greasing. ROCOL will be training all NWL’s staff in the fundamentals of lubrication and will involve hands on learning whilst improving the level of understanding, increasing knowledge and encouraging confidence.

ROCOL believes in forming a working partnership with its customers and part of this is to offer a flexible approach to training. Training can take place at ROCOL’s own in-house training centre or at the customer’s own site and is carried out by professional and highly qualified ROCOL trainers. ROCOL provides tailored training programmes ranging from ‘The Essential Principles of Lubrication’ to ‘Train the Trainer’ courses.

Another aspect of the ROCOLcare programme is the technical support and service engineering it provides and the signage and labelling of equipment. Support is provided both on and off site and the company employs a team of highly skilled, experienced engineers capable of providing innovative solutions for all lubricant applications.

ROCOL has scheduled review meetings with NWL to agree and review jointly agreed performance measures and provides continuous advice and assistance on all lubrication matters.

Lisa Layburn concludes: “The close working relationship we have already formed with ROCOL leaves me in no doubt that we will achieve our objectives for consistent, effective lubrication – their products are recognised as being the best in the lubricating industry and from our experience with ROCOL so far that reputation is fully justified. NWL now has the complete confidence that the right lubricants are being used, at the right time, across all its sights. As a result we are guaranteed to see a reduction in breakdowns caused through lubrication problems. We anticipate that the ROCOL range of lubricants will help prevent £100,000 worth of breakdowns of waste water assets per annum and that savings of about 4 per cent will be achieved thanks to energy efficiency savings after the correct lubrication is undertaken.”

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