Even under perfect conditions, grease can lose performance capabilities and eventually become unusable if stored too long. In less than optimal conditions, the process is hastened, wasting time and money. Handling of grease in the initial unloading and storage process is also important and often overlooked. Improper handling and storage of grease can create inventory and accounting mistakes, as well as hazardous working conditions. Here are some tips to avoid these mistakes and get the most value from your grease inventory.
When bringing in new grease drums, safe handling is a must. Since a full drum weighs around 450 lbs., caution in handling is key. Be sure to check the brakes and wheels of vehicles before unloading and attach skids securely to the truck or freight-car bed. Avoid dropping drums from the delivery vehicle onto a loading dock or area. Doing so could cause the drum’s seams to puncture or burst, resulting in a spill (and associated hazards and cleanup) or worse, an injured employee. Careless handling of grease containers can result in leaks, contamination of the contents, smudging, tearing, or otherwise compromising the labels.
When handling new grease deliveries, be careful not to allow a drum to roll by its own momentum, as its weight makes it difficult to stop. Two people should carefully handle repositioning of drums, avoiding letting drums slam to the ground when moving from an upright position to their side. If the ground is smooth between the unloading and storage areas, drums can be rolled into the storage room/area. That being said, be careful not to roll the drums over sharp objects that could puncture their shell and cause a leak.
Once in the storage area, large grease containers should be kept indoors in a single, fireproof area, where they are easy to reach, and away from sources of heat (such as steam lines). Drums that will be opened often and used over a longer period of time are more likely to be contaminated. If you’re not using a sealed grease-dispensing unit to fill grease guns, it’s best to use Velcro-style covers or snap-on caps over the drums.
Grease guns should also be stored in a controlled environment that is clean and dry. Grease tubes and guns should always be closed to prevent airborne contamination from lint and dust. Used grease tubes should be secured in individual, washable, re-sealable containers that are properly labeled to avoid mixing of greases.
Use a “first-in first-out” method inventory rotation. You can arrange your grease inventory to facilitate this process, putting the newest stock in the back, while moving older stock forward. Color-coded labels can help identify products (or combine color codes with numeric systems for the sight impaired). Limit the amount of grease you store to allow it to be used in a timely manner.
Last, make sure your dispensing equipment is clearly identified and clean. Wipe the sealed areas on lubricant containers before opening each time for dispensing. Clean and flush empty tanks and storage containers, fill lines, and hoses before filling.
Even when stored and used correctly, grease quality can be compromised by cross-contaminated if dispensing equipment is used for multiple lubricants. We recommend labeling the pumps, containers, funnels, and grease guns, with a label system to easily match the grease containers to the machine lubrication points on which they’re used.
When followed, these grease storage and handling tips can increase equipment reliability and productivity while maximizing your return on investment. A complete lubrication program ranges from receiving the lubricant to the application of it. Improper storage and handling are two of the costliest mistakes in the lubrication program process.