Home>Efficient Maintenance>Condition monitoring>The role of lubrication in Industry 4.0
Home>Production Engineering>Lubrication>The role of lubrication in Industry 4.0
Home>Handbooks>Maintenance Management Guide>The role of lubrication in Industry 4.0

The role of lubrication in Industry 4.0

26 May 2017

Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing offers a golden opportunity for manufacturing to integrate seamless digital technology in effective production processes that should realise greater economies of production, realise improved efficiencies and keep UK industry as a world leader in innovation on the global market. David Wright, director general of the United Kingdom Lubricants Association considers the role of lubrication in this new environment

For the sector to embrace this new technology and take advantage of this change, maintenance professionals will need to adapt to more sophisticated management systems supported by big data, better self-monitoring of scheduled maintenance activities, and an accelerated move away from the reactive maintenance processes of the past to embrace integrated pro-active maintenance operations of the future. 

These systems are becoming more intuitive about their own maintenance needs, systems that are increasingly self-supporting, have improved self-monitoring analysis, better self-diagnostics and are even self-maintaining.  

Smart Manufacturing is a natural evolution of an integrated system management approach to condition monitoring, enabled through better digital integration in the production process. One of the benefits of such an approach is the quicker identification of maintenance risks before they become real issues, leading to greater advantages in the possible reduction in the number of serious maintenance issues and resulting costs.

For lubrication this means that the system can monitor its own efficiencies during the production process. Is the lubricant effective in operation? Is it operating at the right temperature and is it still capable of holding dirt and debris created during production, in suspension?

Improved fluid monitoring systems are already being introduced by lubricant manufacturers working in partnership with industrial customers. It is often usual these days for metalworking fluid producers to take over complete responsibility for the lubrication system within a customer’s premises leaving the customer to focus on what they do best.

From personalised site plans to monitoring fluid condition, backed by laboratory analysis; metalworking fluid producers can help to realise cost efficiencies in the production processes. Advising on efficient stock holding to making recommendations for greater cost savings, metalworking fluid companies of today have moved on from the old producer/supplier relationships of yesterday to become strategic partners with their customers for the longer-term.

The net result of this new relationship is improved waste management, less downtime, better fluid monitoring and control but above all else more effective maintenance and improved production efficiencies. Saving the customer time, money and hassle by leaving fluid monitoring and control to the experts in metalworking fluid management.   

The danger with this 4th industrial revolution could be to deskill production personnel to the level of computer operatives when exactly the opposite is needed. For industry to thrive and take advantage of Industry 4.0 means upskilling those involved in the production process to be more adept at problem-solving and trouble shooting. If Smart Manufacturing through better digital integration gives people the 'what' – what is happening in production, then people need the skills to ascertain the 'why' – why is this issue occurring and what remedial action needs to be taken to ensure continuity of production. Smart Manufacturing needs Smart Employees more than ever.

In lubrication we have seen trends such as the move towards fill for life systems and extended service intervals placing even greater demands on the role that lubrication plays at the heart of any effective maintenance system. This can only increase going forward. In the future we can expect better remote and continuous condition monitoring through the use of smarter diagnostic technology all helped, supported and enabled through Industry 4.0.  

Case study - Houghto-Trend 

As a market leader in metalworking fluids for the manufacturing industry, Houghton provides metalworking fluids and support services to manufacturers and those involved in manufacturing processes. The company has 11 manufacturing facilities spanning nine countries, including a European base in the UK and manufacturing in Germany Italy, Spain and Thailand.

Based in the UK in Trafford Park Manchester, a few years ago Houghton introduced a web-based system for managing metalworking fluids where lubricants are managed and assessed at their customers’ premises called Houghto-Trend. 

The basics of the system are divided into four steps; Schedule, Test, Review and Take Action. The first step is to Schedule as for any maintenance process in the system. Once the activities are due they are carried out by the customer, this is the Test Phase where an engineer will attend the site to carry out an activity and record it. The third step is to Review once data has been captured to see if there are any issues by analysing what the data tells us. The final stage is to Take Action based on the outcome of the data. 

Available via any web-enabled device such as a computer, mobile phone or laptop, all that customers need to access Houghto-Trend is an internet connection. Talking to their customers over many years has allowed the company to identify priorities for the system. Customers told Houghton that they wanted a system that enables them to be compliant with Health & Safety regulations and something they can use s an audit tool. So a central store point for all captured information they can fully interrogate is important to achieve this. Customers also want to ensure the quality of the finished product and spot trends in the system which they can do with Houghto-Trend. If something is going out of sync the system can identify this enabling the customer to identify the issue and address it before it escalates. 

Customers also wanted a system that will allow them to achieve efficiencies and reduce machinery downtime. The longer customers can run machinery the greater the productivity. So alongside efficiencies are the ability to achieve time and cost savings, by increasing the life of a fluid which Houghton claim, is better for them and better for their customers if they do not have to provide so much support for the fluid.

Houghto-Trend is not a new solution. Back in 2007 the company worked by itself on the original version. By 2008 it had 50 UK customers signed up so there was a quick uptake and interest in the product right from the start. Initially developed as an in-house solution, version 2 was launched in 2010 as a more scalable system and the latest version was developed in 2012 as Houghto-Trend 3.3. This latest version is based on a cloud based solution which is accessible from many places and can grow as both Houghton and their customers grow. 

At the moment there are more than 2000 customers using the Houghto-Trend across 3000 customer sites and so far the system has captured over seven million activities consisting of checking and sampling fluid in 44 countries.


The United Kingdom Lubricants Association is the trade body representing the interest of lubricant manufacturers, blenders and marketers on matters impacting the industry, through participation in consultation, representation and lobbying to UK and European Government and industry authorities.

In addition to its core representation role and activity, the UKLA also provides its membership with industry networking events and knowledge sharing, through to training and communications on industry developments and legislation.