Mining firms are underestimating the potential savings they can achieve through effective lubrication, according to a new study by Shell Lubricants.

Although 60% of companies believe that they could cut costs by 5% or more, fewer than 10% realise that the effect of lubricants could be up to six times higher.

For the North American mining industry, this could be translated to potential savings of more than $29.1m.

The international study found that in the last three years, 96% of mining companies reported experiencing unplanned equipment shutdowns, with more than half (56%) stating that this could be due to their incorrect selection or management of lubricants. This leads to a direct financial impact, especially at a time when cost competitiveness is a priority for mining companies.

The study was conducted on mining companies across Asia, Europe, and the Americas. It reveals that several firms do not realise that some of their critical operational factors can be influenced by how lubricants are managed. For instance,  64% have no clarity on how extended oil drain intervals can produce cost savings.

Shell global sector manager for mining Renée Power said: “40% of the companies we surveyed estimated that they had incurred costs of at least $250,000 over the last three years from breakdowns due to ineffective lubrication. This shows potential for companies to achieve a significant boost to profits by working closely with a supplier like Shell Lubricants to improve equipment lubrication practices.”

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“Almost half of companies surveyed wouldn’t expect to see a reduction in maintenance costs resulting from lubrication.”

The study also revealed that only 41% of companies have all the recommended procedures in-place to manage lubricants effectively and 59% recognised that they do not undertake staff training sessions on lubricants as regularly as they should.

Furthermore, misconceptions about lubricants persist, with 44% believing that all lubricants and greases offer the same level of performance.

Renée Power added: “The impact of lubrication on Total Cost of Ownership is too often underestimated. Almost half of companies surveyed wouldn’t expect to see a reduction in maintenance costs resulting from lubrication, but we have helped deliver over $44m in savings to mining companies over the last five years.

“Longstanding experience in the mining sector enables Shell Lubricants to identify potential opportunities for lubrication to deliver significant business value. We work closely with customers to help them reduce operating costs and enhance equipment productivity by looking after the lubrication needs of their machinery, not just selecting the right product, but providing guidance so that it can be properly managed.

“We are very aware that companies are under pressure to limit costs and often looking for immediate results. Achieving extended oil drain intervals, for example, is one way that customers can realise cost savings almost as soon as they upgrade their lubrication. As the oil or grease lasts longer, less frequent re-greasing or oil changes are required, helping reduce overall cost of lubrication.”

This survey was conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence.