Oven Chain Lubrication Frequency - Get It Right!!

How Often Should I Lubricate My Bakery Oven Chain?


In an industrial or wholesale bakery, the oven is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the facility. It must run smoothly, efficiently, and consistently to ensure high-quality baked goods.  One key factor in maintaining your oven’s performance is proper lubrication.  In this article, we discuss how often an industrial bakery maintenance department should lubricate a bakery oven chain system, and why it is so important.


The Importance of Proper Lubrication


Proper lubrication techniques help prevent the build-up of chain contaminants such as sludge, dirt, dust, and food particles.  Lubrication is necessary to reduce friction, and keep moving parts of our oven operating smoothly and without excess wear and tear.  Without proper lubrication, friction between moving parts can cause damage, leading to downtime with lost production, lost revenue, and costly repairs.


How Often to Lubricate Your Oven?

So, how often should you be lubricating your industrial bakery oven?

The answer is that it depends on a variety of factors. Do oven chains need to be lubricated? Yes!  Whereas each oven has different operating characteristics, there is no go-to rule of thumb for oven chain lubrication frequencies that can be used for all oven applications.  However, properly lubricated chains last longer and reduce amperage draw.  Thus, to extend chain life, it is important to keep chains protected. 

Top 5 Factors Affecting Oven Chain Lubrication Frequencies

1. Type of Oven

Depending if the oven is direct-fired or indirect-fired will impact heat distribution. A chain that has direct or near exposure to flame is affected differently than a chain that does not travel through a combustion chamber with flames exposed.  As such, chain heat sync will be different, thus affecting lubrication evaporation rates.

2. Bake Temperature

Consider the combustion chamber temperature.  A quick way to do this is to verify the process value on the high-limit temperature controller.  This controller gets its temperature signal from a thermocouple that is usually placed in the exhaust stack (flue vent) and will provide a good indication of the ambient temperature within the combustion chamber.  Remember, that this reading is not the chain temperature.  Thus, the chain temperature must be considered.  What is the temperature of the chain at the hottest point within the chamber? To get an idea of the chain temperature, you can use an infrared temperature gun to obtain a reading. 

3. Amperage Draw

What is considered a safe operating amperage draw for your oven chain drive system?  

You can typically obtain this information from your oven OEM or maintenance professional.  When the chain draws more amps than the safe operating limit, it's time to lubricate.  This is a method used by many larger industrial bakeries that have automated lubrication systems.  This removes the reliance on a human and automates the lubrication process.  When friction increases and the amperage draw is too high (or at a desired threshold), the system adds more lubricant to the chain until the amperage draw is reduced and back at a safe level. 

4. Automatic or Manual Application

Typically, there is more waste, and more lubricant is required when applying manually.  Manual application relies on humans, which can lead to application quantity error, location error, increased waste, and pinch point injury.   

How does a human know they applied enough lubricant? 

Automatic Lubrication Systems help ensure that lubricant is applied to oven chains in a consistent and even manner. 

One of the greatest advantages is that WHILE the chain is moving, the EXACT amount of oil at the EXACT same location is applied.  That’s correct, you can apply lubricant during production and reduce the oven downtime required for traditional manual lubrication.  This can return the bakery one entire shift of production lost for traditional manual lubricant maintenance. 

5. Choice of Lubricant

All industrial food processors should only be using food-grade lubricants on their equipment and in their facilities. 

There are three standardized levels of food-grade oven-safe lubricants, H1, H2, and H3. 

H1 Food Grade Lubricants are the safest and reduce the risk associated with selecting a lower grade (H2 or H3).  When selecting a lubricant some main items to consider are the operating temperature range, the need for a high-temperature lubricant for ovens, viscosity, and flash point.  Always verify the requirements specified by your oven OEM or chain OEM.
If you are not able to use any of the above benchmarks to determine frequency, at a minimum you should be applying lubricant (in most industrial bakery ovens) at least once a week. 

If you hear your chain screeching or squeaking, then it is asking for lubrication.  We do not endorse waiting for this point, but as a general rule of thumb, applying lubricant reduces friction and expansion, extends chain life, and stops the screeching noise.
Of course, this is just a general guideline. The best way to determine how often your oven needs to be lubricated is to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations and to keep a record of how often you perform lubrication maintenance on your oven.  Regular maintenance will help you identify any issues that may be impacting your oven performance and will help you determine how often you should be lubricating.

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Choosing the Right Lubricant

When it comes to lubricating your industrial bakery oven, it is important to choose the right lubricant for the job.  Not all lubricants are created equal and using the wrong lubricant can cause damage to your oven.
The type of lubricant you choose will depend on the specific requirements of your oven, as well as any industry regulations or standards that may apply. Some factors to consider when choosing a lubricant include temperature range, viscosity, and compatibility with the materials used in your oven.
It is also important to ensure that the lubricant you choose is food-grade, as any lubricants that can come into contact with your baked goods can impact their quality and safety.  Be sure to consult with a lubricant supplier or manufacturer to ensure that you are choosing the right product for your specific needs.


Best Practices for Lubricating Your Oven

Now that you have a general idea of factors that affect how often to lubricate your oven and how to choose the right lubricant, let’s discuss some best practices for lubricating your oven.  Following these guidelines will help ensure that your oven operates at peak performance and that you get the most out of your investment.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is critical to keeping your oven running smoothly.  Schedule regular inspections and maintenance with your maintenance department to ensure that your oven is properly lubricated and that any issues are identified and addressed promptly.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to lubricating your oven.  These guidelines will provide you with important information on the type of lubricant to use, how much to use, and how often to apply it.

Use the Right Tools

When applying lubricant to your oven, be sure to use the right tools.  This may include brushes, applicators, or other specialized tools that are designed for the job.  Using the wrong tools can cause damage to your oven or lead to wasted product and ineffective lubrication.

Apply Lubricant to Clean Surfaces

Before applying lubricant to your oven, be sure to clean the surfaces to be lubricated. This will help ensure that the lubricant can effectively lubricate the moving parts and that contaminants are not trapped in the lubricant.  Remove any sludge or baked goods debris or build-up.

Apply the Right Amount of Lubricant

Applying too much lubricant can cause excess build-up and may hinder the performance of your oven.  Conversely, applying too little lubricant may not provide adequate protection against wear and tear.  Be sure to follow the oven or chain manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to applying the right amount of lubricant.

Keep Records

Finally, it is important to keep accurate records of when you lubricate your oven and any other maintenance that is performed.  This will help you determine how often your oven needs to be lubricated, identify any issues that may be impacting its performance, and ensure that you’re complying with any industry regulations or standards.
Proper lubrication is critical to maintaining the performance of your industrial bakery oven.  By following the manufacturer’s guidelines, choosing the right lubricant, and scheduling regular maintenance, you can help ensure that your oven operates at peak performance and that you get the most out of your investment. 

Remember to keep accurate records and consult with experts when necessary to ensure that you’re using the right lubricant and applying it correctly. With proper maintenance and lubrication, your oven can provide you with years of reliable service and help you produce the highest quality of baked goods possible.


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