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South African Institute for Tribology
Official Blog

Garnett Cross - Member since 1985.

There are a few SAIT members who have maintained continuous membership of the SAIT since its inception in 1985. Garnett Cross is one of them, a loyal and long standing member of the SAIT. We have asked for their views on tribology and its importance, and here are Garnett’s thoughts on the SAIT and the value of membership. Here is his story:

I have been conducting hydraulic training courses since 1974, namely the Maintenance Course and the Advanced Hydraulic Course (Design Course).

I was in the Design Office in the Research Department of AECI, designing specialised machinery to automate the handling of explosives for the mining industry. Naturally one was not able to design using conventional methods, i.e. using electrically driven prime movers, hence the use of hydraulics or pneumatics. Way back in 1974 very few people were conversant with hydraulics, so it turned out to be quite a learning curve. As time passed I was offered a position at Sperry Vickers Hydraulics and Pneumatics Division in Johannesburg. I eventually ventured out on my own in 1974. I have also attended hydraulic courses overseas from time to time.

When the SAIT was established I saw the absolute necessity to incorporate the standards of Tribology in the design and maintenance of hydraulic systems.

By requiring companies using hydraulics, to maintain correct standards in their oil handling, they have saved a considerable amount in down time and equipment loss. One mining company was replacing a 460 litre per minute piston pump and a radial hydraulic motor approximately three times per year. The solution was to install ten micron bi-directional filters in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines of the closed loop hydrostatic system lines. After seven years the pump and motor were still working, performing without a problem.

When AC solenoid operated directional control valves are used the solenoids fail as a result of contaminated oil. This statement may sound a little strange. When an AC solenoid is energised there is an in-rush current as the electrical power is applied to move the solenoid, once the armature is in position, closing the magnetic field, the power drops to the holding current. As the spool clearances of directional valves average from twelve to twenty micron, it takes a few minute dust particles to cause the valve spool to stick, resulting in the solenoid coil burning-out. Since the spool is unable to move, the in-rush current remains at a high amperage resulting in the loss of the solenoid. The problem is solved by installing off-line filtration systems on the reservoir, plus in-line filters.

One company wanted to replace their thirty solenoid operated directional control valves with another make as they were replacing the solenoids daily. The standing order for solenoids was 125 per month. Once the oil was filtered the company had no more problems. That was the worst incident that was encountered. Solenoid failures are generally two to three per month, once correct filtration is applied solenoid failures almost cease.

Vane and gear pumps are also susceptible to contaminants in the oil. Pumps have been installed and after three or four days the pumps have to be replaced. Score marks from the contaminants are clearly visible on the pumps inner surfaces. Unfortunately it is very difficult to convince the company personnel the oil is not maintained correctly with proper filtration. It is only when the oil is tested by an outside service organisation, are the personnel convinced.

A survey was undertaken by Mobil Oil in Australia some years ago. The results published indicating that seventy percent of failures in industrial plant was the result of contaminated oil. The figure for failures in construction equipment was ninety percent as a results of contaminates in the oil.

The SAIT has been a source of learning for me in that I have learned from their technical meetings their seminars and conferences both local and international. There are many aspecits of the hydraulic industry which rely heavily on tribology……

Garnett Cross

A Tribute to Doug Herschelll, SAIT Founding Member and President from May 2018 to July 2020

Doug Herschell

From Patrick Swan, SAIT Vice-President, and on behalf of the SAIT Executive Committee, 2019/20:

Doug was mentor to many people during his life because he cared so much for people and their aspirations. He was enduringly honest, and disliked dishonesty in others: that was a quick way of losing his support and friendship.

Doug had one of the greatest enquiring minds that I have ever connected with.He read deeply and had an impressive library.On one hand science, in all forms, but particularly chemistry and physics, and on the other hand history, both of our universe, and of the cultures of our world.He always amazed me with his knowledge of the universe, from the big, astronomical picture, to the smallest atomic structure.

Lubrication, and particularly lubricant development were an early passion for Doug, which he followed all his life, leaving us with his heritage of Herschell Lubricants.Herschell Lubricants are probably as well-known globally as they are in South Africa, which is a massive tribute to his knowledge and research skills.Anyone meeting in his office was always overwhelmed by the number of new product experiments that were on every available space, and even over the windows.

Planning, management and negotiating were Doug’s major strengths, but his family always took precedence.The last time we spoke, only days before his death, he was thrilled to have his family able to visit him in hospital, having come out of ICU, and so looking forward to spending time with his grandson.

It was natural that Doug was a foundation member of the SAIT, and remained a member in good standing ever since it was formed.Along the way he was awarded the Louw Alberts Award, which is presented for an outstanding contribution to tribology over the years in Southern Africa, and was elected as President of the SAIT in 2018.His passion for tribology and the SAIT was a welcome boost to the institute.When elected he was in hospital, in traction after a fall, and sadly he is the only President to die in office, after his almost 20 year battle with cancer.

Right up to the end his mind was clear, he was still reading his science publications, and planning how to improve the SAIT.

From the SAIT Secretariat:

It is with great sadness that the SAIT announces the passing of Mr Doug Herschell, b. 19 July 1942, d. 22 July 2020, aged 78, after his bravely-fought battle with cancer.

In 1985, he became one of the founding members of the South African Institute of Tribology (SAIT), and has remained a loyal member in good standing since then. In 2018, he became President of the Institute, to which he continued to contribute his valuable knowledge, experience and business acumen – and his personal joy in life.

In 2018, Doug received the SAIT Louw Alberts Award in recognition of ‘his significant contribution to tribology and the SAIT, through driving the fundamentals of tribology, and understanding the application, operating condition, base fluid and chemistry required to solve tribological issues’.

Doug’s career in the lubricant industry spanned more that 55 years; his experience in ‘formulating and technicalities earned him an enviable title as “the go-to man” for bespoke industrial lubricant and aerosol solutions’. A year after joining the SAIT, in 1986, he joined Peter, Anne and Colin Gillespie at Swift Industrial, leading this company in growing from 1 product, Herschell Electogliss, to over 400 product lines in 7 countries.

During his years as SAIT President, Doug frequently ‘popped in’ to the SAIT offices at Science Park, bringing along spicey cookies or biscuits and marvellous conversation; at these times, he signed documents and canvassed for advice and participation in many projects through lively phone calls to members, colleagues and friends.

He entertained us with stories of his many journeys on ‘Spaceship Earth’, having lived life to the full throughout his 78 years. We soon learned of his love for his family – his wife, daughters and grandchildren; his passion for scientific research and creation, all enthusiastically enjoyed by Gill, Berice and Isabel; and his delight in all things astronomical. His passion and joy in life – even when fighting the cancer that attacked him, with all the tools that modern medical research could offer him – made him a wonderful companion.

The SAIT will remember their President, Doug Herschell, with fondness and great respect.

Thank you, Doug, for your hours, days, months and years of loyalty and your valuable contributions to the SAIT over the last 35 years.

The SAIT’s condolences go to Doug’s family in this time of loss; and our thanks to them, too, for sharing him with all of us.

Rest in Peace, Doug – and as was said in the Tribute sent to us by Swifts Industrial – we ‘have no doubt that your viewing of the landing on Mars will be far better from where you are now.’

(Some quotations taken from the Tribute to A Great Man received from Grant Gillespie of Swift Industrial, the company that Doug helped run for many years)

From Lucas Lee and Staff:

On behalf of Lucas Lee staff, our condolences to you and Doug’s family . I am sure that he will be greatly missed by his colleagues and friends.

From STLE:

We’re so sorry to hear about Doug’s passing! Our condolences to all of you.

From Hentie Spangenberg at Shell:

A really sad and big loss. Please give our condolences to the family.

From Amanda Jonker at Multotec:

My condolences on the passing of Doug. ☹

From Howard Benade, SAIT Member:

I am sorry to hear about Mr Doug Herschell… This is very sad news and also a great loss to the industry.

From Eben du Plessis, SAIT Executive Committee Member:

I have known Doug for more than two decades and regarded him as a real gentleman and balanced business man . What I really appreciated of Doug, was his unselfishness to readily share knowledge of aerosols and its use in dosing lubricants. His enthusiasm and business like leading of the SAIT despite his health constraints, set an example of leadership to make me proud to being associated with the SAIT.

SAIT: Corona Virus - Covid-19

Understanding Friction, Lubrication and Wear

The SAIT is fully aware of the Corona Virus-Covid19 pandemic, and will follow all guide-lines issued by the Government as strictly as possible.

We will continue to keep everyone advised of any changes as they arise.

At present, we are continuing to prepare for our scheduled Lubrication Engineering courses through the year, the next scheduled for 25-29 May in Johannesburg:

  • Each course involves fewer than 30 delegates – well under the limit of 100 set by government for gatherings.
  • Our venues are well-organised for safely and hygienically hosting the courses.
  • Should delegates need to isolate themselves, or are taken ill or affected by the South African Border Closures, fees and bookings will be carried forward to the next available course that they are able to attend.
  • Our offices remain open for business – but please don’t visit if you have any symptoms of illness (thank you). We, in the office, are aware of and are taking all necessary precautions to avoid the virus.
  • We will be able to work from home if the need arises for quarantine or isolation.

We wish everyone continued health and productivity.

Tribologists of South Africa – Unite!

The SAIT and SA Mechanical Engineer are planning a SAIT Supplement to go out with SA Mechanical Engineer’s April 2020 edition.

We invite all our Corporate Members and any SAIT Member running a small business to participate in this exciting promotion of the very important aspect of engineering – Tribology – and the South African Institute of Tribology.

SA Mechanical Engineer is offering SAIT Members an information block in the April SAIT supplement, which could include your company logo and activities for only R2,000.00. Content can be discussed in detail with Louise Cresswell, Key Account Manager of Promech Publishing CC and specifically of SA Mechanical Engineer; she can be contacted at Tel : 011 781-1401 or Email : samecheng@promech.co.za. The website is: https://promech.co.za/sa-mechanical-engineer-2/. Corporate Members who don’t wish to purchase a block will be listed as SAIT members in the supplement.

If you don’t get through to Louise – she will be phoning you shortly!

The SAIT is working on the bid for hosting the 2025 World Tribology Congress in Cape Town. This would be an excellent opportunity for Tribologists to network on a global scale, academically and in the industry, in our own beautiful country. To succeed, we need the countrywide support of all our members and all Tribologists in South Africa.

Please support your Institute in this endeavour to boost Tribology and all our SAIT Members.

"The influence of brand perception and quality perception on the choice of local brand of lubricant" - Invitation to Complete a Survey

Arnold Mutize is a tribologist, currently studying at the University of the Witwatersrand. As part of his Applied Research Project, he is conducting research on "The influence of brand perception and quality perception on the choice of local brand of lubricant".

Through the SAIT, Arnold asks for your assistance by completing the 15 minute survey, using this link:

Take the Survey

Follow this link to opt out of future emails regarding the survey: Click here to unsubscribe

Your participation in the survey is completely voluntary and your response will remain anonymous.

Please feel free to send this invitation to as many of your contacts as you please.

Should you have any questions or queries, please feel free to email Arnold on: asmutize@gmail.com.



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South African Institute of Tribology

Understanding lubrication, friction and wear


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