Are you implementing the right oil analysis programme?


Oil Analysis blog

In today’s world of preventative and predictive maintenance, oil analysis has emerged as an effective tool when it comes to maintenance decision making. In fact, oil analysis is often the most cost effective element of a preventative maintenance programme, requiring the lowest implementation cost and delivering the highest return on investment (ROI) when compared with other preventative measures. Despite this, we are approached time and again by clients asking just how to implement a successful oil analysis programme. As such a vital aspect of equipment maintenance and operational reliability, getting maximum value from your oil analysis is essential.

So, how can you ensure you’re sampling the right equipment, at the right time, using the right techniques?..

The right equipment

Knowing which equipment should be sampled can often be the first stumbling block when implementing any oil analysis programme – and is an important step to get right! Sampling all your equipment may seem like the safe option; however, it goes without saying that this simply isn’t practical (and could cost you unnecessary time and money). Instead, using some key criteria will help you prioritise which equipment to sample:

Criticality of equipment
Establishing how critical each piece of equipment is to your overall plant operations is a key starting point when creating your priority list. Rank your equipment in terms of how much unplanned maintenance, repair, or downtime will impact production. Those at the top of the list, should be first on yours.

Volume of oil utilised
Oil can be costly. So you need to make sure you’re getting the longest oil life possible. Employing a condition-based (vs. interval-based) approach to your oil change schedule can help you avoid unnecessarily discarding healthy oil. In this respect, it makes sense, then, to sample equipment which utilise high volumes of oil first.

Cost of failure
This is not to say, however, that machines working with small oil volumes should be overlooked. It is not just the cost of the oil which should drive sampling; it is the cost of unplanned downtime, reparie and maintenance. Put simply, the higher the cost of equipment failure, the higher it should be on the priority list.

The right time

Now that you’ve prioritised which equipment to sample, determining the sampling frequency for each should be next on your ‘to do’ list. Some equipment will require more frequent sampling than others. Luckily, there are some basic ways to determine your sampling schedule:

Cost of failure
In a similar way to your equipment selection process, equipment which holds a high cost of failure should be sampled more often.

This should take into account both the opportunity for contamination as well as the severity of the operating conditions (i.e. pressure, speed, load) As a general rule, the greater the risk of lubricant damage, the more frequent the sampling.

Machine age
The likelihood of machine failure can typically be tied to the machine’s age. This is often higher when a machine is brand new or when it has exceeded its maximum useful life. Sampling frequency should be higher, therefore, during these periods of high failure vulnerability.

The right techniques

No matter how planned out our oil analysis programme, if you’re not utilising the right techniques, this could prove a waste of time and money. Ensuring that a clean and representative sample can be a fine art – and one which is critical to the overall procedure. Taking some simple precautions can help ensure your oil analysis efforts are not wasted.

Prior to sampling

  • Ensure the equipment is operating at its normal temperature.
  • Thoroughly rinse and clean the sampling equipment…however, never use degreasing agents (traces of these substances can affect analysis results)

During sampling

  • Always use new sample bottles and keep lids closed until the sample is taken
  • Where possible, make sure samples are taken through a sampling valve, vacuum pump, or sampling tube

Post sampling

  • Include critical equipment and maintenance information when submitting the sample (e.g. date sampled, sample point, hours oil has been in service)

Selecting an oil analysis partner

Unlike vibration analysis or thermography, oil analysis will usually require an external analysis partner to perform the test and interpret the results. But with numerous providers to choose from, how can you be sure you’re working with the right one to meet your objectives?

It’s worth getting it out of the way early; NEVER select an oil analysis partner based solely on cost. As with anything, you get what you pay for. And with oil analysis being so critical to your operations, using cost as your only selection criteria could prove a costly mistake! Instead, consider the overall value the provider can bring.

Logistically, your oil analysis provider should make the sampling process as easy as possible for you. If you’re collecting your own samples, for example, they should provide pre labelled bottles along with adequate packaging to send these back to the lab.

A quality oil analysis provider should be able to provide your results with a quick turnaround. More complex tests may require longer timeframes, but for standard tests the turnaround should ideally be no longer than 24 – 72 hours.

Technical service
Not all oil analysis providers are created equal. Some will provide only the ‘basics’; others will be a valued partner throughout the implementation process – and beyond. These will be able to extend their impact past the sampling process by offering additional interpretation and data utilisation support, as well as training and ongoing predictive maintenance consultancy services.

The type of provider you choose will ultimately depend on your specific needs and current adequacies. However, by selecting a partner who can advise you on each aspect of the process – from equipment selection and sampling frequency, through to testing techniques, data analysis and preventative planning – you’ll have a much higher chance of implementing a successful programme right from the beginning.

Speak to one of our experts about how WP Group can help you implement an effective oil analysis programme. Call us on 0800 980 6172 or email .   

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