Benefits of On-Site Oil Analysis
The key benefits of on-site oil analysis are maintenance cost savings and productivity increases from increasing the uptime of running machines. Machines run longer if the right oils are used and if the oils are dry, clean and fit for use.
Oil mix up is one of the most common lubrication problems contributing to machine failure. Putting the right lubricating oil in a machine is a simple task that can improve machine reliability. Checking the viscosity, brand and grade of incoming oil and checking for contamination of alien fluids help to reduce the chances of oil mix up and keep the machines running at optimal efficiency.
In order to keep the oil dry, clean and free of contaminants, seals and filtration systems need to work properly and oils should be checked regularly. Sand and dirt in oil cause the generation of abrasive wear. Moisture in oil causes corrosion. Fuel or coolant in engine oil changes viscosity and causes the generation of adhesive wear. It is necessary to keep the lubricating oil clean and dry at all times.
To keep oil fit for use, oil conditions are to be monitored regularly to make sure the oil is used within its performance specification. A well balanced oil analysis program shall monitor machine wear condition, oil contamination and oil degradation. Key parameters are measured regularly and their trends are closely monitored. If one or more parameters exceed the alarm limits or a change in the trending rate is detected, reliability engineers are alerted and maintenance actions may be needed to resolve potential problems.
The cost savings from a well-executed oil analysis program come from reducing production loss from unplanned down time due to catastrophic failure as well as decreasing repair costs and eliminating unnecessary oil changes. In a power plant or paper mill, the cost savings mainly come from reduced machine down time and repairs. In a mining site with hundreds of hauling trucks, the cost savings mainly come from eliminating potential engine failures. For a municipal transportation fleet, however, the cost savings from oil analysis are due to reduced material, labor and recycling by extending the oil drain intervals.
On-site or Outsource – That is the Question
The awareness of oil analysis within the reliability professional community has increased over the years. Numerous case studies are published every year demonstrating how oil analysis and lubrication management practices improve machine reliability and save money. Companies or organizations with large fleets of high value assets have established policies and processes using oil analysis in their predictive maintenance practices.
Outsourcing oil analysis to an offsite oil laboratory is common. Every year hundreds of millions of oil samples are analyzed by laboratories worldwide. Outsourcing oil analysis involves collecting oil samples from an asset and shipping them to a lab. Lab technicians then perform the requested oil analysis tests by asset type, and an analyst reviews the data and provides recommendations included on the final report. The report is then sent back to the user for review and, if needed, maintenance actions are performed based on the recommendations and maintenance schedule.