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The Free Oil Analysis Trap

  • Proper Assessment and Project Planning

In order to establish a fully defined program that will produce highly effective results, independent audits that benchmark companies practices compared to "Best of Class" are strongly recommended. Within these audits focus areas such as oil analysis test slates, alarm parameters and target goals, oil storage, handling, and transportation practices, sampling methods, contamination removal processes, technician skills assessment, and performance tracking measures. All should be evaluated to establish program strengths and weaknesses. Later, the list of strengths and weaknesses will be turned into opportunities for continuous improvement.

  • Defined Program Design

The design portion of program development deals with establishing program specific written standards and procedures, equipment modification designs necessary for remediation efforts, proper lab test slates and alarm parameters, storage and handling recommendations, technician training and certification, etc. This section of development basically turns recognized "Best Practices" into program specific models and goals.

  • Implementation - Rolling it all out..........

After receiving a benchmark study and program design it's time to put it all together. Implementation is a never-ending road of continuous improvement. Following the guidelines provided within the program design specifications is the hardest phase of development. This involves actually modifying equipment, establishing clean/climate controlled storage environments for new oil, creating defined sample routes and frequencies, working with laboratories and analysts to determine asset health and corrective action recommendations, etc. On top of all these focus points, it is critical to monitor the effectiveness of the efforts in order to continually establish new action items for improvement.

Subject Facility Background:

For the purpose of understanding why the subject facility in this case study is experiencing their current results it is necessary to state the background of their program. At this point, company management has declined any form an independent audit. A decision was made to move forward with oil sampling and analysis regardless of the lack of sampling procedures, target goals, equipment modifications, and all other required components of program development. The local lubricant supplier provides the sampling service and "Free Oil Analysis". Based off the designated sample frequency the local supplier obtains all samples (not following "Best Practice" methods) and sends all samples away to an offsite lab. Note: every sample is always taken regardless of the operational state of the equipment, which means that there is a possibility that some samples were taken on "down" equipment and will not be a very good representative sample. There are no defined workflow practices that include the lubricant supplier and offsite laboratory. Although there are many recognized poor practices, this facility does have some good practices. They have taken a good integrated approach to Predictive Maintenance. Other technologies (Vibration Analysis, IR, Motor testing, and Ultra-Sonics) capable of identifying similar and different failure modes are utilized in conjunction with Oil Analysis. All historical data from every technology is combined into one asset health reporting software program. The software identifies all failure modes and repairable asset recommendations.

Historical Data Trend:

Historical Data Trend

Note: Look at the continuous rise in viscosity and acid number with no corrective action in between sampling intervals. The site has chosen not to test for particle count so they have no idea how clean the oil is or whether or not contamination is causing the increase in both viscosity and acid number and the lubricant continues to degrade.

Program Results:

As you can see by the historical data trend, the effort of this facilities oil analysis program is very inefficient. Because of the lack of predefined oil test slates per equipment type, the facility is missing valuable data that could have supported recommendations to change the oil, filter the oil clean, or even repair or totally overhaul the asset. There is almost no remediation efforts per the lab analysis recommendations completed in between each sample pulled. The only effort to correct the health of the oil has been to complete an oil flush. Data overload has taken place and there is much redundancy seen in the trended lab results. Out of bounds viscosity and dirty oil is seen over and over again. Time and money are being needlessly wasted. Individual technician efforts are completed in vain because the lack of test slate in conjunction with wrong corrective action recommendations are resulting in an unhealthy asset over and over again. It has been stated that site management is no longer engaged nor supports the oil analysis program. Unseen failures potentially exist. Profits are wasted on unnecessary oil changes in the attempt to correct the unknown. All of these are results of the common traps of "Free Oil Analysis" without program development.

Allied Reliability provides a client friendly phased approach to reliability initiatives. For more information please visit Allied Reliability online or call the USA office +1-843-414-5760

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