ICML Introduces New Certification, Asset Management Standards

Paul Hiller, ICML
Tags: lubrication programs


The International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) recently announced two new offerings at the Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio. First was the ICML 55 standard, which covers management of lubricated mechanical assets. Second was the Machinery Lubrication Engineer (MLE) certification aimed at those responsible for the development, implementation and management of lubrication programs. Both promise to change the industrial lubrication landscape.


In 2014, when the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) introduced the ISO 55000 asset management standard, ICML saw an opportunity to expand upon its ongoing support of machinery lubrication professionals. This is because the standard’s requirements document (ISO 55001) described only the big-picture aspects of asset management and did not relate readily to the subset of lubricated assets. Even its predecessor, the widely adopted Publicly Available Specification (PAS 55) published by the British Standards Institution in 2004, had not made any distinction for lubricated assets despite its focus on physical assets.

ICML actually quantified this assessment with a scan for keywords relevant to its users. The chart above illustrates that neither the PAS nor ISO standard was ever meant to provide an explicit game plan for organizations to achieve a steady state with lubricated assets.

“The ISO 55000 is, at its heart, a methodology to deploy systematic asset care for all kinds of assets,” says Mike Johnson, ICML technical contributor. “But as it relates to industrial rotating equipment, the work practices - in order to gain maximum value from the site lubrication plan - need to be designed to accommodate operational challenges where the machines operate, and then those practices must be deployed with mind-numbing consistency. This all begs for a highly systematic approach to machine lubrication, which matches well with the spirit of ISO 55000.”

This is where ICML’s opportunity would be realized.

Making It Practical and Consistent

Because ICML exists to support people and companies in pursuit of lubrication excellence, the organization concluded that it would be sensible to develop a tactical, lubrication-specific standard in alignment with the more general ISO 55000. A new document was envisioned that would outline a comprehensive 12-point framework for businesses to optimize lubricated asset management while working toward ISO 55000 certification. ICML’s worldwide base of technical contributors was directed to apply their energy and expertise for several years. The result is ICML 55.

“ICML 55 is a fantastic way to merge best practices globally into one readable document,” says Rendela Wenzel, associate senior consultant engineer at Eli Lilly and Company, who also serves on the ICML board as director of the ICML 55 initiative. “This standard provides a how-to guide for lubrication excellence and represents best practices by subject-matter experts (SMEs) from all over the world.”

While the holistic ISO 55000 and strategic PAS 55 were limited on detail, ICML 55 spells out the tactical requirements and necessary guidelines to establish, implement, maintain and improve consistent lubrication management systems and activities.

The first part of the standard is ICML 55.1, “Requirements for the Optimized Lubrication of Mechanical Physical Assets,” which describes and defines 12 interrelated areas to be incorporated into any sustainable lubrication program plan.

“ICML 55 was constructed by tapping into the vast experience and knowledge of 45 leading experts in lubrication and oil analysis,” explains Jim Fitch, ICML board member and CEO of Noria Corporation. “ICML 55.1 ensures that there are no gaps in the elements that define lubrication excellence.”

ICML 55.1 is applicable to any business that owns and manages a substantial base of physical asset components comprised of lubricated mechanical assets. By adopting ICML 55.1 requirements, an organization in pursuit of excellence with its lubricated asset management policies, strategies and plans can achieve its objectives consistently and sustainably over time.

However, ICML 55.1 does not replace, compete with or technically conflict with ISO 55001. It is merely an enabling standard, so users will find that each section of ICML 55.1 aligns with a corresponding section of ISO 55001.

Organizations can arrange for a qualified ICML 55 auditor to certify their compliance across all 12 areas, thus publicly validating that their lubricated asset management program has achieved optimum performance at the highest levels of machine reliability.

ICML 55.1, which already is available for purchase, is intended to be a companion document in association with ICML 55.2, “Guideline for the Optimized Lubrication of Mechanical Physical Assets,” and ICML 55.3, “Auditors’ Standard Practice and Policies Manual.” These two documents are targeted for completion by the end of 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Why MLE & ICML 55?

“Plant lubrication management professionals have needed a signature certification as a validation of their skills and experience for a long time now,” says Johnson, who served on ICML’s MLE development committee. “The MLE should be that.”

As a new engineering-grade, management-level certification, the MLE targets reliability and asset leaders with a strong emphasis in lubrication and oil analysis. The requisite exam evaluates an individual’s knowledge, understanding and abilities to provide engineering support at a typical industrial plant, whether serving on staff or as a contractor/consultant.

Among other considerations, the MLE was designed to verify whether candidates are qualified to manage lubrication teams and key supplier relations; troubleshoot tough problems identified by routine analysis and inspections; and implement action plans including changes in machinery design, procedure development, lubricant and hardware selection/analysis, inspection design, training, staff communications, etc.

A professional engineering degree is not necessary to earn or hold MLE certification, nor is there a prerequisite that a candidate hold any other ICML certifications. However, thanks to overlapping bodies of knowledge, candidates likely will find that Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) and Machinery Lubrication Technician (MLT) training and certification can be helpful as they prepare for the MLE.

“It is a logical progression up from the MLT II certification and should give corporate America a standard that the machine lubrication SMEs at the plant and senior management levels can use to qualify their knowledge levels,” says Johnson.

In a forward-thinking move, ICML strategically mapped the MLE body of knowledge to ICML 55, which makes MLE certification ideal for those leading institutional compliance with ICML 55.1 as a tactical step toward achieving ISO 55001 certification. Plants that choose to certify or hire MLE personnel can expect them to comprehend ICML 55’s framework and ensure that all relevant factors impacting lubricated asset decision-making are adequately considered by key stakeholders.

“Ensuring the competency of those empowered to develop lubrication programs that conform to ICML 55.1 through MLE certification is the first step in creating long-overdue consistency around lubrication practices in our industry,” observes Mark Barnes, who serves on the MLE development committee.

“The skills required to become a certified MLE are perfectly and purposely aligned to the 12 certification categories of ICML 55.1,” adds Fitch. “An MLE would have the knowledge to serve as a program champion to guide an organization through the many steps to asset management certification under ICML 55.1.”

What’s Next?

While organizations can get started with ICML 55.1 now, ICML’s technical contributors are still hard at work developing the ICML 55.2 guideline.

“It will be the most comprehensive how-to guide available in the industry today,” Wenzel notes. “The 55.2 standard will showcase global contributions in relation to the 12 categories detailed in 55.1.”

Fitch agrees that ICML 55 standards and MLE certificants will have a significant impact on the global industry.

“We look forward to the enormous but exciting challenge of launching this new standard into the global lubrication and reliability community,” he says. “This is a monumental event that will change the face of lubrication in the context of reliability and asset management forever.”

For more information on the ICML 55.1 standard or the new MLE certification, visit www.lubecouncil.org or read Jim Fitch’s related article.