Ten Amazing Years

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation

This year Noria's inaugural magazine, Practicing Oil Analysis, celebrates its ten-year anniversary. Yes, I said ten years! I very well recall that memorable day in the spring of 1998 when Mike Ramsey and I were brainstorming about the possibility of publishing a newsletter on oil analysis. The discussion quickly advanced from newsletter to trade magazine. That's when both fear and excitement set in.


After all, how could this be accomplished without previous experience in publishing? Could the lubrication community support a dedicated publication on a micro-niche subject? Would we be able to attract advertisers to a magazine without subscribers? Would we be able to attract subscribers without a track record and a publishing foundation? Could we offer the magazine free to all U.S. subscribers without financial losses? Would we be able to garner the editorial contributions of subject matter experts to share their knowledge and experience on the pages of an infant publication?

Mission Accomplished
Well, flash forward a decade to 2008. It's safe to say that all of those questions have been answered, and more. In my editor's column in the premier issue I stated that our goals were to, "further the advancement of the field of oil analysis, provide a forum for information exchange among users, and provide a vehicle for knowledge dissemination by industry experts and suppliers."

Now, nearly 60 issues later, we see an industry-leading periodical in which hundreds of articles, technology reviews and case studies have been published. We see an information-rich resource that is the collective work product and vision of a thriving oil analysis community. And to a large extent, we see a dream fulfilled.

During this year I will use my editorial column to review important progress and milestones in the oil analysis industry these past ten years. There's so much to report that it will take the entire six issues to cover it all. Even though much work remains, this is a perfect opportunity to reflect on ten years of amazing accomplishment and to recognize those who have enabled this groundbreaking achievement. In upcoming issues, I will discuss:

Education and Certification. Thousands of people have been educated and certified since 1998. Professional organizations such as ISO, ICML and STLE have led many of these initiatives.

User Empowerment. Education and management support have empowered users to realize increasing value from oil analysis.

Test Method Standardization. Oil analysis is no longer an unrecognized field by professional and standards organizations. Test method standardization activities of in-service lubricants is in full bloom by ASTM and other organizations around the world.

Precision and Quality. The field has seen many advancements relating to data precision and quality in the past decade. While still a work in progress, the broader and more frequent use of check standards and calibration fluids by laboratories and with field instruments has been largely responsible for these improvements.

Innovation and Technology. There have been countless number of new products introduced to the oil analysis field in the last decade. These include sampling devices, lab instruments, field instruments and online sensors.

Condition Monitoring Technology Integration. In the past, oil analysis operated on the fringes of condition-based maintenance by many user organizations. In most plants today, oil analysis has won such respect that it is often regarded as the core technology for both proactive and predictive maintenance thrusts.

Documented Successes. Practicing Oil Analysis magazine has published an oil analysis success story in nearly every issue since its inception. These case studies have documented tactical and strategic methodology as well as savings and benefits received by those organizations who invested in the technology and service.

OEM-enabled Oil Analysis. Many machinery manufacturers are not only making it easier to obtain proper oil samples from their equipment but are also providing lab services and customizing data interpretation/alarming strategy.

Management Awareness. In many leading maintenance organizations, management is fully onboard when it comes to oil analysis. They don't pinch pennies but invest heavily in on-site labs, portable instruments and oil sampling hardware.

Finally, I am reserving my last editorial column in 2008 to address the many remaining unmet needs which together help chart the course for the next decade. Oil analysis has indeed become an exciting field that combines elements of high technology, heavy machinery, analytical chemistry, tribology, and machinery reliability. Oil analysis offers a promising future for those looking for a dynamic and challenging profession that requires technology fluency and knowledge-based competencies. Believe me, there is so much more to come. 


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About the Author

Jim Fitch, a founder and CEO of Noria Corporation, has a wealth of experience in lubrication, oil analysis, and machinery failure investigations. He has advise...