Is Onsite Oil Analysis Justified?

Noria Corporation

"Do you have any rough estimations of oil analysis costs if performed onsite? I am trying to compare the costs of onsite versus sending to an outside lab."

The question of the cost to analyze samples onsite versus offsite is a good one. Too many people are motivated to test samples in-house and completely dispense with offsite analysis based simply on cost.

The perception is that oil analysis costs can be significantly lowered by testing onsite. This is a somewhat misguided approach because by the time you buy the right equipment, maintain and calibrate it, maintain the lab, pay and train the staff to use the equipment (it typically takes a dedicated resource or full-time equivalent to run an onsite lab) and buy any consumables, the costs may be similar to or perhaps slightly higher to test onsite.

The value of onsite analysis is immediate feedback, the ability to retest on the spot and the message this sends to the organization as a whole. However, without considerable investment in instruments and people — equivalent to staffing a full-scale commercial lab — there will always be tests and expertise missing that need to be addressed through offsite analysis.

Onsite tools for oil analysis can provide a wealth of almost instant information on which you can make immediate maintenance decisions. However, keep in mind that even though onsite tools can produce results worthy of scheduling maintenance or some other action, you can't accurately compare lab results to onsite results for the same test. Different methods will provide different results.

There are many other tests and kits available for use in the field and in the plant. Before you embark on the journey to onsite testing, you need to first ask yourself, "What will I do when I get this information?" In today's tough economy, you must embrace technology that adds value. No matter if the oil analysis data you receive is from a field kit or a commercial lab, if you do not use it to make sound maintenance decisions (and just tuck the report away), then it really is a wasteful activity. Start by focusing on what information you need, then research the onsite options that are available.

The best programs generally include onsite analysis (right-sized to the organization's goals, expectations and budget) supplemented by an offsite program through a quality commercial lab.

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