Laboratory-based Technician Skills to be Standardized

Suzy Jamieson, International Council for Machinery Lubrication

Since its inception in 2001, the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) has been active in supporting the development of international standards. ICML has even had the honor of having its Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) program be used as the basis for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 18436-4, the first ISO standard for qualification and assessment of field-based lubricant analysts.

After the successful approval by member bodies of this standard, ICML has once again played an important role in the development of yet another part to the 18436 series, leading the project management of part 5 of the series: condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines - requirements for qualification and assessment of personnel - part 5: lubricant laboratory technician/analyst.

Through its position as an international council, ICML was able to canvass the opinions of experts across the globe with the objective of aiding the development of a pertinent document to be used by laboratories worldwide for qualifying and assessing the set of skills needed by technicians and analysts.

ICML’s Laboratory Lubricant Analyst (LLA) committee, with the help of laboratory managers from around the world, has done extensive work based on the original ICML LLA certification to bring it to the ISO-desired three-tier proposal. The result is a document that has received a 98-percent approval rate by the participating ISO member countries.

About ICML

The International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) is a vendor-neutral, not-for-profit organization founded to facilitate growth and development of machine lubrication as a technical field of endeavor. Among its various activities, ICML offers skill certification testing for individuals in the fields of machine condition monitoring, lubrication and oil analysis. ICML is an independently chartered organization consisting of both paid professional staff members and volunteer advisors. It provides lubrication and oil analysis standard development support, scholarship, skill-based testing and certification, and recognition of excellence. For more information about ICML, visit

The categories were developed with a laboratory technician, laboratory analyst and senior laboratory analyst/manager in mind. Candidates will be expected to have had a minimum of 100 hours per month of actual testing/analysis experience, with 12, 24 and 36 months of experience being required for categories I, II and III, respectively. Training will also be necessary. A minimum of 24, 48 and 80 hours of cumulative training on the pertinent areas of the body of knowledge for the chosen category must be undertaken as part of the qualification process.

Subject areas for category I include sample handling and preparation, lubricant health monitoring, reagent management and instrument calibration. Personnel certified to this level are expected to be able to perform simple tasks related to the proper handling and testing of machinery lubricant samples in a laboratory setting according to established procedures. This would include being able to:

  • Properly and safely receive and handle lubricant samples
  • Ensure laboratory testing equipment is within calibration as per specified procedures
  • Recognize sources of error
  • Prevent and control errors related to handling, testing and data
  • Perform testing using established procedures and standards with an understanding of the common laboratory tests
  • Report results as determined by established criteria
  • Identify whether data obtained through testing is reasonable
  • Inspect data from individual test methods
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge and good laboratory practices

Category II candidates will be required to receive more training in lubricant health monitoring, including testing for wrong or mixed lubricants, water/glycol coolant/soot/fuel/air and particle contamination, wear particle (debris) monitoring and analysis, data interpretation and quality control, as well as lubricant roles, functions and failure modes. Personnel in category II are expected to be qualified to:

  • Perform sample analysis and interpretation
  • Set up routine testing schedules and test slates
  • Verify calibration of laboratory instruments as per specified procedures
  • Recognize all forms of lubricant contamination and undertake all associated test methods
  • Recognize data that is a change from the norm
  • Diagnose lubricant failure mechanisms and modes
  • Perform wear particle testing and basic analysis
  • Customize tests
  • Report results
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge (per ISO 17025)
  • Provide guidance and supervision to category I personnel

To qualify for category III, candidates will be required to receive further training in wear particle (debris) monitoring and analysis, as well as data interpretation, quality control and lubricant roles/functions/failure modes. Besides these subjects, training will cover sensorial inspections, environmental effects on results, alternate technology data correlation and personnel training. Individuals classified as category III must be qualified to perform and/or direct all types of lubricant analysis. They should also be able to:

  • Perform advanced testing and analysis
  • Manage an analysis program
  • Set up testing schedules and test slates, including design and set up of special tests and interpretation of results when established standards do not exist
  • Establish new techniques
  • Interpret criteria, standards and specifications
  • Prepare or approve procedures and instructions, including calibration of laboratory testing equipment
  • Interpret data and prepare reports for appropriate personnel based on advanced lubricant testing and wear debris analysis
  • Conduct advanced diagnosis of lubricant failure mechanisms and offer possible machine failure mechanisms that relate to those lubricant failure characteristics
  • Perform audits in accordance with ISO 17025
  • Establish the laboratory certification program and documentation
  • Understand the principles of other condition monitoring methods
  • Assist in establishing acceptance criteria when none is available
  • Conduct or direct training and training examination of testing personnel
  • Provide guidance and supervision to category I and II personnel

This standard is expected to be available by the end of 2012, with worldwide adoption beginning immediately thereafter.

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