Ensuring Accuracy in Oil Analysis Labs Through Certification

Rich Wurzbach, MRG Labs

Proper lubrication has made great strides in enhancing machine reliability. Equipment life extension is being achieved with key tactics such as better filtration, use of breathers and protection of new lubricant supplies. Oil sampling and analysis remain important strategies for evaluating the effectiveness of these measures. Of course, monitoring critical equipment and trending results to optimize the maintenance response are the primary goals of lubricant sampling and analysis, but these actions and investments are highly dependent on the accuracy of the laboratory analysis.

The International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) has created two certification paths for lubrication professionals - Machinery Lubrication Technician (MLT) and Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) - to ensure plant-level personnel have the necessary skills to develop and execute these programs. However, success has always been dependent upon the effectiveness of the analysis process.

ICML now offers a certification for individuals performing these essential tasks: the Laboratory Lubricant Analyst (LLA). LLA I and II certifications have been earned by more than 100 people in a dozen countries. When compared to the thousands of MLT- and MLA-certified personnel, the LLA certification is still in its infancy. Considering the impact that lubricant analysis results can have on equipment decisions, it is time to take action to ensure the same level of qualification is in place at the laboratory level.

While the MLA body of knowledge includes aspects of lubricant sampling and analysis, it does not cover everything required for proficiency in operating an oil analysis laboratory. In contrast, the LLA I body of knowledge details sample handling and preparation in the lab, reagent management, instrument calibration, and other crucial aspects of running and working in a successful lab.

Analysis results are used every day to make decisions about equipment, and the accuracy and reliability of these values are often taken for granted. To operate efficiently, many laboratories are taking the appropriate steps to ensure quality data. Utilizing the training and certification process of the ICML LLA program provides a clear and demonstrable record of compliance with quality standards, including ISO 17025 and NQA-1 Appendix B.

Currently, several labs and training organizations offer LLA I and II courses. Some have developed internal classes for their students, while others share these training opportunities with the public. Video recordings and live streaming of LLA courses are available as well.

If you work in a lubricant analysis laboratory, consider pursuing the LLA certification by participating in a training class and taking the ICML exam. For information on the LLA training organizations, contact ICML at www.lubecouncil.org.

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