How to Avoid Machine Failures with Routine Oil Analysis

A routine oil analysis program can be the best early indicator of a future problem with your machinery. This predictive tool should include sampling all critical equipment at the appropriate intervals. The measure of success will be in the number of issues detected by laboratory tests. Having no issues with your lubricated equipment or oil condition is almost impossible, but striving to minimize watch and warning alarms on lab reports can help your maintenance team focus on tasks that lead to increased reliability.

Link Oil Analysis to Vibration Analysis

Most plants and facilities with a dedicated reliability program utilize vibration analysis software for data storage, trending and reporting, but it can also be useful to mesh with oil analysis results for a comparison trend. The most important benefit of oil analysis is detecting wear metals at an early stage. Wear metals will appear first and then vibration, followed by eventual equipment failure. By integrating oil analysis results and recommendations into your vibration software, you increase the likelihood that the vibration specialist will react quickly to investigate any problems.

Steps to Enhance Your Oil Analysis Program

The following steps for enhancing an oil analysis program are from a lab's perspective with input from reliability professionals. They should help lead to fewer unexpected equipment failures.

  • Revisit the routine oil analysis timeline. Provide this to your lab and seek their input.
  • Request lab results in a format that can be imported into your vibration software alongside the traditional reports.
  • Count and quantify alarms triggered on the lab reports for machine and oil condition. Start a list and format it so you can track it over time.
  • Develop a scoring system so samples that prompt more than one alarm and locations that trigger repeat alarms earn more points.
  • Repeat offenders should rise to the top of the maintenance priority list, especially if they are the result of wear metal particles or severe water contamination.
  • Consider when the laboratory recommends vibration analysis or thermography and set goals of reducing the alarms over time. Make a realistic timeline based on the reliability team’s available hours.
  • Examine the alarm thresholds that the lab has set for your facility. Are they correct? Is the acid number alarm properly set compared to the new oil’s acid number? Is it possible to achieve an ISO cleanliness code as low as the set alarm level? What is the cleanliness of new oil entering the system? Answering questions such as these and confirming that the lab report alarms are properly set will be worthwhile activities in the battle to reduce the alarms over time.

Of course, this list will require some site-specific fine-tuning and customization, but hopefully these steps will add structure to your routine oil analysis program and help you minimize unexpected downtime.

About the Author

Ben Hartman is the president of MRT Laboratories.

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