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"How can you justify an oil analysis program? What return on investment can it provide? Do you have any tips on how to get started?"
An oil analysis program with condition-based maintenance is one of the best strategies that can be deployed at a plant to help maintain lubricated equipment. This is because it has the potential not only to be proactive by monitoring for root causes like contamination and changing lubricant properties, but also predictive by checking for wear debris and other early signs of failure. In both cases, the justification for investing in an oil analysis program is predicated on the notion that without it, machines would fail more frequently and with little or no warning.
A cost-benefit analysis can balance the overall costs of operating a well-implemented oil analysis program versus the cost savings of avoided machine failures (parts, labor, downtime, etc.). An objective justification would require detailed data of past failures. With this type of data, you can weigh the costs of past lubrication-related failures against those of an oil analysis program. Without good data, the justification of an oil analysis program is much more nebulous. Nevertheless, industry knowledge from case studies involving similar machinery maintained with oil analysis can show the value.
For example, bearing manufacturers have repeatedly indicated that contamination and lubrication-related issues are among the top reasons why their machines fail. Many organizations have also documented a drastic reduction in bearing replacements and lubricant consumption as a result of simply combining contamination control methods with oil analysis.
When looking at average figures of an oil analysis program, an investment cost of less than 2 percent of the equipment's value can be insignificant in comparison to the 5-20 percent average annual benefit. While you won't catch every failure with oil analysis, it just takes one early indicator of failure on a critical machine to offset the costs of the entire plant's oil analysis program for more than a year.
The best way to get started with your oil analysis program is to organize a plan. This plan should begin with an understanding of each machine's criticality and optimum reference state. Machines can then be selected for oil analysis based on their risk, looking at factors such as load, pressure, speed, temperature, environment, safety risk, downtime costs, etc. Once the machines have been selected, follow the rights of oil analysis or the "chain of success" as described here.