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I’m proud to say that the Machinery Lubrication Engineer (MLE) certification has arrived. Now, through studying and testing, qualified candidates can earn the right to hold this prestigious title. Unlike other exams and certifications related to lubrication and lubricant analysis, the MLE stands alone as the highest professional designation in our industry. It also has a more holistic purpose. Let me explain.
Many know that the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) was organized to serve practitioners in the lubrication field, especially maintainers of lubricated mechanical machinery. So, it makes sense that the MLE would have a similar focus and purpose.
Perhaps the best way to describe the profile of those whom the ICML targets for MLE certification is to look at the 35 subject-matter experts and volunteers who toiled for years to bring it to life. These individuals are the thought leaders and trusted advisors who have helped guide the ICML as well as the larger global lubrication community.
Figure 1. The breadth and depth
of knowledge to become certified as a Machinery Lubrication Engineer.
You might say they are “real-world” lubrication and reliability experts. Their knowledge is not limited to books, scientific research, mathematical models, tribology journals or formulation chemistry. Instead, they are hands-on professionals who practice in their field, who have learned more from experience than theory and who focus more on the practical than the abstract.
I mentioned holistic because the ICML committee assembled a body of knowledge (BoK) for the MLE that goes beyond traditional lubricant and lubrication subjects. Like other certifications, the MLE BoK consists of the topics that must be mastered to become certified. Yes, there is a need for solid competency related to lubricants and lubrication. What is not needed, though, is deep technical knowledge that falls outside the maintenance and reliability plant-environment workplace.
Furthermore, lubrication co-mingles with numerous companion reliability and asset management subjects. It should not be separated from the many tasks and functions that have shared objectives. A body of knowledge was needed that defined cross-functional skills and competencies to adequately serve the “big picture” in reliability and asset management. Likewise, it needed to project a comprehensive understanding of what lubrication is trying to achieve and how lubrication professionals enable the realization of these objectives through knowledge, competency and execution.
On the surface, this sounds easy. The reality was quite different. Deciding what to include and what not to include was a monumental task that took great vision and a fair bit of deliberation by volunteer experts. After all, without a consensus on the BoK, the construction of even the first MLE test question could not begin. See Figure 1 for a chart illustrating the breadth and depth of knowledge to become certified as an MLE.
The solution for scoping and completing the MLE body of knowledge was first to write an overarching standard on the management of lubricated mechanical assets. The main requirements of this standard (part 1) have now been written and are available through the ICML (see the announcement article by Paul Hiller).
It is the work-product of four years by 45 experts who possess broad knowledge on subjects both central and peripheral to the lubrication field. These include 34 trainers and consultants, nine book authors, 40 separate organizations and 15 countries. Most of these experts also participated in the formation of the MLE.
ICML 55.1 is the standard (part 1 of 3) that carefully delineates the requirements for certification. It is mapped structurally to ISO 55001, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, which also address requirements for compliance and certification.
ICML 55.1 is organized across 12 subject areas, or elements, for how compliance can be achieved where life cycle and reliability needs must be optimized and balanced against maintenance resources. It will be followed soon by ICML 55.2, which is a practical guideline for asset owners on how to achieve compliance of the requirements listed in ICML 55.1.
ICML 55 is a seminal work in the field of lubrication and condition monitoring. As such, it has no precedence. It is the work of the global lubrication, tribology, reliability, condition monitoring and asset management community.
For the first time, definition and specificity are provided, clearly stating the practical and realistic meaning of lubrication excellence and its role in supporting reliability, safety, environmental responsibility, energy conservation, asset management and much more.
By following the requirements of ICML 55.1, users not only can achieve an optimized level of reliability but also can have the foundational bedrock for programmatic sustainability. Such sustainability is essential to counter shifting-ground challenges associated with aging machines, environmental issues, new technology (e.g., Industry 4.0), staffing/management changes, ownership changes, etc.
Any organization on an ICML 55 journey requires an individual with both technical and programmatic knowledge to blaze the trail in pursuit of full organizational certification. The MLE is that individual. The 24 subjects in the MLE body of knowledge were extracted directly from the 12 interrelated subject areas of ICML 55.1.
This perfect alignment is strategic and purposeful, engineered to facilitate achievement and sustainability of lubrication in the context of reliability, maintenance and asset management, as well as ICML 55.1 certification. Figure 2 lists the 12 ICML 55 subjects and includes a chart illustrating the stages of maturity on the journey to full compliance and certification.
An MLE is a professional with extensive training and experience. Certification validates competency. This individual may hold other certifications such as Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP), Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT), Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA), Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS) or Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE). Most MLEs will pursue a management path, but others may prefer more technical jobs like staff engineer, consultant or advisor. In a typical plant, the MLE likely will have task responsibility over technicians, analysts, inspectors, operators, millwrights and others performing a wide range of lubrication-related work.
An MLE is a professional with demonstrated competencies in the 24 body of knowledge subject areas. The complete BoK and domain of knowledge can be found at LubeCouncil.org.
Carefully read the MLE responsibilities listed in the sidebar below. The skills and knowledge needed to perform the jobs on the list are extensive and run deep. In an age of Industry 4.0, Maintenance 4.0, lean manufacturing and asset management, it would be foolhardy to view the responsibilities of the MLE as trivial or pedestrian.
The concept and definition of lubrication excellence have been rewritten and will continue to evolve. The bar has been raised and is held as the new standard of excellence. The MLE is a high distinction and is ready today.
Figure 2. The list of 12 ICML 55 subjects along with an illustration showing the stages of maturity for full compliance and certification.
The following is a breakdown of the many routine jobs or tasks that may fall under the responsibility of a Machinery Lubrication Engineer. Of course, this will vary considerably from company to company.