Case Study: Using Industry 4.0 Techniques for Onsite Oil Analysis

Joe Maestas, City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities; Lisa Williams, Ametek Spectro Scientific; Rich Hunt, City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities

Condition monitoring by lubricant analysis is one of the basic tools of predictive maintenance programs; however, to date, industries have struggled managing programs on a larger scale, standardizing knowledge throughout multiple locations and capturing overall program success. Through the use of onsite oil analysis tools, we will explore the benefits of pairing fluid intelligence software with the onsite oil analysis laboratory at City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities. While exploring the benefits of incorporating new technology and training tools available for maintenance professionals, we will learn how to effectively implement these techniques into condition-based maintenance programs in the Industry 4.0 era.

The phrase “Industry 4.0” was created after several ground-breaking technologies came to fruition which significantly impacted the manufacturing and energy sectors. Technologies in the Industry 4.0 sector consist of several major innovations in digital technology including advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, sensors, cloud computing, internet of things (IoT), data capture and analytics, software as a service (SaaS) and platforms that utilize algorithms to solve complex problems.

The technologies are all interconnected on a global scale which create a global value chain where companies are connected worldwide. By 2020, 72 percent of companies in the aerospace and defense; automotive; chemicals; electronics; engineering and construction; forest products, paper, and packaging; industrial manufacturing; metals; and transportation and logistics expect to achieve advanced levels of integrated digitalization into their overall workflow processes [1].

The oil analysis industry is included in this rigorous integration of digitalization. This $250 million industry is turning to Industry 4.0 solutions to solve tough industrial challenges like tracking global program success, normalizing workflow and generating value-add data contributing to the overall success and bottom line of the organization. Manufacturing plants, power plants and public utilities are among some of the early adopters of Industry 4.0 techniques. These industries and have found innovative ways to incorporate these new techniques into their workflow, resulting in predictive analytics becoming a vital part of their maintenance programs.

Understanding how to quickly and effectively implement Industry 4.0 techniques becomes increasingly important in an era when many maintenance programs are being downsized or cut because little value is seen in their role within the organization. Advances in software analytics that integrate the expert knowledge of the onsite equipment expert and lubricant analyst are now available to help maintenance professionals justify oil analysis programs within their facilities and maximize equipment life.

Effective oil analysis techniques that provide value to the facility require the incorporation of two main concepts: knowledge of the component behavior and an understanding of the lubricant data generated by the component. By pairing these two concepts, proper diagnostics and recommendations can be made that are practical and easily implemented by the maintenance staff.

Unfortunately, many facilities struggle with the analysis portion due to lack of experience or high turnover rates within the maintenance department. This challenge is overcome by fluid intelligence software that incorporates the diagnostics and recommendations into the software. This adaptive rules engine feature allows the user the ability to change the limits and diagnostics as needed in order to properly trend and diagnose equipment issues and make specific recommendations for the maintenance staff [2].

In the utilities sector, City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities remains an early adopter of onsite oil analysis. The City of Chandler has worked rigorously to integrate Industry 4.0 techniques into their maintenance program to justify repairs, capture cost-savings and generate value-add data that assists in making critical maintenance decisions throughout their five locations.

Case Study: City of Chandler Public Works and Utilities’ Approach to Onsite Oil Analysis

Chandler’s journey to lubrication excellence begins in 2013 when the water system maintenance superintendent attended a vibration course and learned the value of implementing vibration analysis as an effective predictive maintenance tool. Additionally, he learned the value of using oil analysis techniques to compliment vibration analysis.

Although he had limited resources and support, the superintendent purchased a handheld infrared (IR) spectrometer to monitor oil life onsite in an attempt to reduce maintenance costs and extend oil life. In theory, this idea was great; however, the task was given to an untrained utility worker who viewed the testing as just one more thing he had to complete in his day. As a result, the attempt to implement predictive maintenance techniques using oil analysis quickly failed. The city realized they needed someone with more enthusiasm, experience and training specific to lubrication.

The city ended up bringing Rich Hunt onboard. With ICML MLT I and MLA II certifications, Hunt quickly became the lubrication champion at City of Chandler and began a complete overhaul of the lubrication program. As the program started to expand, the lubrication program became too much for one person to manage. As a result, Joe Maestas, a senior mechanic on the maintenance staff, became part of what is now the PdM/reliability team at Chandler.

In the Beginning

The Chandler team immediately identified problems with oil sampling techniques and taught the technicians how to take a quality sample with clean sample bottles and vacuum pumps from dedicated retrofitted sample ports. Understanding the value of oil analysis data, they quickly brought back the handheld IR spectrometer and added a viscometer to the onsite oil analysis lab.

Visual and odor inspections were complimenting the IR and viscosity data. They started utilizing third party labs for more critical assets where additional testing was needed beyond just IR and viscosity. The team began closely monitoring assets after repairs by performing oil analysis after 250-hours of run time. This was done to ensure no residual product or debris was left in the oil reservoir from the repairs, which happened more frequently than the team would care to admit.



Initially, the oil analysis program began by operating the testing equipment off the utility truck. While convenient, it was challenging working in 110-degree weather four months of the year, with the truck surface temperature even hotter. Eventually, they moved the testing equipment inside and used any available desk space.



As Chandler started to do more testing this became a burden and samples were getting tipped over or discarded by others sharing the same space. In 2017, the old environmental lab at Chandler became available with a recent plant upgrade and expansion. In this space, the Chandler team was able to spread out the equipment, prepare samples, and implement a crude, yet fairly-effective wear particle analysis technique using filter paper, a vacuum pump, and a USB 200x microscope tied to the computer.

Fluid Intelligence Software Implementation

Recently, Chandler implemented onsite fluid intelligence software to use in conjunction with their IR spectrometer, viscometer and microscope. This greatly streamlines their oil analysis laboratory and allows for importing the microscopic pictures directly into the oil analysis reports. The Chandler team now has access to a simple oil analysis report to provide the maintenance staff. This allows technicians to easily see what oil parameters are failing and take appropriate action as needed.



In the past, they would take screen shots, send a picture or paste into a document, which was cumbersome at best. Now each report has a similar structure so the staff can easily see the information provided in a consistent format. Any notable problems the team can easily spot and attach a report to a corrective work order within the CMMS program so there is a clear understanding of the issue. Having the instrument controlled from a computer and selecting the assets from an asset tree structure has made managing workflow a lot easier when it comes time to process samples onsite.

Rounding out the Reliability Program

Chandler also includes vibration, ultrasound, infrared and motor circuit analysis as part of their overall predictive maintenance program. Ultimately, the Chandler team would like to see two technologies identifying the problem. For example, ultrasound and vibration for bearings, oil analysis and thermal IR for oil-related issues.

Training is essential to Chandler’s success. For Hunt, he assumed he knew a lot about lubrication since he worked in an industrial maintenance setting for nearly 30 years; however, he was extremely surprised when he took his first lubrication course and realized he had a lot to learn. Hunt likes to use two analogies when discussing the importance of lubrication. The first is, “lubrication is like painting, everyone thinks they can do it, but very few do it well”. The other is, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” As a testament to their dedication to training, the city sends at least one maintenance staff member from each plant (five total) to a lubrication class each time one is held in the Phoenix area.

The city has realized some minor saving in oil purchases by testing and changing the fluid based on condition rather than time, but the Chandler PdM staff emphasizes the real potential savings come from not touching the equipment unless necessary. They suggest every time the oil is changed the task is subject to causing a 60 percent failure rate due to simple things like dirt entering the fill port, using the wrong oil, not filling the reservoir to the proper level, striping the drain threads, damaging or forgetting a gasket, or any one of a dozen other items.

The Future

The city has plans to expand the oil-testing program and intends to implement particle counting with wear classification and add an elemental spectrometer to their onsite lab. This in-house testing will not eliminate all outside lab analysis, but it will allow Chandler to test more frequently and gather a variety of data to investigate wear, contamination and physical properties of the lubricant. The goal is to eventually move all oil changes to a condition-based method.

The fluid analysis software available to support onsite oil analysis programs is designed to incorporate critical knowledge from the onsite equipment expert with lubricant analysis algorithms to standardize onsite lubricant analysis programs on a global scale. Industry 4.0 solutions are currently being used in a variety of onsite oil analysis laboratories in the industrial, manufacturing and public utilities, like City of Chandler Public Works. By incorporating Industry 4.0 solutions into condition monitoring programs companies are able to effectively track global program success, normalize workflow and generate value-add data that contributes to the overall success and bottom line of the organization.


[1] Geissbauer, R., Vedsø, J., & Schrauf, S. (2016, May 09). A Strategist's Guide to Industry 4.0.

[2] Hivner, N., Williams, L. “Integrating Industry 4.0 Techniques into an Onsite Oil Analysis Program,” Online Webinar, Chelmsford, MA March 2019.

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