Polaris Expands into Western Market

Abundant opportunities in the western mining and off-highway markets have warranted further expansion of Polaris Laboratories, a steadily growing fluid analysis company now located across the United States.

Polaris provides complete testing and analysis for used oils, fuels, coolants and water-based industrial fluids as well as training and consultation services. It has a diverse customer base with a heavy emphasis on the mining, construction, industrial, transportation and power generation industries. The company opened a new testing facility in Salt Lake City, Utah in February, making it the third testing facility Polaris has opened since its inception less than six years ago.

According to Polaris Chief Executive Officer Bryan Debshaw, the new laboratory will increase total production capacity by more than 8,000 samples per month, allowing it to take on the largest oil analysis programs in the southwestern part of the country.

“The Salt Lake City facility establishes a solid Polaris presence in a number of prominent western markets,” Debshaw said. “And it makes a Polaris laboratory accessible by ground transit within 48 hours from nearly anywhere in the continental United States.”

Even with the addition of Polaris–Salt Lake, Debshaw emphasizes that Polaris is one lab with three locations.

“Every location shares the same common database,” he said. “Information remains accurate and accessible to the customer no matter which location is used for testing.”

Access to a bigger and more diverse marketplace and increasing customer demand for reliable, quality testing and fluid analysis training and development are two immediate factors expected to affect the new laboratory’s early performance.

“The Salt Lake facility’s initial production estimates may be rather conservative and could easily double within 12 to 18 months,” said Jeff White, chief science officer for Polaris.

Headquartered in Indianapolis with a location in Houston, a production hub of the world’s oil and gas industry, Polaris is setting a pace for growth unmatched in the industry. Polaris, an acronym for Performance Oil Analysis Laboratory and Reliable Information Services, is a testament to the company’s emphasis on customer education and its focus on quality service initiatives, innovative software applications and creative information technology (IT) solutions that support the Polaris belief that proper oil analysis pays off.

“Any lab can perform basic tests and report the results,” said Mark Minges, chief operations officer. “Customers should be able to expect proper methods and accurate results. We focus on the potential that lies beyond these expectations – and that’s how Polaris sets itself apart.”

The backbone of the company’s commitment to superior customer service is two-fold. First and foremost, Polaris has become a proven leader in the oil analysis industry by consistently providing high-quality data, fast turnaround, knowledgeable technical support and cutting-edge IT and data management solutions. The company’s Indianapolis and Houston facilities are both ISO 17025-certified and accredited by A2LA. Plans for Salt Lake certification are in progress.

Figure 2. Polaris Laboratories uses elemental
analysis by inductively-coupled plasma (ICP)
to detect up to 24 elements, measuring less
than 5 microns, that can be present in used
oil due to wear, contamination or additives.

Polaris management firmly believes ISO 17025 is vital to ensuring consistency in testing and results reporting. An evolution of the former ISO Guide 25, ISO 17025 is now the international standard for calibration and testing laboratories.

“ISO 17025 mandates that we formulate and operate in strict accordance with a documented quality system – one that maintains consistency by monitoring all laboratory and administrative processes, procedures, equipment and personnel in order to generate technically valid results that are traceable back to the standard,” Debshaw said.

Minges states that although ISO 9000 also requires the development of a system for monitoring quality and consistency, ISO 17025 demands much more.

“ISO 17025’s requirements for validating results, establishing degrees of uncertainty and conducting proficiency testing are what distinguish it from ISO 9000,” he said. “ISO 17025 certification not only tells our customers we’re good at what we do, but it also tells them we’re consistent.”

As a result, approved methodologies, including standard operating procedures, good laboratory practices and environmentally controlled and appropriately maintained and calibrated equipment have become the foundation for ensuring quality Polaris products and services. In keeping with its philosophy of always exceeding expectations, the company took ISO 17025 one step further by obtaining accreditation from A2LA.

“A2LA’s accreditation of a laboratory’s compliance with ISO 17025 is the highest level of quality attainable by a testing laboratory,” Minges added. “A2LA is dedicated to formally recognizing competent testing and calibration laboratories and is considered the most stringent accrediting body in the industry.”

Polaris has written a quality policy, established a quality system and developed a quality manual to make this information available to all laboratory and administrative staff.

“These documents serve as the basis for evaluating the integrity of our tests and associated reports,” Debshaw added.

In addition to quality and consistency, Polaris places tremendous effort behind educating its customers. Management believes that education and effective communication are invaluable to the company’s overall success at building loyal, long-standing customer relationships, according to Debshaw.

“Training and educating our customers on the importance of not only doing oil analysis but doing it well saves many of them millions of dollars a year in lost production and equipment replacement costs,” Debshaw said. “The benefits then become obvious.”

The company’s motto from the beginning - “It’s not just oil analysis, it’s what we do with it” - still holds true three laboratories later.

Polaris completes most routine testing within 24 to 48 hours with results available almost immediately through the company’s free internet reporting service, Horizon. Customers may also receive their data via e-mailed files and choose to house and manage all of their oil analysis information on their own PC by downloading it into Compass. Developed exclusively to help Polaris customers make timely maintenance decisions that improve asset reliability, both Horizon and Compass software packages provide a high standard of performance, according to Don Woods, chief information officer.

Figure 3. Titrators are used to determine
both the acid number, or acidity, and
base number, or alkalinity, of an oil.
Increased acidity may indicate
oxidation, additive depletion or a
change in the oil’s operating environment.

“While both programs offer extensive data management capabilities, Horizon is designed for those somewhat less technically adept with computers and computer software,” Woods said. “Compass appeals to the power user interested in utilizing the most sophisticated data mining software available in the oil analysis industry.”

Both programs allow users to get more for their oil analysis dollar with a series of reports that monitor oil analysis program effectiveness.

“In-depth reporting capabilities, such as sample scheduling, sample volume and sample frequency reports ensure that sampling is conducted at the proper intervals,” Woods said. “Severity summary and problem summary reports quickly pinpoint maintenance issues, bring focus to a maintenance plan and justify the value of performing oil analysis and doing it well.”

Each program can generate a turnaround time report that tracks time elapsed between the date a sample was taken, the date it was received by the laboratory and the date processing was completed.

“Identifying bottlenecks throughout the process maximizes the amount of time allowed to react to problems,” Woods added. “Remember, it’s not just oil analysis … it’s what we do with it that makes a difference to our customers.”

POLARIS Laboratories
Web site: www.polarislabs.com
7898 Zionsville Road
Indianapolis, IN 46268
Phone: 317-808-3750 Fax: 317-808-3751

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