August 14, 2013

Optimal Drain Levels
by David Doyle, CLS, OMA I, OMA 2
Vice President, Americas

Over the years there’s been much discussion on using in-service fluids analysis to establish extended drain intervals. Though this is a recognized return on investment that an established testing program can provide, current philosophy is looking more at defining optimal drain intervals.

Optimal drain intervals do not always equate to extended drain interval. Though there are cost benefits in material, labor, and downtime for providing managed extended drain intervals. Optimal drain interval takes into account overall equipment reliability.  This is associated with overall plant or fleet health as it relates to equipment performance. Factors that play into this philosophy may include

  • Consolidation of product inventory for better lubricant management by finding an optimal drain interval for the consolidated product(s) selected.  
  • Determining if root cause factors that compromise equipment reliability can be better controlled by an optimal drain interval.
  • Establishing the safety factor for how much service life is left in the lubricant at the time of fluid drain? 50% remaining service life? 5% remaining service life?
  • Establishing how optimal drain intervals affect equipment life and reliability plant-wide or fleet-wide in the long term.

These are just a few examples of how optimal drain intervals relate to equipment reliability.

Partnering with your testing laboratory and lubricant supplier to establish goals to enhance equipment reliability will help determine optimal drain intervals and lubrication practices for plant-wide or fleet-wide management. Measurables can be established by the stakeholders.  Sample information and test packages for in-service lubricants should provide the right information for tracking these measurables.  Progress towards these goals and adjustments to the measurables should then be reviewed periodically by the stakeholders. Also, there should be a clear understanding of ownership of the process by the end-user.

ALS technical resources on staff are available to work with our client support team to assist in an overall reliability process for plant or fleet management. Test data can be correlated to reliability KPIs established. Limits for wear, contaminants, and fluid service life can be customized and fine-tuned for improved applicability to end-user’s equipment by working through this process. ALS looks to be a partner in helping to define a process for targeting optimal drain intervals. Available management reports are designed to provide a useful tool for defining goals and tracking measurables towards those goals.

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