Oil Analysis as a Reliability Centered
Maintenance Tool

by Michael Holloway, CLS, OMA I
National Sales Manager

Oil analysis has been used to check the health of a component as well as set oil change intervals, but many companies are actually using oil analysis as a way to reduce maintenance cost by reducing downtime of equipment through proactive maintenance techniques which extends equipment life. The practice has proven beneficial in helping establish a reliability centered maintenance approach.

Oil analysis has long been used to understand the usefulness of oil. Lubrication cost savings can be quickly determined by comparing the overall longevity of the oil from one time period to another. Many lubricant providers will use this method in order to validate their oil's performance. If you can extend the change out frequency past a breakeven point, there is more than enough justification to use that particular oil. In doing such an analysis, consider:

• The cost of the oil
• The disposal costs
• The labor cost to change the oil
• The downtime costs when the machine is offline

When oil longevity is confirmed by oil analysis, yet more savings can be obtained. Oil analysis data can help reduce maintenance cost per time period by considering materials used which includes filters and seals. One should also consider the fact that if oil analysis was not used, components within an asset could fail without any warning. The failure mode could jump from cautionary to critical. When various components fail they have a distinct influence on the rest of the machine with catastrophic results. For example, when a bearing begins to fail, oil analysis can detect wear metals but if left unattended the bearing could disintegrate which in turn could burn out the motor. Once failure of a component occurs, there is considerable lost revenue in production through-put but also additional draining from the cost pool includes the cost of rental equipment, overtime, and in some cases outside contractors are brought in. Using oil analysis results in such a way that allows for trends helps extend equipment life resulting in capital savings.

Using oil analysis as a way to establish a reliability centered maintenance approach is important. It can detect subtle changes in the work environment such as a temperature shift or a new contaminant, unauthorized maintenance tendencies and even identify procedural changes. Oil analysis is an inexpensive technique that can provide exceptional value in detecting emerging failure trends.