Return on Investment
by David Doyle, CLS, OMA I, OMA II
General Manager, Tribology

Most everyone agrees that analysis of used lubricants while in service provides a terrific tool for enhancing maintenance practices, protecting equipment investment, warranty claims, resale value and equipment uptime. This all comes down to economics and dollar savings. This is the root of the service provided by ALS Tribology. What is not always tangible without a system for monitoring success is the long-term correlation of test data with equipment reliability, maintenance practices and cost savings.

One way of measuring the cost benefits when using an effective oil analysis service is to access the penalty of failure if sample testing did not compliment other maintenance practices. When selecting equipment for oil analysis the following may be considered;

  • How critical is the equipment to the operation?
  • What are the downtime and repair costs with and without using oil analysis?
  • What is the general cost to business interruption when equipment breaks?
  • How is my warranty protected on new equipment?
  • How is the resale value of old equipment increased?

Maximum returns are realized when maintenance practices are aggressively correlated with the information acquired by a structured oil analysis process. Many of the cost benefits of incorporating oil analysis into a company’s maintenance practices will depend upon how it is used. Most maintenance practices using oil analysis fall into three categories:

  1. Preventative, Scheduled Maintenance
    This can lead to too much or too little maintenance and is often not relevant to the actual condition of equipment.
  2. Predictive, Condition Based Maintenance
    Maintenance decisions based on current health condition of equipment and how critical the equipment is to the operation and cost of downtime.
  3. Proactive (Root Cause Analysis), Condition Based Maintenance
    Control or eliminate the source of root causes that lead to equipment or lubricant failure.

It’s fairly easy to take a single oil analysis test report and determine beneficial actions that resulted. The real challenge with many maintenance applications is measuring the overall benefit that the oil analysis service brings to an entire operation. In evaluating cost benefits and improved maintenance practices the following consideration should be made:

  • Are there effective procedures for routing data back to end-user(s)?
  • How are records and data managed?
  • Is there follow-up of detrimental trends and test results?
  • Is there documentation for the long-term correlation of test data with equipment reliability, maintenance practices and cost savings?

The Practical Handbook of Machinery Lubrication, Second Edition, provides the following information relating to lubrication related cost: According to Dr. E. Rabinowicz, an MIT Tribologist, it was concluded in a study that total tribological losses in the US are estimated at $194 billion annually. Wear and lubrication losses account for $173 billion of that amount. Documented feedback received directly from ALS Tribology customers show that 31% of the abnormal oil sample reports resulting in maintenance action are wear related with an average cost savings of $1,000 to $3,000 per sample. Some savings can be documented as high as $20,000 to $25,000 on a piece of equipment. Our feedback also shows 16% of the abnormal oil sample reports resulting in maintenance action are related to dirt and water contamination with an average cost savings of $1,000 to $3,000 per sample.

Analysis of in-service lubricants for equipment health and reliability does certainly compliment other maintenance practices and contributes to cost savings. With the proper management of test data and the expanded use of root cause analysis, Cost savings can be documented and maximized, especially through the use of ALS Tribology’s web-based services.