The term “oil analysis” has been used with respect to lubrication and machine reliability since the 19th century. Yet, over the years I have seen only a few attempts to assign a specific definition to the activity despite its widespread application in industry. Most of these definitions are too narrow or fail to include important integral activities such as machine wear monitoring and fault detection.

Unlike other technical fields where definitions and official nomenclature abound, there has been little peer-reviewed terminology advanced in our field. With new guidelines and standards relating to used oil analysis being documented by organizations such as ASTM, ISO and BSI, it would seem that a reasonable first step would be to better define these specific activities. Perhaps we should also note what is best not included in the definition.

In this chart, I have organized words and phrases that have conventionally been associated with the activities of oil analysis. I have also modernized the concept somewhat and extended its boundaries into strategic areas relating to machine reliability and other companion fields. At the same time, I was careful to not take it too far, outside of routine fluid and machine health monitoring.

I hope there are many experts and career professionals among our readers who will have opinions on where the boundaries should be placed. Please share these opinions with our readers. In a future issue of Practicing Oil Analysis, I will organize the feedback for further review.