An Interview with Daniel Richards, Founder and President of Insight Services - this Issue's Feature Oil Analysis Laboratory.

Please tell us what makes Insight Services unique? We consider ourselves to be a “boutique” oil analysis laboratory. I feel what currently sets Insight apart from other labs is our report flexibility, data repeatability, and sample turnaround. I am of the opinion that generally the oil analysis business is a commodity business. We provide test data in accordance to industry-accepted practices and as directed by ASTM test procedures. We add value to the commodity by performing the testing very quickly with no errors and feeding it back to the customer in the format that is the most likely to be used.

How about service and customer support? We stress the importance of talking and listening to our customers. For instance, all employees in our lab have the green light to call a customer for any reason. Our employees are taught to think of themselves as our client’s on-site lab. With current delivery services and the internet, we are as accessible and responsive as any on-site lab.

Speaking of the internet, what electronic Services are offered by Insight? With the information age in full swing we are in the process of having our customers rely totally on electronic reports. This enables them to get out from under the huge paperwork mess and gain control of their data. Our customers go to our website and enter a specific machine number and the most recent report is displayed to them. They can also view all “flagged” reports plus easily capture their oil analysis data and import it into just about any other database they need. The handling of oil analysis data will change the way the information is used (or not used) and significantly reduce the labor involved for a maintenance manager to properly use this resource.

How does Insight insure accuracy of their analysis? Our quality assurance system keeps each lab technician from working too fast which could in some instances lead to erroneous results. Each test performed at Insight has standards and repeat samples processed through the instrument or procedure every 12 - 15 samples. Although this adds non-revenue samples to our work load, we are actually saving time by catching problems at the earliest possible moment. We record and track the amount of “re-tests” requested by our analysts and only release unusual or out of limit data after it has been re-tested.

We have heard about your unique way of doing infrared spectroscopy. Could you tell us about it? One thing we do is request a new oil sample of each type of lubricant in use at our clients’ plants. The used oil is analyzed on the FTIR by first comparing the placement of the predominant IR spectrum peaks in the used oil with the IR peaks in the reference oil. At this point we can easily determine if the oil in use is actually the reference oil or if a different fluid is being used. This is then reported back to our client as percent correlation of the used oil with the original reference oil. This simple spectrum comparison is very useful. It communicates to the maintenance managers where the specified oil is being used and where it is not.

How about additive depletion monitoring? Do you offer this with your infrared spectroscopy? Yes, our additive depletion analysis is performed in a similar manner. We identify the separate IR peaks where the EP and anti-oxidant additives are found in the new oil and perform spectral subtraction at these locations to determine how much additive is remaining in the used oil relative to the new oil. This is then converted to a scale of 0-100 with 100 being the amount of additive in the new oil. We also provide all the standard FTIR oxidation data. We are in the process of incorporating the JOAP recommended FTIR methodology into our procedure to further improve the quality of our data and also conform to industry standardization.

How about wear debris analysis and analytical ferrography? Another factor that separates our lab is that Ferrographic Analysis is performed at no additional cost when one of the other wear particle tests (PC, DR, Spec.) goes above that machine’s alarm limit. Not only do we perform more ferrography on more samples, but we also process them more thoroughly. We actually view the past ferrogram with the current ferrogram side-by-side so the analyst can more readily identify new abnormal particles. This requires more time to perform the test; however, it also provides the customer with more information if his machine is beginning to generate abnormal wear. Pictures are provided to the customer so that he may share the oil analysis information in a meaningful way with any of his maintenance or operations personnel.


Sample Bottle Type: Polyethylene 4 oz. (100 ml)
Sample Bottle Cleanliness: <100 particles >10µm/ml
Type of Emission Spectrometer: ICP
Elements Reported: Over 20
Type of Infrared Spectrometer Used: ATR Cell
Properties Reported: Water, Soot, Oxidation, ZDDP, Glycol
Particle Counters Used: Auto Pore Blockage, Auto Optical
How Water is Detected/Measured: Karl Fischer, FTIR, Crackle
How Glycol is Detected: FTIR
How Soot is Measured: FTIR
How Viscosity is Reported: Kinematic (ASTM D445)
Neutralization Tests: Colorimetric (D 974)
Ferrous Density Tests: Direct Reading
Analytical Ferrography/Wear Particle: Ferrogram
Other Capabilities: RBOT
Average Lead Time for Typical Analysis: 24 hours
Electronic Data Service: Internet