In January 2001, almost exactly seven years to the day this article is being written, five oil analysis practitioners assembled together in Biloxi, Mississippi with a common objective: to test and prove their oil analysis skills. Although a small group, it already represented the mission of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML): to better the lubrication and oil analysis industry globally while dignifying the professions of lubrication technicians and oil analysts worldwide.
On that day, the small, yet diverse group, comprised of practitioners from the United States and abroad, sat for the first ICML certification exam. After three hours, the council certified its first group of Level I machine lubricant analysts (MLA I).
Exam Types Expand
By mid-April 2001, the council launched its second exam type with a group of four practitioners attending the first session of the Level I machinery lubrication technician (MLT I) exam in Houston. By September, only eight months from the first exam session, it administered its MLA I exam for the first time in a foreign country: five practitioners in Perth, Australia, took the test. The news was slowly spreading and practitioners worldwide, needing a means to benchmark their skills through an application-based certification program, began seeking ICML credentials.
The next step for the council was to move on to foreign languages in order to bring exams to every part of the globe. It vowed that wherever a practitioner wanted to demonstrate that his/her skills were at par with his or her counterparts in America, Canada, the United Kingdom, etc., ICML exams would be administered. In mid-February 2002, only one year after the first exam, the council offered its first Spanish exam in Monterrey, Mexico, with 18 practitioners attending the MLA I in their own language.
Only three months later, the third exam type, Level I laboratory lubricant analyst (LLA I) was first administered in Caracas, Venezuela, also in Spanish. In another six months, 15 South Korean practitioners in Daegu were taking the first Asian language exam in Korean. By the end of its second year, the council already offered three of its five exam types in three different languages.
Portuguese was added in 2004 when 10 practitioners in Brazil sat for the first ICML MLA I Portuguese exam in the city of São Paulo. That was followed by the second Asian language, Japanese. Exactly five years to the day of its first exam, the council made its debut in Japan with eight people taking the exam in their native Japanese language.
In 2006, it extended its Asian presence to China, where in August a group of 16 practitioners took the MLA I exam in Shanghai, in the Chinese language, completing the six languages that the exams presently offer. The council offered its first Italian exam in March 2008 and French is expected to be added to the list soon thereafter, bringing the council language offerings up to a total of eight.
The Fruits of Labor
This story is one of vision, determination and, above all, passion. In only seven years, these motivations have brought a small organization with humble beginnings to the place of de facto world standard (at least where certification of lubrication personnel is concerned). From January 2001 to January 2008, the council has expanded from one exam type, one language, one country and five certified professionals to five exam types, six languages, 52 countries and more than 3,300 certified professionals worldwide.
It is an honor to be involved with ICML and watch the dedicated staff and volunteers accomplish so much, with so little, in such a short amount of time. 2007 marked for the council a total of 1,400 candidates tested in one year, taking exams in 147 different locations worldwide.
Ours is a volunteer-based organization. Had it not been for the vision and determination of our founding members, the support and commitment of the companies involved, as well as the obsessive compulsive dedication of its permanent staff of two and its volunteers, seven years may not have made that much of a difference. But then again, that would not have been ICML.