"What are the top three characteristics you look for when considering an oil analysis laboratory (i.e., turnaround time, price, quality, capabilities, etc.)?"

Selecting an oil analysis laboratory can be daunting if you don't know where to begin. Once you make the decision to initialize an oil analysis program at your plant or to find a quality lab other than the one offered by your oil supplier, there are several important factors to consider. The following three attributes will be key to building a successful relationship with your oil analysis lab.

Quality of Testing

Many laboratories struggle to meet their customers' expectations because of mishaps in testing procedures. A quality lab will make efforts to follow ASTM or ISO test procedures in order to maintain the utmost accuracy in analysis interpretation. Be sure to find out whether there will be any deviations to the standardized test procedures, which should be followed for all types of testing instruments. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions.

Data Interpretation

An oil analysis report is not intended to be just a sheet of paper with raw data results. These tests can be quite complicated, so it may not be easy to determine an obvious concern, let alone an inconspicuous or unusual one. The best oil analysis reports come complete with a full analysis interpretation summary. This should not be computer-generated but tailored by a specialist. The report should also have graphs that show trend data, along with a comparison to the baseline, as well as critical and cautionary limits. Finally, the report should feature a layout that is easy to understand.

Customer Service

The services an oil analysis laboratory offers should go beyond those relating simply to the oil samples. The individual in charge of receiving the reports at the plant should be in frequent communication with those who interpret data at the lab to collaborate on possible explanations for data anomalies and to obtain expert advice on determining the best course of action. The laboratory should also offer a hotline to provide quality customer service whenever you need it.

Please note that price is not included in this list, as you should expect the cost of laboratory services to remain competitive. Also, in regard to price, it is important to keep in mind that a single machine failure that is avoided through oil analysis can justify an entire year or more of the oil analysis program.