Will ISO 55000 Change the Definition of Lubrication Excellence?

Jim Fitch, Noria Corporation
Tags: maintenance and reliability

This past year I’ve been spending a lot of time studying the possibilities of ISO 55000, especially its long-term impact on the lubrication field. I was a bit skeptical at first. Now I view it as a game-changer to machinery asset management and the field of reliability in general. If you haven’t heard of ISO 55000, this might be a great time to get acquainted – very acquainted.

ISO 55000 is an international standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), created and approved by representatives from 10 countries, 50 organizations and 15 different industries. The foundational elements of ISO 55000 originate from the British Standards Institution (BSI) standard PAS 55. It provides an overarching framework for using modern principles of asset management to achieve a wide range of precisely defined organizational objectives.

An asset, by definition, is anything that has future value. Plant machinery and equipment are most commonly referred to as assets. However, people are assets too, as is software, intellectual property (e.g., patents and trademarks), knowledge/skills, goodwill and so much more. In a nutshell, asset management can probably be best summed up by the following sentences excerpted from ISO 55000. Certain words are italicized to emphasize concepts and themes that I will further develop in this and future columns.

“Asset management involves the balancing of costs, opportunities and risks against the desired performance of assets, to achieve the organizational objectives.”

“An asset management system provides a structured approach for the development, coordination and control of activities undertaken on assets by the organization over different life cycle stages, and for aligning these activities with its organizational objectives.”

ISO 55000 has many similarities to ISO 9000, which focuses on quality management and assurance. More than 1 million organizations are now certified by ISO 9000 worldwide. Conversely, ISO 55000 is written in the context of asset management and its many familiar subcategories. These subcategories include reliability, reliability-centered maintenance (RCM), total productive maintenance (TPM), preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, proactive maintenance, oil analysis, lubrication, etc.

There are three parts to this standard, which are listed below. For simplicity, my reference to ISO 55000 in this column includes the three parts collectively:

  • ISO 55000: Asset Management – Overview, Principles and Terminology
  • ISO 55001: Asset Management - Management Systems - Requirements
  • ISO 55002: Asset Management - Management Systems - Guidelines for the Application of ISO 55001

The adoption of ISO 55000 (all three parts) “enables an organization to achieve its objectives through the effective and efficient management of its assets ... consistently and sustainably over time.” This process can be distilled down to six key actionable elements. These are shown in the table above and flow like a sequence of steps. Although the steps suggest a beginning and an end, asset management is a living, continuous journey with no ultimate finality.

The fourth column in the table is my effort to restate each step element in the context of machinery lubrication. To the far right are the individual chapters (from ISO 55001) corresponding to the elements. A copy of this standard can be obtained via the ISO website (www.iso.org).

Using ISO 55000 to Write an Engineering Specification for Lubrication Excellence

Think of ISO 55000 as a detailed framework, like a template or programmatic checklist, for writing an engineering specification for lubrication excellence. The foundation for the framework is rooted in well-tested organizational principles such as management of change, management science, process control, quality assurance and many others.

ISO 55000 doesn’t advise you on needed lubrication improvements in your plant. In fact, I was unable to find the words lubricant or lubrication anywhere in this document (nearly 80 pages). Yet, for machinery-intensive organizations, reliability is intensely related to lubrication. Reliability and machinery asset management require enablers. There is no better enabler than lubrication excellence.

The concept of optimum and balance is a fundamental principle to achieving lubrication excellence and compliance to ISO 55000. However, this standard doesn’t define optimum but rather guides you, or your organization, in seeking and defining optimum based on many factors and constraints that surround each decision. These are unique to your plant, work environment and individual machines. They generally include overall machine criticality (likelihood and consequence of failure), failure mode ranking by likelihood and severity (FMEA), the range of available options (to each decision), the ability to successfully implement/execute the options, and budget/resource constraints.

The Optimum Reference State

The lubricant optimum reference state (ORS) is a critical concept in the journey to world-class lubrication and enhanced machine reliability. In short, it is the prescribed state of machine configuration, operating conditions and maintenance activities required to achieve and sustain specific reliability objectives. Lubrication excellence is achieved when the current state of lubrication approaches that of the optimum reference state.

There are many different critical attributes of the ORS. These attributes relate to people preparedness, machine preparedness, precision lubricants, precision lubrication and oil analysis. Achieving the ORS almost always involves change or modifications. Each attribute must be:

  1. Precise and definable (e.g., a specific lubricant sump level),
  2. Measurable (e.g., a specific viscosity) or verifiable (e.g., a sample port location),
  3. Controllable (by modification) and sustainable (by program continuity),
  4. Able to achieve the desired reliability objectives related to the financial benefit, safety and machine readiness.

Each decision is an attribute in support of a larger optimum state, a concept required for ISO 55000 compliance. Noria refers to this using the term the optimum reference state (ORS) for machinery asset management and lubrication excellence (see the ORS sidebar). In the left column of the table below, ORS performance attributes are listed by category. To the right are the tactics that drive the benefits coming from an optimum state. The benefits are color-/shape-coded and are defined in the key in the upper left corner. They include reliability (downtime), labor and material, lubricant consumption, filter consumption, safety and environment.

The good news is that most of these attributes can be deployed and controlled entirely by asset owners/users. The table below shows the same list of ORS attributes keyed to those who have the greatest control in driving transformation to an optimum state. As can be seen, users command primary control of 10 of the 16 attributes listed.

This works best when users believe that optimized lubrication: 1) is considerably different from the current state of lubrication in many critical areas, 2) will bring real value to users’ organizations and to maintenance workers individually (financially and in career development), 3) can be deployed with manageable risk and cost, and 4) is sustainable. There is no better way to achieve this than through training, which is effective in building knowledge, skills and an improved maintenance culture.

Viewing ISO 55000 from the Top

Getting lubrication to an optimum state of excellence requires complete organizational alignment. ISO 55000 was precisely constructed to enable this alignment, a goal that should be sought by senior leaders of any organization. Naturally, this must start by defining the highest-​level organizational objectives. Next, the asset management policy and plan should be constructed to conform and deliver on these objectives. The subsequent execution of this plan should stay true to this alignment, which is ultimately confirmed by independent assessment and certification.

When done well, the organization gets the most of what it wants and the least of what it doesn’t from its assets. After all, don’t all organizations want the most for the least? The least is a short list and includes cost and risk. The most is a longer list and frequently includes reliability, environmental responsibility, safety, quality, satisfied customers, satisfied employees, profitability and high shareholder return.

Integration of lubrication concepts with the broader field of asset management and ISO 55000 is a seismic shift that’s rich with benefits and rewards. Its tenets of process and execution are rock solid. For asset owners and users, this greatly controls risk, cost and guesswork in the pursuit of lubrication excellence. You’ll hear much more about ISO 55000 in future issues of Machinery Lubrication and from Noria in the coming months and years. We’ll break it down into the many subcategories of lubrication and oil analysis where it is best applied.

Folks, it’s a whole new ballgame. Finally, it’s time to achieve the optimum.

69% of lubrication professionals say their plant has not achieved lubrication excellence, based on a recent poll at MachineryLubrication.com

About the Author

Jim Fitch, a founder and CEO of Noria Corporation, has a wealth of experience in lubrication, oil analysis, and machinery failure investigations. He has advised hundreds of companies on developing their lubrication and oil analysis programs. Contact Jim at

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