A routine oil analysis program can be the best early indicator of a future problem with your machinery. This predictive tool should include sampling all critical equipment at the appropriate intervals. The measure of success will be in the number of issues detected by laboratory tests. Having no issues with your lubricated equipment or oil condition is almost impossible, but striving to minimize watch and warning alarms on lab reports can help your maintenance team focus on tasks that lead to increased reliability.
Most plants and facilities with a dedicated reliability program utilize vibration analysis software for data storage, trending and reporting, but it can also be useful to mesh with oil analysis results for a comparison trend. The most important benefit of oil analysis is detecting wear metals at an early stage. Wear metals will appear first and then vibration, followed by eventual equipment failure. By integrating oil analysis results and recommendations into your vibration software, you increase the likelihood that the vibration specialist will react quickly to investigate any problems.
The following steps for enhancing an oil analysis program are from a lab's perspective with input from reliability professionals. They should help lead to fewer unexpected equipment failures.
Of course, this list will require some site-specific fine-tuning and customization, but hopefully these steps will add structure to your routine oil analysis program and help you minimize unexpected downtime.
Ben Hartman is the president of MRT Laboratories.