Not long ago I read a magazine article on predictive maintenance that referred to oil analysis as a means to "time" an oil change. Sadly, no other application or benefit was mentioned. The author was obviously trying to give credit to the field but unknowingly diminished its importance and value. An opportunity was lost.

Many oil analysis programs are in need of renewal. A good place to start is to clear up some of the myths and folklore about what oil analysis is designed to do. We need to develop real understanding of how it is applied and its strategic role within a "world class" maintenance organization. The goals and mission will need clarity and definition too. Much of this has to do with knowledge building and learning from the successes of others. But it’s ongoing–a work in progress.

Frequently we hear from users who say they were able to pay for their oil analysis program "many times over" just from the savings in reduced oil consumption. Others target the life extension benefits of proactive maintenance and contamination control. Then there are those who just want to monitor machine health to detect faults and abnormal wear. But why not run it full throttle and put oil analysis through its paces?

From experience I have learned that the very best oil programs are intense nurturing programs–that is, nurturing the oil and nurturing the machine. After all, by taking care of the oil we take care of the machine. But there's more. The oil is also a private messenger of information about what's ailing the machine. But don't wait until the condition is terminal to "tune in". Learn how to detect and amplify the weak failure signal. After all, a "missed actual" soon becomes a missed savings. An opportunity is lost.

James C. Fitch