Tagged: reliability

My MLE Journey

My MLE Journey

Ever since the MLE (Machinery Lubrication Engineer) exam was launched in April 2019, I was intrigued by it! It provided a certification where the dynamic duo of reliability and asset managers could be combined and infused with elements of lubrication and oil analysis. The perfect combination! However, since its launch, there have only been a couple of public sittings where the exam has bene conducted. Unfortunately for me, this would have required me to travel to the US for at least a week and run my business remotely. Every session that was announced directly clashed with my schedule and it was almost impossible for me to attend a session that didn’t clash with my crazy schedule.

Enter the C-19 pandemic that we’ve been facing that began in March 2020 (for us in Trinidad when our borders were closed). This pandemic caused (some much needed) downtime for all of us and helped to revolutionize the industry by allowing advancements in technology to finally be accepted. During the downtime, I decided to start studying for the MLE Exam with 5th Order Industry LLC. What a surprise, I had in store for me! After starting the course, I realized, I knew nothing about lubrication in the past! It was a definite eye opener and made me aware of the number of elements that I took for granted during my entire lubrication career.

Michael Holloway CRL, LLA (I,II), MLT (I,II), MLA (I,II, III), OMA, CLS, MLE was a great teacher and offered me assistance in all the areas in which I was unclear. He was also extremely responsive to all of questions at weird hours of the day when I got the time to study for the exam. His guidance was paramount to me achieving the MLE certification! The flexibility of On Demand modules allowed me to learn at my own pace and ensure that I understood each area before moving on to the next. The unique style of the delivery of the class really ensured that I benefitted from the bulk of the information provided as it allowed me to apply the knowledge in real life practical situations.

what_is_MLE

What exactly is the MLE?

The MLE exam was launched in April, 2019 along with the ICML 55.1 standard. Part 1 of the ICML 55 standard speaks to Asset Management, requirements for Optimized Lubrication of Mechanical Physical Assets. The MLE was mapped to this ICML 55.1 standard. This allows personnel within organizations who are studying for this exam to become more prepared for eventually attaining the ISO 55001 certification for their organization. The ICML 55.1 standard was drafted using the ISO 55001 as a guide however the 55.1 standard fills the gap with specific requirements and guidelines to establish, implement, maintain and improve consistent lubrication management systems and activities.

 

The MLE Body of Knowledge consists of 24 areas of knowledge and can be found here in greater detail. Additionally, the well documented Domain of knowledge is also accessible here.

The 24 areas for the BoK include:

  1. Asset Management, ISO 55001 & ICML 55; Basic Elements (3%)
  2. Machine Reliability; Basic Elements (5%)
  3. Machine Maintenance; Basic Elements (5%)
  4. Condition-based Maintenance; Basic Elements (5%)
  5. Tribology, Friction, Wear and Lubrication Fundamentals; Basic Elements (5%)
  6. Lubricant Formulation for Machine Types to achieve Optimum Reliability, Energy Consumption, Safety and Environmental Protection; Basic Elements (5%)
  7. Job and Task Based Skills / Training related to Lubrication and Reliability by User Organizations (4%)
  8. Lubrication Support Facilities needed in Plants and Work Sites (3%)
  9. Risk Management for Lubricated Machines; Basic Elements (4%)
  10. Optimum Machine Modifications and Features Needed to Achieve and Sustain Reliability Goals (5%)
  11. Lubricant Selection for Optimum Reliability, Safety, Energy Consumption and Environmental Protection based on Machine Type and Application (4%)
  12. Lubrication related Planning, Scheduling and Work Processing (4%)
  13. Periodic Lubrication Maintenance Tasks (4%)
  14. Inspection of Lubricated Machines for Optimum Reliability, Safety, Environmental Protection and Condition Monitoring (5%)
  15. Lubricant Analysis and Condition Monitoring for Optimum Reliability Objectives (8%)
  16. Fault/Failure Troubleshooting, Root Cause Analysis (RCA) and Remediation (5%)
  17. Supplier Compliance / Alignment and Procurement of Services and Products (3%)
  18. Waste and Used Lubricant Management and Environmental Compliance (3%)
  19. Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection (3%)
  20. Health and Safety (3%)
  21. Oil Reclamation, Decontamination, De-varnishing & Additive Reconstruction (3%)
  22. Lubrication during Standby, Storage and Commissioning (2%)
  23. Program Metrics (5%)
  24. Continuous Improvement (4%)
Candidate_req

Candidate requirements

As per ICML, candidates require at least 5 years education (post-secondary) or On-the-Job training in one or more of the following fields: Engineering, Mechanical Maintenance, Maintenance Trades, Lubrication, Oil Analysis and / or Condition Monitoring (Mechanical Machinery).

There are no prerequisites of an Engineering Degree or prior ICML certifications to attain the MLE certification. However, there are overlaps in the BoKs for the MLA & MLT exams that would prove useful in preparing for the MLE exam.

exam_scheduling

Scheduling the Exam

Once I completed the course from 5th Order Industry, I was awarded my Certificate of Completion which stated that I had achieved the required 40 hours of preparation for the exam. Looking back on it now, I spent a lot more than 40 hours preparing for the exam! In addition to completing the courses online, I started reading documents, manuals and books all outlined in the Domain of Knowledge (mentioned above).

In essence, it took me approximately 3 and a half months to fully prepare for this exam! It’s such a lengthy time span since I was studying at my own pace which the On Demand modules allowed me to do and I wanted to make certain that I was ready! After completing the online courses, it took me an additional week to schedule my exam as I had to make sure that there would be no urgent order of business during my 4 hour isolation and that I had reviewed at least 5 times the material covered!

To schedule the exam, one has to go to the ICML site. Then choose the mode of delivery (I chose Online of course and not Paper based). The site then allows you to choose the exam that you are applying for while giving you the guidelines that are specific to the exam type chosen (Online or Paper Based). For the Online sessions, they allow the candidates to verify whether their computer meets the requirements by clicking on some links provided.

After the exam type is selected, the candidate is moved to another page where they are required to provide some confirmations and upload their training certificate from one of the approved training providers. After submitting this information, the candidate is then directed to another page to fill out their profile information and make payment. An email will be received with the receipt from ICML. Afterwards, you will receive another email from Examity providing a link to fill out your profile and schedule your exam.

Exam_day

Exam day

The MLE exam spans a duration of 4 hours. These can pass in the blink of an eye in the exam room! For the exam, be sure to login at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time of your exam. Bring along a form of National Identification (ensure that the expiry date is on the same side as your picture). In my case, my National ID card has my picture on one side and all the details on the other side. The Proctor had to ask me for another form of ID and since my Passport had expired (the renewal date passed during the Quarantine Period!), I had to use my Driver’s permit which was upstairs! It took a bit of shuffling around (frantically, I’ll say!) but the Proctor was able to use my Driver’s permit after I retrieved it.

The desk area must be clean with no additional items. The only items on my desk were my 2 forms of ID. The Proctor will ask to view the entire room and ensure that all doors are closed. There is no need to walk with a calculator as one will be available in the virtual exam room on the screen as well as other tools that may be required. For this exam, you just need to walk with your brain, selection skills and your virtual knowledge base! The exam allows candidates to flag questions that they are unsure about and come back to them at a later time (which was absolutely terrific for me)!

first_mle

The Results

After completing the exam, the candidate has to inform the Procter that they have finished and then submit their answers. Thereafter begins the dreaded wait for the results! To my surprise, I got these results in two days after completing the exam! I can tell you, there was a lot of hesitation before opening that email! The email contained the results (yes I did pass! Yay!) and the score for each of the 24 sections of the exam.

At the time of writing this article, I am the first MLE in the entire Caribbean (I had to check twice to make sure)! I would highly recommend the MLE exam for lubrication professionals who want to challenge themselves and personnel within the reliability and asset management sectors who have a passion for lubrication. It is a wonderful exam and the knowledge that it will expose you to will be phenomenal!

EasyRCA!

EasyRCA

Recently, most of our concerns stem around getting stuff done faster but wanting the same quality result. For instance, when loading a web page, we expect it to be loaded in one second and use the next five seconds to browse the content and find what we’re looking for. Let’s take a step back and think about loading a webpage ten or fifteen years ago, using a dial up internet connection. I can guarantee you that it took a lot longer than two minutes!

Much of this, “need for speed” has been integrated into our working life where we now have apps that can take vibration measurements in a couple of seconds whereas in the past it took a couple of hours and a few technicians to get the correct reading and then analyse it. The team at Reliability Center Inc, has realized this change in dynamics and are introducing a new tool that steps up to the plate in more ways than one!

The EasyRCA tool was recently launched to allow everyone access to an RCA tool that is (as the name implies) easy to use. The tool is very intuitive and requires minimal training. If a user can click the Enter key on the keyboard or hover above the icons then they can use the tool. The only thing that is required is a stable internet connection and a device with a decent battery life.

One of the first things that stand out with the tool is the use of colour and easy to understand icons! Most tools within the industry shy away from colour but the use of colour to highlight the types of roots (Physical, Human or Systemic) and the stage (Event, Mode, Hypothesis) allows the RCA tree to be easily distinguished and more appealing to the eye.

Figure 1: Snapshot of 5 Why analysis using the EasyRCA Tool
Figure 1: Snapshot of 5 Why analysis using the EasyRCA Tool

The next interesting feature is that the user can choose the type of analysis that they require! That’s right, the user can choose from the sturdy Causal Tree, to the ever popular 5 Why or the Fishbone (utilizing the 6M method). With each of these types of RCA, the user can add more boxes, move them around the page to group them better or even delete those that they deem irrelevant. The user has full control of the software!

Figure 2: Snapshot of the Fishbone Analysis (6M) using the EasyRCA Tool
Figure 2: Snapshot of the Fishbone Analysis (6M) using the EasyRCA Tool

If this wasn’t enough to allow easy manoeuvrability, there is even a little “brain” that lights up orange on the screen. This is the virtual assistant and will light up whenever it “thinks” that it can offer assistance through templates from the library. The templates in the library span 50 years of experience that have been built in to allow users a guide for completing RCAs.

Figure 3: Snapshot of the Analysis Assistant using the EasyRCA Tool
Figure 3: Snapshot of the Analysis Assistant using the EasyRCA Tool

What about using the tool to print out a report? Of course the team at Reliability Center Inc thought about this! When performing an RCA, we need to provide a report to all involved! The EasyRCA Tool allows users to produce a report which is downloaded into Microsoft Word. This allows the user to make even more changes if necessary. This report includes all of the pictures / pieces of evidence that were attached during the hypothesis verification process.

Figure 4: Snapshot of the Table of Contents produced by the EasyRCA Tool
Figure 4: Snapshot of the Table of Contents produced by the EasyRCA Tool

Another very cool feature is that it allows teams to work in real time! For instance, if we have team members scattered across the globe (or around the table), any change that is made by a team member is reflected instantly in all open applications of that particular project in the EasyRCA Tool. When we set up a project, tasks are assigned to team members (who are alerted via email). Thus, each team member can have access to the project, once they have been assigned.

Here’s a quick snapshot of a Causal Tree in the EasyRCA software:

Figure 5: Snapshot of a Pump Failure RCA utilizing a Logic Tree in the EasyRCA software
Figure 5: Snapshot of a Pump Failure RCA utilizing a Logic Tree in the EasyRCA software

The EasyRCA Tool is like the baby brother to the PROACT RCA software and allows analysts with little training to adapt this tool and still get results that add value!  And, best of all, you can get started immediately.

Feel free to book a demo of the EasyRCA tool and check out the family of tools as they keep expanding to help better serve the industry!

Expired grease?

expired_grease

Are there any signs that my grease has expired?

There are a lot of signs to tell if grease has expired!

Some of the signs include:

  • Separation of the oil from the thickener
  • Change in the consistency of the NLGI grade.

Ideally, we should check the expiration date on the packaging and contact the lubricant manufacturer.

We must note that if the packaging has been removed or opened in some way, the expiration date may not be valid.

The expiration date on the product is the approximate shelf life of the product should the packaging remain intact and if stored in the recommended environment.

If these are compromised then the validity of the expiration date has also been compromised.

Outdoor Storage

storage

I have no room in the warehouse, can I store the oils outside until I get room?

It is never ideal to store lubricants outside exposed to the elements. However, there may be situations where this cannot be helped.

For instance, transformer oils are very sensitive to light and water.

If there is an option of at least storing one type of oil away from the elements, then this type of oil is at the top of the list.

If it has to be stored outside, then there are some measures that can be taken to ensure it is not compromised.

We can place a tarp over the product to ensure that the rain does not settle on the drums and they remain fairly dry.

They can also be stacked on pallets, so that they are not directly touching the ground. This way, water cannot enter the product.

Additionally, they can be stored such that the bungs are at a 9 or 3 o’clock position. In this position, if water falls on the top of the drum, it cannot accumulate by the bungs and seep into the product.

Once the packaging has been opened, the product can be considered open to contamination and anything that gets into the product will eventually get into the equipment.

Ideally, opened products should be stored in enclosed areas or have dedicated decanting systems.

ISO 4406 rating

iso_4406_rating

Is the ISO 4406 rating important?

Yes, it is very important!

The ISO 4406 rating tells us the cleanliness level of our lubricant. It tells us the number of particles that can pass through a 4, 6 and 14 micron rating.

However, the value on the ISO rating does not represent the number of particles. On the contrary, it represents the range in which the number of particles can lie.

 

One key point to remember is that the rating will always change from the time that the sample was taken to the date that the results were processed.

Therefore, it is a good idea to use the sample result as a guide as estimate a bit higher for the real value of your lubricant.

 

Check out our article which goes into more detail about ISO 4406.

 

Matt Spurlock CLS, CMRP, MLE explains further about redefining the ISO code in his article entitled; "A Twist on Particle Evaluation: Redefining the ISO Cleanliness Code". 

 

ISO-4406-chart

Filter rating

filter

Is the filter rating important?

Yes! It is very important.

Usually, the OEM of the equipment specifies the filter rating (and even the filter material in some cases). These ratings help us to keep out particles of larger sizes that may cause damage to the equipment either through wear or clogging of fine clearances.

Some filters allow us to monitor the differential pressure. This is the pressure between the outside of the filters and inside and as this approaches the warning limits, we know that a filter change is needed in the near future.

However, there are times when there is no warning and the filter goes into bypass. When a filter goes into bypass, this means that the filter is no longer keeping back the larger particles. This can be catastrophic for the equipment as a higher concentration of contaminants can now enter the system and damage it.

It is common practice to change the oil filter when the oil is being changed. In some instance, (especially depending on the environment), OEMs recommend changing the oil filters twice or more before the actual oil change.

Always consult with your owner’s manual about the maintenance practices before adopting your own.

Synthetic vs Mineral

syn_min

Should I use a synthetic oil in my equipment or just stick to mineral?

Check with your OEM first.

There are some OEMs that require a synthetic to be used but others that prefer mineral oils.

Typically, a synthetic oil (in industrial applications) tends to have longer operating hours compared to that of a mineral oil.

As such, lots of companies prefer to use synthetic oils as it leads to cost savings in the long term.

However, there are times when mineral oils are more cost effective.

For instance, if the component has to undergo maintenance (where the oil has to be drained) every 500 hours then it would not make sense to have a more expensive oil that lasts for 2000hours.

Before choosing whether mineral or synthetic, we need to do a cost benefit analysis of using both and then make an informed decision. If we can see savings by switching to a synthetic (such as energy, fuel or manpower savings) then this is definitely the way to go.

Mixing viscosities

mix_viscosities

Can I mix different viscosities of oils to get the viscosity that I want?

It can be done but this is not an ideal situation.

There are times when the only available viscosity is an ISO 46 (on a rig) but the equipment requires an ISO 68 and the new stock will not be delivered in time to avoid shutdown. Can the ISO 46 be used instead?

An ISO 46 oil is lighter in viscosity than an ISO 68 however, for most oils, there is a chart that depicts the viscosity of the oil at operating temperature. In these cases, one can consult this chart and determine if the viscosity at operating temperature will still fall within operating limits.

If we mix an ISO 46 with an ISO 68 oil we cannot be certain of where the new viscosity will fall especially if we do not know the ratios that are being used. There is a viscosity calculator that can help guide this decision available at: https://www.widman.biz/English/Calculators/Mixtures.html

This can be used as a guide and the actual values of the oil should be verified via oil analysis.

 

While this situation is not ideal, we need to remember that compatibility is also key.

As such, we should stick with the same line of lubricants that we being used. Typically, lubricant suppliers have the same formulation but change the viscosities for lubricants of the same line.

Stop production?

equip_shutdown

I can’t shut down the equipment but I know the oil has degraded significantly. What can I do?

Tough decisions!!!

There are times when production cannot be stopped such as when an order has to be fulfilled in a manufacturing facility. Before a decision is made, we need to understand the risks of not stopping production.

Can prolonged production cause a reduction in the overall quality of the final product or will it damage the equipment from working outside of its stipulated hours?

If we absolutely cannot shut down the equipment but the quality of oil has degraded, we need to firstly understand why the oil is degrading (especially if this is outside of its regular working hours).

Next, we need to identify which property of the oil has degraded, is it that the viscosity has increased / decreased, or the antioxidant levels have depleted significantly? By identifying the property that has degraded, we can choose the best way of replenishing this property.

 

Methods

There are a few methods that can be employed when trying to get the lubricant back to a healthy state however, as indicated above it is dependent on the property that has been degraded.

Cleanliness – if the ISO 4406 value has been increasing significantly this can hamper the performance of the lubricant. The clearances that the lubricant has to pass through can become blocked or the surfaces can experience an increased rate of wear.

One simple method of improving the cleanliness is through a kidney loop filtration system. This is an external system where the oil can be filtered through a filter cart and returned to the system.

Usually, this is a very effective method but one should investigate why the cleanliness values have become so high. Is it that the lubricant is being contaminated by the system, a process within the system or external factors?

 

Antioxidant levels – usually in turbines, this value decreases quickly especially if there is the presence of oxidation. Some users try to add antioxidants to their lubricant to increase the values. This is NOT recommended!!!

The composition of most turbine oils is 1% additive, 99% base oil. By adding any additive directly to the lubricant, we will be throwing the lubricant off balance and may induce other issues such as coagulation (clogged clearances) if the additive did not react well to the initial additives in the lubricant.

One of the easier ways of increasing the antioxidant levels without shutting down the machine is referred to as sweetening.

This process involves removing a percentage of the used oil (lubricant in the system) and then refilling the sump with new lubricant. The ratios can vary depending on the desired change in the antioxidant levels. It is important to note that the same lubricant should be used to ensure compatibility of the lubricants during the sweetening process.

Additionally, lab tests should be done frequently to monitor the changes in the antioxidant levels. The frequency of lab tests is highly dependent on the result turnaround time and budget available.

 

TBN decrease

TBN_drop

The TBN has dropped significantly, can I still use the oil?

The TBN (Total Base Number) is usually seen in diesel engines. Most modern (smaller) diesel engines have TBNs within the range of 9-15 (especially if they are using ULSD).

The TBN gets depleted when the acids in the oil start to increase.

Typically, higher sulphur levels in the fuel produce more acids. As such, as the sulphur level increases, so does the TBN level.

For instance, in power plants that use larger (older) diesel engines that require HSFO (High Sulphur Fuel Oil, 3.5% sulphur), the TBN of the lubricant can be as much as 50. Here are the different types of fuel and their sulphur ratings:

  • HFSO (High Sulphur Fuel Oil): 3.5%
  • LSFO (Low Sulphur Fuel Oil): 1.0%
  • ULSFO (Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel Oil): 0.1%

 

With IMO 2020, the cap has been placed on sulphur in fuel to 0.5% for marine vessels. While this cap has not yet been translated to land applications, due to the demand for HSFO declining there may be a shift to ULSFO in land based applications in the not so distant future.

 

Ideally, if your TBN level gets depleted by 50% then there is a cause for concern and the oil should be changed or topped up with new oil (depending on which is more convenient).

If your TBN levels get to 50% in a very short time, you may want to investigate the reasons behind the value dropping so significantly in such a short time (perhaps fuel dilution or thermal cracking?).

Always investigate the reasons behind unexpected results as these will continue to impact your lubricant in the future.