In used oil analysis, oil samples can be taken at any time, but one should always consider the insight that they are trying to gain before testing the sample. This is crucial in deciding the type of tests and the intervals at which they should be performed.
For instance, if we are testing the quality of the oil or we
want to compare a fresh batch to a used one, then we can take a sample directly
from the drum.
If we are trying to decide the rate at which the additives are being depleted or wear being accumulated then we can take a sample at different operating hours to trend the data. This method can work if we are trying to determine the most appropriate run time for a lubricant in particular conditions.
However, if we are trying to track the health of the components on a regular basis as part of our PM program then taking a sample at the end of the scheduled maintenance interval is desired.
Taking an oil sample from a component is like performing a blood test by the doctor. It helps us to understand what’s really happening. It can show us if there is excessive wear, contamination or lubricant degradation which allows us to identify its “health”. However, the correct tests need to be carried out to determine these conditions.
There must be a reason behind taking the oil sample, not just a random act. When trying to establish a trend regarding a particular aspect of the oil, this should guide your choice of tests otherwise we can end up paying for tests that do not add value.
Always ensure sound reasoning behind testing rather than
just checking the box!
While taking an oil sample at the end of the scheduled operating hours is very convenient, is it truly efficient?
When a piece of equipment is scheduled for maintenance, it
is usually taken out of service for a couple of hours to perform the assigned
However, if an oil sample is taken a couple days in advance
of the scheduled maintenance, then when the results return the maintenance team
can be on the lookout for issues highlighted by the results.
For instance, if the value for iron was significant or
rising then they can perform inspections for areas which may cause this type of
wear and address this challenge while the equipment is offline.
There’s a major difference between Shelf life and Service life especially when it concerns lubricants!
No one wants to put expired lubricants into their equipment! This can cause unexpected failures which can lead to unplanned downtime which can continue to spiral down the costly path of unproductivity!
The Shelf life is usually what is stamped by the Manufacturer indicating the length of time the product can remain in its current packaging before being deemed unsuitable for use. These can typically be found on the packaging.
The Service life however is determined by the application and conditions under which the lubricant is being used. Usually, estimated running hours / mileage are given by the equipment manufacturer in the maintenance section of the manual. (Condition monitoring can also be used to determine appropriate service intervals.)
However, how will someone know if the product has deteriorated while still in its original packaging? What should someone typically look for?
Above are some tips for identification of deterioration in lubricants. Take a note of these for the next time you are unsure of the integrity of your lubricants.
Electrostatic Spark Discharge is real and extremely common for turbine users! Static electricity at a molecular level is generated when dry oil passes through tight clearances. It is believed that the static electricity can build up to a point whereby it produces a spark. There are three stages of ESD.
1. Static Electricity builds up to produce a spark – Temperatures exceed 10,000°C and the lubricant begins to degrade significantly.
2. Free radicals form – These contribute to the polymerisation of the lubricant
3. Uncontrolled polymerisation – Varnish and sludge produced (some may remain in solution or deposit on surfaces) which can also result in elevated fluid degradation and the presence of insoluble materials.
We keep speaking about each grease being different based on their thickener type. However, what are the properties that these thickeners give to the grease? For instance, if I wanted to use a grease for a roller bearing in a very high temperature environment which should I choose? Can a multipurpose grease work for that application?
Each area of application may be different and while multipurpose greases are widely used there are some areas where it doesn’t add much value. For example, if a heavy equipment operator uses a backhoe to dig into a river, the multipurpose grease can be easily washed off.
When the grease washes off quickly, the pins holding the bucket can become damaged. (The costs to repair or replace one of these pins are ridiculously high!) However, if he used a Calcium based grease, then there wouldn’t be an issue of water washout and the pins could have a longer life.
Above is a table indicating the various uses of greases based on the thickener types. Know your applications and their environments when choosing the right grease!
I’ve almost always heard my customers refer to the grease that they are using by its colour. They would say, “I’m using the blue grease.” However, greases are not defined by their colour. Colour is often added to grease to allow it to be easily identifiable within the field. For instance, if a grease is coloured blue, it is easy to identify if it’s leaking or not (one way not to confuse the leak with an oil leak).
Some greases are coloured to ensure that the applicant uses it in the correct application. For example, if a blue grease is a multipurpose grease then this ideally shouldn’t be used in the very high temperature area. Most of the times, red greases are used for high temperature applications. Thus making it easy to identify if the correct grease is used in the right application. However, one should note the colours of the greases being used in their facility and their applications before comparing them to that of another facility (which may be using a different grease manufacturer.)
Don’t define greases by their colours, define them by their applications!
Audits usually get people nervous! They are worried about what the auditor may or may not find. When we perform lubrication audits, we’re trying to ensure that your equipment is using exactly what it should to perform efficiently.
Why is that necessary? We’ve found that in most organizations, there may have been a time when the OEM recommended lubricant was not readily available and a substitute was used instead. Once the substitute has been used, it magically becomes the recommended lubricant for the rest of the life of the component.
However, if proper checks were not done initially, then the component could be using the wrong lubricant for most of its life. This can contribute to downtime and replacement of parts before their actual useful life has been reached.
Once, we found a gearbox using an ISO 680 gear oil when it should have used an ISO 320 oil. This gearbox used the wrong oil for 30 years! It greatly impacted the efficiency of the gearbox and they experienced numerous breakdowns throughout its life but they never understood or dared to look at the lubricant.
Always ensure that you have the OEM recommended lubricants for your components!
Root Cause Analysis has always been dear to my heart. The procedure involved in finding the root causes and addressing them have intrigued me greatly as it involves using all your data gathering and cognitive skills. In the past, it was a bit difficult to properly perform RCAs since it usually meant jumping around different types of software. For instance, depending on the type of analysis that I wanted carry out, I would either use a Fish Bone Diagram or Cause and Effect Logic Tree. Depending on the type that I needed to use, I would have to switch programs just to get these generated. Then, there’s the issue of writing the final report and utilizing my expert copy and paste skills with Microsoft word while toggling excel worksheets to determine the costs attached to the failure.
Needless to say, I was very impressed when introduced to the PROACT software. It has an extremely friendly user interface (in some cases, I can even use drag and drop options!) which is very easy to navigate even for a beginner like me at the time. What I really love about the software is that it bridges the gaps and guides users (both for beginners and experts) on the RCA process. By allowing users to follow a step a by step processit ensures that users don’t forget vital pieces of information that are absolutely critical to the RCA.
If you are familiar with RCA, you will be aware that the basis of any RCA is properly establishing the Severity of the failures. As such, the first step when the user enters the software, is the assigning of the Severity of the failure with the Severity Calculator. This calculator can even be customized for varying applications! Afterwards, the profile of the failure is then defined. This profile allows the user to identify elements that may have been forgotten if the RCA was being done from scratch. The Severity Calculator also allows users todetermine the type of analysis that is fit for the severity index. Depending on the severity, the user can be guided to use either; 5 Whys, Fish Bone Diagrams or Cause and Effect Logic Trees. This is definitely one key advantage since it allows for different forms of analysis based on the severity.
Next the Critical Success Factors are inserted. The strategic placement for the input of these factors at this point in the analysis is purely genius! It forces the user to determine which factors directly impact them and these are usually placed on the final report. These CSFs start shaping the pending RCA into the mould that we need. Once these CSFs are established, then the objectives need to be defined. These help the analyst in guiding their RCA and ensuring that it is kept focused. It is easy to become distracted when performing these types of analyses since users are presented with an abundance of information. The definition of these aspects help the analyst to keep on track.
As with any RCA, there must be a team involved. The PROACT software allows users to delegate different tasks to different team members! It can even track the status of these events. Instead of sending long reminder emails (which tend to choke one’s inbox and can be easily missed), it is essentially easier to view the status of the assigned tasks using the PROACT software. This is a definite advantage of the software!
Now to the core of the software, the development of the RCA! Users are allowed to define the event that lead to the failure. Here’s where the software gets very interesting!!! Users can pull from existing templates dependent on the type of failure! This is the highlight of the PROACT software for a user like myself! It is very interesting to view templates (there are over 300 templates) of common failures and compare these to what the user has actually experienced. It allows the user to be able to access years of experience of a consultant at their fingertips! The team at Reliability Center Inc have definitely put a lot of work into developing these templates and have drawn upon their actual field experience for the past30+ years! This is the absolute game changer for the software!
During the building (or growing) of the Cause and Effect Tree, the user is allowed to authenticate their hypotheses and can attach pictures from the failure as verification for ruling out or accepting that mode as one of the root causes. These pictures can then be input into the final report without the need for cropping, cutting and pasting and all the exciting formatting issues that tend to occur when trying to include pictures in the final report.
PROACT also allows for users to input financial data. Another game changer for me! Users can define the costs associated with the downtime for particular failures, repair costs or even manpower costs. These all help to put a financial value on the cost of the failure being investigated. This neat trick is crucial for the review by upper management! Additionally, the final steps in any of the RCAs is to determine recommendations for the latent causes that were determined. These will be the courses of action to be taken to prevent failures of this nature from occurring in the future.
Overall, the PROACT software is indeed a time saver, keeps excellent track of the findings and collections of the investigation at hand and produces a very succinct, detailed report that anyone from upper management to the engineers can clearly understand. I love working with this software and my clients are always very impressed that this type of software actually exists and is so easy to use! I would highly recommend any user (novice or expert) in the reliability field to use the software in their everyday tasks and realize the impact that it has on increasing the efficiency of RCAs and their ROIs to their organizations.