Good oil analysis reports and a well-run oil analysis program are important, because they are deeply integrated within a company’s overall maintenance program. Program managers must establish a strong platform for measuring, documenting and communicating to upper management the contribution oil analysis makes to profitability. A thorough understanding of the oil analysis report is the first step in this process.
The data analysts’ interpretation and evaluation of oil analysis test results typically separates the overall component and fluid condition – as relative to the severity of contamination and wear – into four main classifications – Normal, Monitor, Abnormal or Critical. These sample severity assessments are relative and are assigned using both trend analysis and condemning limits. This information is detailed in the oil analysis reports.
Physical properties of the fluid are within acceptable limits and no signs of excessive wear or contamination are present.
Specific test results are outside acceptable ranges, yet are not considered serious enough to justify diagnostic action. However, caution is advised as the initial stages of an abnormality often show the same pattern of results as do temporary conditions, such as extended usage or overloading.
Physical properties, contamination and/or component wear are clearly unsatisfactory but not critical. A confirming oil sample is recommended. Additional diagnostics may be necessary to confirm all sample conditions and corrective actions could be necessary to prevent reduced service life or overall loss of performance.
Lubricant physical properties, contamination and/or component wear is clearly serious enough to require immediate diagnostic and/or corrective action to prevent major long-term loss of performance or component failure – short-term loss of performance may already be present. Operating hazards are likely to increase and large-scale repairs may be required. Recommendations may include removing the unit from service until a re-sample or other recommended diagnostics confirm that repairs are necessary.
Clients are contacted immediately by phone on all oil samples the laboratory classifies as “critical.” LOAMS users can designate within the application to have oil analysis reports at specific severity levels emailed to them which include recommendations from our experienced data analysts for taking immediate maintenance action to correct both the problem and the cause.
In the trend analysis of wear elements, threshold values are developed to identify the boundary areas between normal and abnormal results. These values can vary by component type, application, length of service and manufacturer/model and don’t provide sharp lines of “normal/abnormal” interpretations. Instead, they indicate ranges of increased probability for a developing issue.
Generally, the lubricant and component condition can be considered “normal” as long as the wear, contamination and lubricant deterioration levels remain within established “normal” ranges. Regardless of threshold values, any sharp increase in wear metals or major shift in physical properties can signal the beginning of a problem. Therefore, threshold values cannot be used as “go/no go” criteria and should not be developed or applied without a great deal of caution, judgment, experience and client input.
Provide the laboratory with feedback
The accuracy of the oil analysis laboratory’s interpretation guidelines is verified by the comparison between laboratory maintenance recommendations and the actual conditions confirmed by the customer’s diagnostic inspection. While these data interpretations are continually refined by practical experience, the following customer feedback is extremely helpful when included on the oil sample information form: