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What is oil analysis and why is it important?

When machinery breaks down, it often causes substantial disruption for firms. A mechanical failure costs companies money – not just for replacement parts and specialised repair labour, but also in operational downtime that harms production.

It is a little-known fact that the culprit behind many a mechanical failure is actually contaminated oil and systems with poor filtration levels. The truth is that impure oil is behind approximately 80 per cent of all equipment breakdowns. However, hope is in sight, as a process called oil analysis can provide a solution that allows companies to sidestep potential breakdowns before they cause unnecessary chaos and cost for operations.

What is oil analysis?

The term ‘oil analysis’ refers to the laboratory analysis of a dedicated lubricant’s properties, wear debris and the suspended contaminants it contains. Oil analysis is carried out during scheduled predictive maintenance. It can provide accurate and meaningful information on both lubricants and the condition of the machinery they serve.

Through the process of tracking sample results from oil analysis, over the service lifespan of a specific machine, trends emerge and can be reported and recorded. This can help mitigate the need for costly repairs. The examination of wear in mechanical equipment is called tribology. Detailed analysis is often performed, and its data interpreted by tribologists.

Oil analysis is divided into three different areas. These are the analysis of an oil’s properties (including the lubricants base oil and any additives included in its design), the analysis of contaminants within the oil and the analysis of any wear debris that has come from machinery.

Conditions for testing

Laboratory testing gives firms a clearer picture of how the oil they are using is coping. However, to get an accurate image of the oil, it’s important that tests are completed correctly. In order for the results to show a realistic representation, the oil temperature and level at the time of testing must be normal. It’s also essential that samples are always taken from a system during circulation, or instantly, after the system has been turned off. Once these key factors are enforced, a dependable analysis can be performed. As the same conditions and parameters are in place each time, the sample results can be reliably compared over a period of time.

Carrying out analysis, however, is not enough on its own. After results are back, companies must take time to interpret them. Oil analysis can provide firms with fresh insights and previously unknown facts about the oils they use and the machinery it lubricates. This valuable information should be considered, with conclusions drawn and actions taken.

How can oil analysis impact an enterprises productivity?

Firms seeking to improve the way they operate by safeguarding their processes and productivity will find oil analysis is exceptionally helpful. It offers operations a clearer view of how mechanical systems are functioning. When results turn up abnormal levels of abrasion and undue wear, firms can take foresee potential breakdowns further down the line and head them off before they happen.

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