When purchasing anything, mainly three things matter; price, service, and quality. However, conventional business tycoons will say one often deals with two of these at a time, not all three. Taking services from an external oil analysis laboratory is a strategic and significant decision for every company. Mostly, as like so many other business decisions, price is (incorrectly) the overall decider. There are critical aspects to choosing an oil analysis service that should come into play: interpretation skills, turnaround time, tests available, and yes, the price at the end. Often, opting for the thriftiest service ultimately becomes a regrettable investment. Choosing a commercial oil analysis lab is a big deal and should not be taken for granted.
In this article, we will address the key issues to consider in making the vital decision of which oil analysis partner to trust. It focuses on the given points when selecting a lab. These factors are presented in order of importance. The factor of the price being the least of these.
Turnaround is undoubtedly the most critical consideration. To put it simply, receiving sample test results long after the expected arrival time is unacceptable. The response timing should be 24 to 48 hours after the sample is received at the lab. The more time passes, the more it creates doubt in the mind of the client as to the accuracy of the tests. Moreover, if results are under a time constraint, they become decreasingly relevant as waiting time lingers. We recommend that an oil sample be dispatched through overnight service from a facility within 24 hours of extraction.
Range of Tests
A lab that provides a diverse range of tests is the best option. With all routine tests, the laboratory should also perform a substantial number of specialized tests. We advise having a good working relationship with the chosen lab. If the result of a test ends up being a concern, it is essential to have the ability to collaborate with the lab and inquire as to what actions should be taken next.
When the analysis of used oil came into existence, no previous tests were explicitly designed for it. After some time, specific laboratories took existing tests for similar applications (like the manufacturing of lubricants) and applied them to oil. As a result, the obtained tests were not as accurate as the ones required when paying for a modern certified ASTM or ISO test procedure. For most applications, oil analysis does not need the full accuracy that the ASTM or ISO tests provide. It should still be known that the test method used is a carefully modified version of an accredited one. Alternatively, the repeatability of the test should be trusted. This information can be collected from the lab or confirmed with independent control samples. If the lab tested with independent control samples, be sure these samples are identical. Another common problem with oil analysis users is that they do not know which test is best suited for the situation. For example, is there any way to test for moisture content in an oil sample? Some are relevant to specific applications, while others are not. There is no simple way to get around this. Just because the lab says it is okay; it does not always necessarily mean it is.
Flexibility in Test Schedules
Flexibility is another major factor. Most commercial laboratories have standard testing packages for different applications, such as hydraulics, turbines, and gearboxes. In some cases, the standard test slates will be acceptable for general needs, but occasionally, it is best to adapt the test slate to suit specific needs more accurately. One can expect a slight cost penalty with this, but what’s also sure is that it can be done without incurring the high cost of administrative overhead.
Integrating Lab, Site Results
A combination of on-site and commercial lab testing will produce the ideal oil analysis. If using on-site oil analysis, the program likely contains either a commercial or in-house-designed software package to manage it. Know that these two can easily be integrated. It requires designing software filters to integrate the two information streams.
The ideal lab must be within easy driving distance, which is extremely useful to save time. When results for a sample are urgently needed, and there is a time constraint, sending it even by express mail is often not ideal. While not always an option for all facilities, labs nearby are vastly preferable for their convenience.
A ”big fish” oil analysis can potentially save thousands of dollars over the years, but oil analysis is as simple as “you get what you pay for.”
Unfortunately, choosing quality over price is not always an easy task since its also known that many business decisions are made based on cost. While saving is significant, it is also essential to consider the rewards from a slightly bolder investment. Often a thriftier option in the present could potentially mean more significant losses in the future.
An Important Choice
Oil analysis can be utilized to direct resources for emergency repairs, pin the blame on others, or measure the health of a lubrication management program. Its even been utilized as a tool to ensure machines had oil in them. However, if one views oil analysis as a proactive maintenance resource (as one should), it is best to choose a commercial lab as one would choose a healthcare provider.