Research & Best Practices

What is Oil Analysis for Predictive Maintenance?


Machinery oil analysis is an established, yet still-developing, practice that is building on today’s industrial technology to become a key part of a predictive maintenance strategy. What is oil analysis? It is a set of monitoring and inspection steps and processes that provide insight into the condition and state of machinery lubricating oil.

What does an oil analysis tell you? Drawing on data about the condition of the oil, it provides information about the performance of the machine and whether or not maintenance may soon be required. With effective, technology- and data-driven analysis, predictive maintenance can become a money-saving part of your maintenance plan.

How is oil analysis conducted?

Oil analysis predictive maintenance methods can comprise numerous areas and tactics. Primary among these is the following:

  • Visual inspection for contamination and viscosity: To be most effective, visual oil checks should be conducted at least daily. These simple checks can reveal the presence of debris, large contaminants, viscosity irregularities and other issues that, if caught early, can be addressed relatively easily (often by simply changing out the oil). Visual inspection can also indicate larger problems with equipment wear.
  • Fluid property inspection for contamination and viscosity: A more advanced chemical lubricating oil analysis can provide even more detail about the condition of oil, detecting the presence of smaller contaminants and chemical signatures that indicate whether the oil is becoming worn. Fluid property inspections can be conducted less frequently than visual inspections but should still occur often enough to detect potential problems before they affect equipment operation and production.
  • Wear analysis: Since oil is in direct contact with moving parts, it is the place where debris — no matter how small — ends up as these parts undergo wear and tear. The presence of debris or contaminants indicates the rate of equipment wear and can alert maintenance personnel and equipment operators to premature wear issues that indicate abnormal operation — which can then be addressed.
  • Continuously monitoring trends: While oil analysis is not a new technology, collaboration with manufacturing technology such as connected sensors and data analytics represents a new phase for this useful process. By continuously monitoring oil conditions and transmitting data to internal analytics repositories, equipment sensors facilitate a more informed and data-driven approach to equipment maintenance.

Oil analysis is a detailed process that requires expertise to be carried out effectively. In addition, data and analytics expertise are more important than ever for making sense of the vast amount of information that can be collected by continuously monitoring sensors. As part of a comprehensive predictive maintenance program, ATS provides the necessary expertise and personnel to effectively carry out oil analysis, while supporting your operations with surge support, technical workforce solutions and more.

Benefits of oil analysis

Oil analysis offers benefits that include:

  • Early detection of unexpected equipment wear, indicating the presence of potential issues in equipment functionality
  • An accurate picture of when oil should be replaced, so that oil does not remain in service once no longer effective, while also ensuring that oil is not unnecessarily changed based on rigid time schedules, thus reducing costs
  • A frontline look into equipment performance, since oil conditions are closely related to equipment efficiency, wear and effectiveness
  • An ongoing and ever-expanding set of data that allows for more informed maintenance scheduling and decision-making, ultimately improving maintenance efficiency and productivity, and lowering maintenance costs

When to use oil analysis

Oil analysis is useful for any facility where equipment that requires oil is in use. Some of the prime scenarios for oil analysis include:

  • When tightening margins require innovative ways to reduce costs. Shifting from a time-based to a condition-based oil replacement plan is one such way to do this
  • When it is critical to reduce or eliminate equipment failures that shut down production
  • When the facility wishes to implement a more data-based approach to maintenance
  • When early detection of equipment wear is desired

Oil analysis services could save you …

Time savings …

  • Reduce time spent unnecessarily replacing oil when not needed
  • Implement a scheduled visual and physical oil check strategy that reduces overall time spent on testing and maintenance
  • Reduce the occurrence of major maintenance events that could be avoided with early detection
  • Over time, make use of data to streamline operations

Cost savings …

  • Reduce material costs by only replacing oil when it is necessary to do so
  • Identify premature equipment wear early, allowing you to remedy the issue rather than allowing equipment to become damaged or fail
  • Reduce maintenance costs through a more proactive, predictive strategy informed by oil analysis
  • Optimize inventory ordering and logistics with a data-based approach

Helping manufacturers around the world

As part of our predictive maintenance solutions, ATS offers expertise in oil analysis technology. Our technology-driven approach to maintenance helps you eliminate unplanned downtime and reduce costs. Contact us today to learn more.

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