Selecting Oil Analysis Laboratory and Diagnostic Services

It has to start with the objective of the CM programme undertook by the organisation. This will define what parameters required for the evaluation.

However for the purpose of discussion, the key areas to be considered will be the followings:-

  1. Result turn-around time.
  2. Result quality.
  3. Diagnostic quality.
  4. Solution support.



Typically 5 working days is a norm for lab turn-around. However, logistics of sending the sample will play a big role in how soon can the end-user get the answer. Will it be OK within 2 weeks or 1 months or result is needed on the day of sampling is dependent on the issues. What are the “High Impact, Highly Likely” is defined and evaluated by the users, what are they? Turbo-compressors will be most likely be the focus and the oil condition is monitored to know primarily how long it can be extended. In most cases test is conducted every 6 months on the oil and criterias related to “oxidation stability” of the oil is the key focus. Oxidation being developing slowly, may not be so critical to know too early but waiting longer than 2 weeks may not be a good practise. There are other possible issues such as water ingress due to seal leak, process stream contamination, fuel dilutions, increase level of wear rate that is less predictable and turn to critical situation within the span of 2 weeks. Lab can provide results within 3 days subject to the arrival of properly couriered and documentend sample. The question is how soon the sample can reach the lab? 


For condition monitoring, trending is more important than exact accuracy. The main purpose is to know at what point what is “good” turn “bad” and the sign of turning bad is typically gradual. However, it is important that the laboratory is credible and do have good information management system as sample do get mixed-up and mixed up samples means messed-up recommendations. With a long line of transmission this can be a major hassle. A company with good information management system and certified chemist will be most preferred.


Accurate result without improper interpretation/diagnosis will cause confusion too. Hence experience reputable professional is needed to interpret the data presented by the lab. There are Lubrication Engineers, Oil Analyst with certification such as Machinery Lubrication Analyst (Level  I,II, or III) from NORIA and Oil Monitoring Analyst (Level I and II) from STLE.


Quality of reporting, recommendations and access to solutions can be a complementary and at time crucial support factor. These factors are more subjective, and based on impact analysis priority can be given. The first two factors are primarily people and system related, which can easily be reviewed and improved, progressively. However, “access to solutions” will involve technology and materials that may not be as quick to source.


If related “solutions” can be identified, problem that have been diagnosed may have a ready solution. Imagine first we do a blood test in a lab, lab report goes to the doctor to confirm that the patient have cholesterol problem, he write a “chit” for the right pills, then the pills can be collected from the pharmacy. Some hospitals do have such facilities in it’s compound. Would’nt it be nice we can have the same for a multibillion dollars facilities.