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Sat 26 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

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Oil analysis

A firm has invented a novel way of ensuring machines are serviced as needed.

A lubricant company has come up with a novel way of ensuring machines are serviced when needed.

We take regular oil changes for granted - after all, who is going to risk a million dollar machine for a few dirhams of lube? However, simply changing the oil on schedule doesn't really tell the owner anything about the condition of the engine, or if the right oil is being used.

Of course some operators claim to be able to divine the workings of an engine by the colour and viscosity of the oil, however the black stuff is generally regarded as an end product of servicing, rather than integral to it.

However, a major oil multinational hopes to bring something new to the party, with analysis service.

A sample of lubricant is sent via courier to Exxon Mobil's lab in Alexandria, where it undergoes a series of tests. Michel Gouzerh, CEO ExxonMobil Lubricants explained: "Our customer register through a website. They send samples of oil to our lab in Alexandria and then in two days they get exactly what you get when you have a blood test. You get a picture of data and this gives you what is happening in the equipment. What happens in the life of the equipment is that the oil deteriorates. So the key is not the quality of the oil, it is the quality of the oil over time. The oil will deteriorate, it will be contaminated or there will be deposits so the characteristics of the oil will go down so the quality of the oil is not the starting point it is how it stays over time."

He adds: "If you don't monitor, you may have problems, it's like your car, one day it will have mechanical troubles. So, at intervals you have no guarantee that you don't have contamination by water, you may have all or a sudden, you may have just made an oil change and there were some contaminants from the previous oil, and then after a few weeks it will appear."

"So, simply changing the oil on a very high frequency would be a very basic way to run a business."Of course oil is not expensive in relation to the cost of a machine, However, Gouzerh suggests that the data captured from the fluid is valuable in many ways: "Number one it tells you how the oil is today, not when the customer purchased it. The test gives some indication on the nature of the oil by fuel, or water contamination that could have very bad consequences for the engine. We then test for metal particles in the oil. If you have metal in the oil, it means that there is abnormal wear in the engine." After testing, a report is prepared.

"The customer will receive the reports, either by post, fax or online. The chart needs careful reading, so we have colour coded it to make it easy for our customers to understand." He pointed out an example chart with a red marker, saying there is contamination in the oil.

"As you see on this one something is wrong, you have some copper in the engine."

"So, as a consequence of that the benefit for our customer is; well we have two kinds of benefit; for me, the best and most important benefit is to prevent a catastrophic engine failure."

He elaborated, "You are talking billions of investments of projects. When you have an engine failure then you have to stop work then the machine isn't making money. So the benefit of this is to monitor what we know and can prevent it happening."

Gouzerh also pointed out that if the sample doesn't indicate undue wear, or suggest that the oil itself is breaking down, then there would be a case for lengthening the service interval of your fleet, thus giving a competitive edge.The construction sector is one of our ‘focus sectors' as the machines are heavy duty, expensive and require extremely high performance.

"The [job for] us is to provide the customer with the best possible lubricants, from mineral oil right to from the old semi synth to fully, the trucks are more difficult... the customer wants to purchase a good lubricant, and there are lots of the customer will pour the oil in the equipment and will start to monitor what is happening over time."

Rounding up his thought about oil analysis, Gouzerh explained, You go and see the doctor and the doctor tells you 'well, it has been very hot recently' You might be OK, but you might get very sick.

"You go to a clinic and get a blood test. You have a lower and upper limit battery of tests. And then even more important for you health is not is probably to see what happens next month."

"It may be well be below the limit, but that you have the problem, and that is what Signum is all about."

"Our customer register. They send samples of oil to our lab in Alexandria and then in two days they get exactly what you get when you have a blood test. You get a picture of data and this gives you what is happening in the equipment . What happens in the life of the equipment is that the oil deteriorates. So the key is not the quality of the oil, it is the quality of the oil over time."

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ken 11 years ago

Is this a joke, this type of service has been available for more than 30 years by Caterpillar

Amr Massoud 11 years ago

I don't see how this can ever be considered "novel". Oil analysis and reporting has actually been around since at least the 1990s, if not earlier, and is one of the added value services many lube companies use to enhance their customer service, especially in the industrial and commercial market segments. The article describes what any serious lube company, particularly the majors and global players, would offer as oil analysis. The critical issue is not the service itself, but the proper interpretation of the results of the analysis. Using the same analogy of the blood sample and its laboratory analysis, it is the lab technician that provides the results, but it is up to an experienced doctor to interpret the results, and since interpretation is a "human factor" that can have tremendous consequences, it is also the responsibility of the lube companies to ensure the person providing the interpretation (of oil analysis results) be a qualified person that deeply understands both the chemistry of the oil and the mechanics of the machine, as well as the environment in which the machine is operating. Furthermore, a good knowledge of the history of the machine in question is essential to determine the critical levels. Trends are much more relevant to this than one time results.