Oil sampling and analysis are nonnegotiable steps for maintaining the health of your machinery. However, it’s unlikely that you have an in-house laboratory or the equipment necessary to analyze an oil sample. This means you must rely on a third party to conduct the tests and compile accurate results. With all that heavy responsibility, you need to make sure you choose an oil analysis laboratory that’s reliable and reputable–but how? To help you find a trustworthy analysis laboratory, let’s take a look at a few factors you need to consider before making a final decision.
Most laboratories specialize in a particular industry or set of industries, and while they may have the equipment necessary to run the tests, they may not have the knowledge to interpret them accurately. There’s no shame in asking the lab what their field of expertise is, what their limitations are, and whether they claim to work with every industry. If a laboratory isn’t upfront and honest about what they are and aren’t capable of, it’s a big red flag.
The length of the process varies depending on the distance of the facility and the complexity of the tests. However, you shouldn’t have to wait longer than 48 hours to receive results after the sample arrives. The longer it takes, the harder it becomes to rely on the accuracy of the results. Additionally, a high-quality laboratory should provide a bar code with your sampling kit so you can track the sample.
Testing Range and Reliability
Many laboratories have a set of tests to run routine inspections. While regular oil analysis is incredibly important and beneficial, they should offer a decent range of tests if a client needs something more specific. On top of that, they should be able to help you determine which tests are best suited to meet your concerns. You should ask them whether their lab abides by ASTM or ISO standards to ensure they’re conducting accurate tests.
Before you choose an oil analysis laboratory, ask to see what a typical report looks like to determine its readability. While the report likely won’t give you maintenance recommendations or outright tell you if the results are “good” or “bad,” it should have a few things. It should identify the relevant machine or component and tell you whether action is needed or not, and you should be able to understand the problem at a glance. Laboratories know that many of their clients aren’t oil analysis experts, so providing clear results should be important to them.
While it isn’t always possible for every industry, you should try to work with a laboratory that’s as close to your facility as possible. When you urgently need a report, sending your sample by express mail isn’t ideal, especially if you have a time constraint. However, speed isn’t always a priority, so don’t wear yourself out if you can’t find one within driving distance. Just know that the closer they are, the easier the entire process will be.