February 24, 2020

Oil Analysis Sample Data Integrity

When looking at your oil analysis reports, how often do check your CMMS to confirm component hours, oil hours, or previous maintenance activities?  How often are your results fragmented and split up in your database?  How often do your mechanics, technicians or maintenance clerks complain about how much work goes into getting a sample ready for your lab to analyze?

Do these questions seem familiar?

Sometimes, it’s tough to find the time to properly interpret and utilize your oil and fluid analysis results.  It is even more difficult when you find out your sample information is incorrect or non-existent on your reports.   To get the most out of your oil analysis program and ensure more accurate results, data integrity is critical. 

Key Data Points

For a typical oil analysis program, the important information required for each sample includes the following:

  • Unit ID
  • Component Type
  • Oil Changed (Y/N)
  • Oil Type
  • Sample Date
  • Meter Readings (Unit, Component and Oil Hours)

These are the key data points needed to ensure results are reported with a measure of accuracy.

Improving Data Collection

To improve the integrity of your sample data, here are a few initiatives you can incorporate into your sample data collection process.

1. Sampling Registration Alternatives

Gone are the days of writing sample information by hand on a sample card.  Anyone who has ever done this knows that by the third or fourth sample, the quality of the written information has gone downhill quickly.  At this point, not only will there be missing information on your reports, but your analysis history can become fragmented due to unclear hand written information interpreted by lab personnel. 

The use of online sample registration functionality and sample labels has improved data integrity compared to written sample cards.  However, this process could involve multiple personnel, multiple touches, printers, labels, etc., especially for larger operations.  Some sample label formats still require hand written information as well.

Today, oil analysis users are incorporating mobile devices and QR code technology into their sample registration process.  Not only does this new method transfer sample information automatically to your lab and guarantee a high level of integrity, but it also eliminates the need for multiple personnel to be involved in the process and/or the printing or use of sample labels or paper cards.  Fluid Life currently offers this technology to all of our active oil analysis users. 

2. Automatic Hour Imports

Regardless of what registration method you choose, you still want to limit the amount of overall work involved, such as making some of the required sample information readily available to the lab.  Since your technicians and mechanics are already reporting meter readings in your CMMS, Fluid Life can automatically import daily, weekly or monthly hour exports from your CMMS.  When it comes time to register a sample, we simply reference the sample date to pull the corresponding hour information.  For weekly or monthly hour imports, our myLab portal estimates the hour information between uploads to maintain data integrity on non-import days. 

3. Incorporate Default Oil Types into Component Profiles

Adding a default oil type (manufacturer, brand and grade) to individual component profiles will automatically add the oil’s flagging limits and reference baseline data to be included on a report.  This will eliminate the need for your technicians or mechanics to provide this information as it is already included as a part of the component’s saved information, similar to the make, model, location and serial information.

If you use seasonal oils, Fluid Life’s myLab portal allows you to incorporate both oil types into the component profile, eliminating the need to update default oil information as the seasons change.     

4. Document Maintenance Actions Into Oil Analysis History

Adding maintenance histories and component overhauls in to your oil analysis results is one of the last steps to optimize the integrity of your sample information.  This will help those responsible for interpreting the data to more easily identify “non-alarm” situations like break in wear or an increase in contamination due to repair, but to also confirm that corrective actions were taken when necessary.  At the very least, oil analysis users should try to reference work orders or work notification numbers in the report comments/notes to allow other stakeholders to confirm what follow up and corrective actions have been taken and ensure that the anticipated value is being extracted from your results. 

Getting Started

While some of these improvement initiatives may seem tedious and that it’s not always easy to change a process once it’s implemented, the amount of time you’ll save and the benefit from the improved data integrity is well worth it.  

The experts at Fluid Life can help you with improving your data integrity. Contact us.


Marc Pinkerton, Account Manager Mining and Construction, has been managing clients at Fluid Life for 7 years.  Aside from providing technical expertise, Marc also specializes in the optimization of administrative and logistical requirements for any successful condition monitoring program.