February 3, 2016

Maximizing Your Oil Analysis Tools

Do you have the right PLAN, PROCESS, TOOLS and EXPERTISE to realize the maximum value from your oil analysis program?


A successful oil analysis program will stand firm atop these four pillars. If just one of them is missing or weak then the program is at risk to waiver and eventually falls apart. Fluid Life works closely with our customers to help strengthen their programs in all four areas. In part three of this four part series you will find some tips for better utilization of, and improving upon, the TOOLS you use for lubricant analysis.

Did you know that lubricant analysis suppliers often compete on the differentiation of their software platforms?

A web portal or software platform is the primary tool supplied by vendors to support their lubricant analysis programs. The process of vendor selection is not usually made without first having a demonstration of the company’s software capabilities. This is because any savings realized on a per sample basis can quickly be erased if the proposed provider has an inferior platform that requires more time and resources to manage. The below table demonstrates how a small inefficiency can result in a cost of more than $2 per sample.

Planning / SchedulingSample Collection
Efficient PlatformInefficient PlatformEfficient ProcessInefficient Process
 Sample Volume
per Year
10,00010,000 Sample Volume per Year10,00010,000
Average Salary$80,000$80,000Average Salary$80,000$80,000
Avg. Time per Sample to Administer OA Program810Avg. Time per Sample to Record Information20.5
Avg. Work Hours
per Year
21842184Avg. Work Hours per Year21842184
Hours Spent on OA13331667Hours Spent Recording OA Info33383
% of Salary Devoted
to OA
61%76%% of Salary devoted to OA15%4%
Salary Allocated to
OA Program
$48,840$61,050Salary Allocated to Sample Registration$12,210$3,053
$ Wasted Due to Inefficient Platform-$12,210$ Wasted Due to Inefficient Process-$9,158
TOTAL LOSS DUE TO INEFFICIENCY IS $2.14 PER SAMPLE

This is a very conservative example based on studies of Fluid Life customers. The actual loss due to inefficiency tends to be much higher, especially in areas with a higher cost of labor. The important thing to remember is that the right tool can save you money.

So, what should you be looking for in your lubricant analysis platform? It should be Functional, Fast and Flexible.

Functional

Before exploring the functionality of any platform it is good practice to have an idea of what YOU would like the software to do. Once you have a feature set in mind you can explore what is available in the market and choose a product that is aligned with your feature requirements. Your list will likely grow as you see features and workflows demonstrated that you had not previously even thought of. As a very basic starting point, your platform should be able to perform the following tasks:

  • Administration – Control your data
    • Edit/Add users and manage user privileges/access
    • Add/Remove/Copy/Move/Merge units, components and samples
  • Sample Registration
    • There should be an option for sample registration that fits your existing workflow such as the ability to pre-print barcoded sample labels to reduce admin time.
  • Review New Results
    • Acknowledge samples across user accounts
    • Place components on a watch list
  • Maintenance Information
    • Somewhere to enter maintenance information such as component change outs that can be interleafed with sample results to help with data interpretation.
    • Ideally, linked directly to your CMMS system.
  • Follow Up Actions
    • Ability to create a follow up action or ‘project file’ based on an oil analysis result.
    • You should be able to open and close the actions so that you can easily track them through to completion.
    • Again, ideally linked directly to your CMMS system.
  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Dashboards
    • Create, view and customize KPI Dashboards.
    • Ability to generate Return on Investment (ROI) information.

Fast

Although a few extra seconds of load time here and there might not sound like or even add up to much, they can cause a great deal of frustration to the user. Due to resource constraints most people are forced to wear more than one hat. When lubricant analysis is just one of many responsibilities the user needs to be able to login, perform the required functions and logout. The more selections or ‘clicks’ the user has to make, the more load time experienced and thus the higher the level of frustration with the platform. Your system should be:

  • Built for usability and speed
  • Have processes in place to reduce individual page load times and buffering
  • Save default viewing configurations and preferences

Some additional functions to look for that will save you time:

  • Administration
    • Save common profiles or ‘roles’ so that users can be changed and created quickly.
    • Mass editing available in spreadsheet style format (role permitting).
  • Sample Registration
    • Multiple sample editing for components from the same unit to avoid having to enter the same information multiple times.
    • Automated meter reading import from an email, ftp site or direct link to your CMMS.
    • Pre-printed barcode labels
    • Component tag scanning compatible with mobile phones and tablets
  • Review New Results
    • Forward results to users and non-users
    • Automated trend analysis
    • Automatically identify correlated
  • Follow Up Actions
    • Ability within the program to collaborate within your own organization and externally with the laboratory and OEMs.
  • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Dashboards
    • Create a custom dashboard and have it emailed to you on a set interval.

Flexible

The flexibility of a system measures the company’s ability to respond to changes/advances in the market as well respond to customer requests for functionality. The primary indicator is whether or not the analysis provider has an in-house team of software developers dedicated to working on their platform. A company without internal resources to make changes will either be reluctant or unable to customize workflows to fit your business needs.

Some other things to watch out for:

  • Has the system been optimized for mobile platforms such as phones and tablets?
  • Is their database directly accessible by other programs such as reporting tools like Microsoft Excel and Crystal Reports (usually through an Open Database Connectivity tool)
  • How many in-house software developers does the company employ?

Does it make your life EASY?

At the end of the day, there are going to be many features and benefits included in various different analysis platforms. The key is to find the balance between the quality of laboratory service offered and the software platform that is going to make your job as easy as possible.

If you would like to see how Fluid Life’s mylab platform can save you time and money click here.