February 1, 2016

Outsourcing Lubrication Reliability: What to look for in an RCM partner

If you are just starting down the path of Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), or even if you have a mature RCM program in place, you might be considering outsourcing lubrication reliability functions. Doing so allows you and your team to concentrate on what you do best – taking care of your equipment – and provides you access to a team of trained lubrication and reliability specialists focused on reviewing and interpreting your oil analysis results. Sounds like a win-win, but what should you be looking for when outsourcing reliability services?

First and foremost, you need to recognize that your oil analysis program is just that – yours. Outsourcing doesn’t mean simply handing off the responsibility to a third party. Your lubricant reliability partner needs to be a true partner, a member of your team, working towards the goals you want to achieve. They need to work collaboratively with you in determining your needs, taking into account not only your specific equipment, but your industry, your unique operating conditions, and what success looks like for you. A reliability program based on generic goals and targets may result in some gains, but RCM is about ­optimizing your maintenance practices, not just improving them.

The Map

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Optimizing your maintenance program through the use of oil analysis is a proven concept. Understanding what is going on inside your equipment, and responding based on that knowledge is certainly an improvement over not knowing and simply reacting when a failure occurs. Optimization, though, is a journey made up of dozens of improvement steps. Taking those steps without a clear plan can result in side tracks, blind alleys, and other dead ends. Planning out a map for your road to success and following it, ensuring that you are taking the steps that will lead you to your destination quickly and efficiently, is critical. By examining what your goals are and helping you plan out the path to meet those goals, your lubrication reliability partner should keep you on track; taking the steps that will provide you with the biggest gains first and preventing you from getting lost.

Problem Recognition

“You cannot see the wood for the trees.” – John Heywood

In a reactive maintenance approach, one is often so busy responding to urgent issues that the big picture is lost. Failures need to be addressed in a timely manner, of course. In taking care of business, however, the time may not be taken to sort through the oil analysis signals that could have predicted the failure or led you to the root cause. Or, alternatively, you may see impending doom in every sample report because the lab is identifying too many problems, and you end up chasing ghosts. Your reliability partner should assist you in sorting out what needs immediate attention, what can be addressed on a more scheduled basis, what patterns of failure might be appearing, and what steps can be taken to reduce them.


“If it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen.” – Medical axiom

A comprehensive oil analysis program for a major enterprise generates a ton of documentation. The analysis reports, the procedures and guidelines for dealing with issues that need to be in place, the work orders to deal with problems, and the tracking documents to ensure the work is completed appropriately. But that’s just the beginning. You want to ensure that you have a way of measuring and quantifying your success, that your data can be trusted, that the program is being followed, and that your investment is paying off. Your reliability partner should have programs in place to help you with work order generation and tracking, with keeping track of maintenance events, with ensuring compliance, and with tracking the financial benefits arising from the work.


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonides

Outsourcing any element of an RCM program doesn’t mean you no longer need to understand that element. Ultimately, any decision to act on your oil analysis results is your responsibility, so you and your team need to understand what those results mean. Your partner should not only report your results, but interpret and explain them in a way that provides you with the knowledge you need to act decisively. Your reliability partner should be both able and willing to provide you and your team with in-depth training aimed at developing your knowledge and understanding of oil analysis. The outsourcing relationship is, after all, a partnership, and partnerships work best when knowledge is shared.

Change Management

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Change is often difficult; even positive change needs to be managed, directed, and nurtured to take full effect. When good ideas fail to take hold, it can usually be traced back to the momentum of simply doing things as they were done before. When new ideas succeed, however, you can always find someone who worked to ensure that success. With the various other responsibilities you have, though, your reliability partner needs to provide the support you need to keep the change moving; to transform the culture in your organization so that it embraces RCM fully. Only then will you go beyond simply making improvements here and there and truly optimize your maintenance program.


“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Your assets – your engines, pumps, compressors, gearboxes, turbines, trucks, dozers, shovels, etc. – are what turn your organization’s inspiration, ideas, and hard work into success. Trusting someone with even some aspects of the reliability for those assets is a big step. That step is much easier to take if you know that the other party is as interested in your success as you are. In a true partnership, that is the case. Success for one partner means success for both. Your reliability partner needs to ensure that what is being recommended will result in success; that you both agree on how success is measured, and that you are confident in the fact that your assets are being well-managed.

Fluid Life’s Reliability Solutions

At Fluid Life, our aim is to set you on the path to reliability excellence. Our flexible, three-stage approach (Identification, Improvement, and Sustainability & Control) is designed with the individual needs of our clients in mind. Working together, we’ll determine where your organization fits in the process, and our team of reliability experts will be there to guide you through each and every stage. We can help you identify where there might be opportunities to improve your oil analysis and lubrication processes. We can devise and implement plans for specific improvement projects with your goals in mind. We can provide sustainable solutions that ensure the long-term success of your oil analysis program.

What’s more, Fluid Life is the only company of its kind to offer reliability services backed by in-house labs. Over the past 30 years, Fluid Life has established a great reputation and long-standing partnerships with customers in the mining, construction, industrial plant, oil and gas and transportation industries. We look forward to talking to you about being your Reliability Centered Maintenance partner.