4 Tips to Help You Become a Sampling Pro

Since we introduced our new 3 oz. sample jar that is better equipped for sampling, we’ve seen a drastic decrease in leaking, messy bottles arriving at our laboratory – meaning you get your results back faster.

There are many benefits to the, somewhat still new, 3 oz. sample jar we released to our customers in the beginning of 2017. These benefits include translucency, higher temperature threshold and cap-locking with a wedge seal feature to prevent leaks.

Below are some extra tips to make sure you’re properly using the bottle like a pro and sampling correctly, so you can get the most accurate and reliable test results.

  1. Pull samples utilizing safe sampling practices [see our blog Fluid Analysis 101: 5 Tips for Collecting the Best Sample] and proper protective equipment. While the 3 oz. sample jar is designed to withstand higher fluid temperatures, safety should always be top of mind.
  2. Once the fluid sample has been taken, inspect the jar for particles – now that you can see the fluid that was pulled out of your equipment (due to the translucency of the jar), be aware of what is floating inside so when your results come back, proper action can be taken.
  3. Fill the sample bottle only to the designated “Fill Line” – no higher.
    • If there is fluid in the neck of the bottle, air may not release causing the cap to not seal properly.
  4. Do not over tighten (torque) the sample cap. The cap’s unique locking feature helps to ensure that it doesn’t loosen when the sample jar cools and the wedge seal prevents leaking.

We hope these extra tips will come in handy when you’re taking your next sample. Here at POLARIS Laboratories®, we’re continuously making improvements and providing useful resources to help our customers maximize their fluid analysis program.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published August 6, 2018

Achieving Operational Efficiency Through Program Improvement

Achieving maintenance operational efficiency requires focus, smart thinking and innovation. Mammoet, a heavy-lifting and transport company, was able to identify areas and opportunities for program improvement – this included leveraging teamwork, maximizing data management, implementing shipping enhancements and taking advantage of program management solutions available.

The improvements Mammoet implemented in their program opened up the opportunity for the company to move from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance and significantly extending their oil drain intervals. Learn more by reading the case study.

A Look Back: Oil Analysis Then and Now

As I look back, it is hard to believe I have now been involved in the oil analysis industry for more than 35 years. I was first introduced to this science in 1983, while in the military. I was assigned to my first permanent duty station as a track vehicle mechanic (MOS 63Y10). My motor officer was sold on the value that oil analysis offered and over time – I began to learn and believe in the value as well.

So what has changed over the years? First off, ‘oil analysis’ is now most commonly referred to as ‘fluid analysis’ as other fluids are commonly tested as part of customer programs – not just oil.

Then: Reactive

In the 80’s and 90’s, we used oil analysis to help prevent catastrophic failure from occurring. You might say a ‘just in time’ maintenance approach. If a high severity oil analysis report was received on a specific piece of equipment, the equipment associated with the high severity report would be moved up on the priority list for maintenance, more often than not a ‘reactive’ maintenance event.

Now: Predictive

Today, using not only oil analysis, but including fuel analysis and coolant analysis, to prevent catastrophic failures from occurring remains a primary goal. However, if you end your focus there you are missing out and not taking full advantage of what these services can offer your maintenance program today.

World-class maintenance organizations are now taking advantage of the full capabilities that an effective fluid analysis program offers. They are no longer just concentrating on preventing catastrophic failures, but also:

  • Monitoring oil condition: allowing the ability to optimize drain intervals.
  • Monitoring fluid cleanliness: taking action to filter and clean fluids and by doing so, greatly increasing component life hours.
  • Monitoring additives: allowing the ability to quickly detect when lubricant mixing or cross contamination has occurred
  • Moving from preventative maintenance to predictive maintenance: with fluid analysis, and additional non-invasive testing technologies, we can monitor the health of the components. Thus, allowing to move away from the old practices of replacing or rebuilding components on a prescribed interval and performing rebuild and replacements only when alerted to do so.
  • Coolant analysis: For liquid-cooled components, coolant analysis is essential. Did you know that more than 50 percent of all “preventable, premature” engine failures are related to cooling system issues?
  • Fuel analysis: For today’s diesel engines, tolerances are tighter than ever before. Issues with fuel results in fuel system wear, decreased performance and even failure.

It’s No Longer Reactive

There is much more that a quality fluid analysis program program offers. Since today’s fluid analysis capabilities alerts us to the very earliest stages of wear, we are able to plan and schedule maintenance activities and move away from reactive, unplanned events. By doing so, we find that equipment availability increases, completion rate of scheduled events improves, the safety risk associated with reactive maintenance is greatly diminished, equipment availability improves and maintenance cost are reduced.

Testing Procedures Have Changed, Too

What about the test procedures themselves, have they improved over the years? The answer is yes! When I first began my career, the standard test slate included monitoring 18 elements for routine testing. Today, POLARIS Laboratories® standard routine test slate includes 24 elements, allowing the monitoring of wear for the latest generation of your equipment. The improvements have not stopped there. Improvements in particle counting, fuel dilution, soot, water and even the reporting software have seen great improvements as well.

Innovative Report and Software Advancements

When it comes to the reporting software, we are no longer limited to reviewing just a single report but we can quickly identify common causes of high severity reports, amongst common component types and adjust our maintenance activities and strategies to overcome potential issues. Today’s testing can truly provide a significant return on investment and help keep your equipment running better than ever before.

In closing, I leave you this advice. Identify the goals of your fluid analysis program, then check your fluid analysis test package profile and ensure that the test that are being performed by your service provider includes the individual test to meet those goals. The times and the testing have changed and all test packages are not created equal. Goals and testing need to be aligned. If you have questions or would like to evaluate you current program I encourage you to contact your laboratory.


Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published July 24, 2018

Are You Using the Right Test Package?

POLARIS Laboratories® offers a wide range of fluid analysis test packages and choosing the right ones for your equipment can be difficult (especially if you’re new to fluid analysis). The most common mistake is believing basic testing is a good starting point for all programs. Basic tests for testing your oil, coolant and diesel fuel are clearly much better than changing oil at set intervals and then fixing problems after the equipment breaks down. However, it can only provide limited maintenance recommendations. So, how do you know what test packages are best for your program?

What are the Goals?

A good place to start is going back to the goals of your program that were established when you started your fluid analysis program. For example, if your goal is to optimize drain intervals of diesel engines, you need to monitor trends on when oil properties break down and can’t protect the equipment adequately. Basic testing doesn’t provide the necessary testing (oxidation/nitration and base number) to gather the data for you to make an informed decision based on the results of a basic test. It’s important to re-visit the goals of your fluid analysis program before you approach test package options and this will allow you to determine whether you need basic or advanced testing.

An Example: Karl Fisher vs. Crackle

Some test packages seem to cover the same areas, but the more expensive the test is, doesn’t necessarily mean it will provide better recommendations. For example, the Karl Fisher test runs at a higher price than the crackle method, both tests measure the water concentration, but your equipment, fluid type and how the equipment is being used affects what test should be performed.

Crackle is only an estimate of the water content while Karl Fisher will accurately measure the water content and report it in percent or parts per million. Engine oils are designed to hold a certain amount of water, so it takes a high concentration to affect the system. Crackle testing is adequate for this purpose, while Karl Fischer testing is a bit of an overkill.

On the other hand, the fluid in a hydraulic or turbine system isn’t designed to absorb nearly as much water as engine oil. In addition, the concentration where water begins to damage those systems is below the detection limit of a crackle test. In this case, Karl Fisher testing is necessary to identify when the equipment is at risk.

Choosing a Test Package

When choosing your fluid test package, keep the big picture in mind – the real savings come from preventing breakdowns, optimizing fluid drains and extending the useful life of equipment. As long as your testing provides data and recommendations that support those goals, you’re on the right track. Click here to download the complete testing list of tests provided by POLARIS Laboratories®.

If you want to discuss your current fluid analysis program or discuss the test packages options available, contact your account manager or email custserv@eoilreports.com.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published June 28, 2018

Summer Heat Got You Down?

Cooling systems are already burdened with high operating temperatures, and summertime heat can take its toll on your equipment. In order to continuously improve your system’s life and maintain effectiveness, proper cooling system maintenance is vital.

So, what can you do to monitor and identify overheating issues that can lead to catastrophic failure, loss of productivity and a decrease in ROI? Routinely test your coolant – especially during the hot summer months. Read more in our technical bulletin.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published June 12, 2018

Is Your Program Losing Momentum?

Maintaining a successful program comes with challenges

Maintenance teams jump over countless hurdles and experience numerous challenges while building an efficient predictive maintenance program. These hurdles and challenges can result in the maintenance program slowly losing it’s momentum. Below, I’ve outlined some common reasons we see that could explain why maintenance programs may not live up to their potential and be maximized fully:

  • Budget | maintenance program is the first budget to get reduced
  • Leadership Changes | executive management changes can result in new overall maintenance goals
  • Loss of Value| the company may no longer see value in their predictive maintenance program

At POLARIS Laboratories®, we strive to establish, achieve and maintain rapport with our customers and who we call Program Champions. These Program Champions are true believers in the benefits, cost savings and increasing equipment reliability resulting from an effective fluid analysis program. As an Account Manager, I see the above reasons and changes occur more frequently than you would expect. Often times, when maintenance programs lose their momentum and begin to dwindle, the entire process for establishing a Program Champion and a routine, effective fluid analysis program starts over. Although this provides a struggle for us as a partner you as a customer – we see this as an opportunity to educate the maintenance team and executive level leadership on the importance of a successful predictive maintenance program while incorporating fluid analysis.

What do you do if your predictive maintenance program loses its momentum?

There are companies that provide solutions and services – whether it be a consulting firm or equipment manufacturer – for improving maintenance programs but ultimately, the customer is responsible for implementing the solutions and maintaining them.

Below are some practical ways to keep your predictive maintenance program from losing momentum – by utilizing existing resources.

  1. Establish a Program Champion who sees the value in improving equipment reliability who can train the maintenance team to maximize and execute the program.
  2. Keep in constant communication with the fluid analysis and other service providers.
  3. Partner with a reliable, accredited fluid analysis laboratory who can help the end user monitor their equipment’s condition before it becomes critical.

Overall, it’s important to overcome these hurdles and maintain your maintenance program, it could save you both time and money in the end. And, let’s face it – can your equipment afford not to?

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published May 8, 2018

From the Expert: Effects of Varnish

Varnish is a gel-like substance that adheres to metal surfaces and can cause hot spots, increase in machine temperature and can result in filter plugging, micro-dieseling and can cause catastrophic failure. It’s important to test for varnish on turbines, compressors, hydraulics and large circulation and lube systems. We’ve turned to our expert, CLS and OMA I certified Data Analyst, Elaine Hepley, to explore varnish and the Membrane Patch Colorimetry (MPC) test conducted to detect it as well as two other tests that can help identify varnish formation potential.

  • Membrane Patch Colorimetry (MPC) ASTM D7843
    • MPC is a test designed to capture any presence of varnish that is soluble with the oil. This test is performed by heating the sample to 60 to 65 degrees Celsius for 23 to 25 hours. The sample is then placed in the dark away from UV light for 68 to 76 hours. After the incubation period, the sample is mixed with Petroleum Ether and stirred for 30 seconds to allow a complete mixture and then filtered onto a 47mm, 0.45-micron-size membrane patch.
    • The patch is placed in a location free of dust and heat and air-dried for about 3 hours. Once the patch has been dried, a colorimeter is used to detect the color of the patch and the CIE Lab ΔΕ and L*a*b* calculations are used to report the color of the patch. The color and severity scale is as follows:
      • 0-14.99: Severity 0 – Very low potential for varnish formation
      • 15-19.99: Severity 1 – Minor potential for varnish formation
      • 20-29.99: Severity 2 – Moderate potential for varnish formation
      • 30-39.99: Severity 3 – Significant potential for varnish formation. Preventative measures should be taken to stop the continuous formation of varnish
      • >40: Severity 4 – Severe and evident formation of varnish in system, and action must be taken to remove varnish.
    • The lighter (whiter) the color of the patch, the lower the MPC value and the darker (amber) color of the patch, the higher the MPC value.
    • PLEASE NOTE: Gray discoloration of the patch can be attributed to micro-dieseling or static discharge in the filters.
    • MPC testing can be performed on turbines and other unit types such as compressors, hydraulics, large circulation and lube systems.
  • Linear Sweep Voltammetry (LSV) ASTM D6971
    • LSV uses a voltage reading to detect the presence of anti-oxidants amines and phenols. The test is performed using an alcohol/acetone based solution (yellow or green) to help draw out the anti-oxidants from the oil. An electrical current is introduced to the sample and reveals the presence of amines and phenols in a matter of seconds. The results of the used oil are compared to a standard (new lubricant levels) and the differences/changes in the anti-oxidants in percentage are reported.
    • Some formulations are composed of amine, phenols or both. Phenols are considered to be the “sacrificial anti-oxidant” when formulated in conjunction with amines. The role that the phenols have is to be the first to deplete. This leaves behind amines to stabilize and keep the potential for varnish at bay.
    • That is not to say that phenols are a weak anti-oxidant. In a phenol-only formulation, the phenol is formulated to hold its presence and not deplete as rapidly when formulated with an amine. The same rule would apply to an amine-only formulation. These anti-oxidants help keep the free radical oxides from taking over the system and creating “varnish”. Anti-oxidants help sustain a healthy operational life for the equipment.
    • It has been discovered that as these anti-oxidants deplete, the potential for varnish is eminent and action should be taken to help remove the varnish from the system entirely.
  • Rotating Pressure Vessel Oxidation Test (RPVOT) ASTM D2272
    • RPVOT was designed to measure the oxidation stability of a turbine oil in minutes. The lubricant is placed in a vessel containing a polished copper coil. The vessel is charged with oxygen and then placed in a bath heated to a constant temperature of 150 °C. The vessel rotates while submerged in the bath and will stop once a drop of 25.4 psi is reached from maximum pressure.
    • When the test is complete, the RPVOT results are divided by the starting value RPVOT of the new lube to calculate the overall percentage of remaining useful life.
    • Calculation %=RVOT test result ÷ RPVOT new lube
      • Values of >55% are within the acceptable limits for the method and no action is needed.
      • Values of 55-45% are approximately half of the products starting life and sweetening is recommended.
      • Values of 44–26% indicate low oxidative stability. The possibility for sludge formation and discoloration is likely, and sweetening the sump is recommended.
      • Values of <25% is an indication the oxidative stability is extremely low and change of lubricant is advisable.
    • RPVOT testing is essential to for turbine oils this test helps determine when to schedule downtime and maintenance actions.

It is believed that as the antioxidants deplete, there is an increased potential for varnish formation. LSV Ruler testing is recommended to help monitor the antioxidant properties as well as the presence of varnish formation via MPC. As these antioxidants deplete, the presence of varnish forming can be captured on the MPC. These two tests can be used to help correlate any decreases or increases in antioxidants and monitor any changes/improvements with the presence of varnish. The same correlation can be used with RPVOT as the values decrease or are <44% the potential for varnish formation.

Click here for a complete list of testing performed by POLARIS Laboratories®

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published May 1, 2018

POLARIS Laboratories® + Reliable Plant 2018

POLARIS Laboratories® experienced succesful networking and visibility at the NORIA Reliable Plant Conference and Exhibition April 17-19. The conference welcomed hundreds of lubrication, oil analysis and maintenance professionals to Indianapolis. POLARIS Laboratories® was proud to be a premier sponsor of the event and provided many opportunities for attendees to network and learn about proven fluid analysis services.

The pre-conference workshop, Identifying the Causes of Contamination and the Actions That Mitigate Them, presented by POLARIS Laboratories® technical business consultants, Randy Clark and Henry Neicamp, proved to be a great success.  The workshop dived deeply into what causes fluid contamination and the actions to take to reduce equipment maintenance costs.

Contamination control also was the focus of four POLARIS Laboratories®-sponsored learning sessions during the conference taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday of the conference. Each of these learning sessions sparked interest in many of the conference attendees and resulted in a high attendance rate.

The POLARIS Laboratories® facility tour brought more than 60 Reliable Plant attendees to our Indianapolis laboratory location to tour our state-of-the-art, accredited laboratory, participate in a discussion panel and engage in timely networking. Reliable Plant attendees arrived at the POLARIS Laboratories® facility Wednesday evening and were guided, by our Chief Executive Officer, Bryan Debshaw, through our laboratory facility and office space. Attendees learned the ins and outs of how our laboratory and support operations help our customers achieve greater maintenance success and save more of their equipment.

We would like to thank all the Reliable Plant attendees who participated in one of our sponsored conference opportunities! If you’re interested in learning more about how our fluid analysis services can reduce maintenance costs and generate proven results contact us!

Fluid Analysis 101: 5 Tips to Collect the Best Sample

Obtaining a truly representative fluid sample from your equipment or machine is the most critical part of a successful fluid analysis program. Without a true, accurate representation of what is going on inside your equipment, the analysis conducted may prove to be of little value in determining the condition of the machine at the time of sampling.

The particles and elements of wear, corrosion, fluid degradation and contamination provide the necessary diagnostic information concerning both the fluid and the machine. These particles can settle or separate out from the fluid, causing an uneven distribution throughout the system. So, choosing the right sampling point is very critical. Below are five tips to follow to ensure you collect the best sample possible.

  1. Take the sample from a point that provides plenty of turbulence in the fluid to ensure the particles are well mixed. 
  2. If you’re sampling from a filtering device, samples should be taken upstream.
  3. For trending, it is best to take the sample from the same location, depth etc. on the equipment – every time.
  4. Where possible, take the sample while the equipment is in operation or within 30 minutes of shut-down.
  5. The best sample points to collect the fluid are different depending on the type of equipment. The chart below outlines some of the best sample points:

To achieve a successful, effective fluid analysis program, the sample has to be truly representative of the equipment or fluid condition. This can only be accomplished if samples are taken from the same proper sampling points each time – this also helps to establish maintenance trends. To ensure you get the most value from your fluid analysis program – and to experience increased uptime and cost savings – follow these easy sampling tips.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published April 3, 2018

Elevate Your Fluid Analysis Program and Save More Equipment

Four years ago, several of my colleagues presented a proposal that could simply be billed “if you build it, they will come”. This proposal involved building a groundbreaking, customer-focused event hosted by an independent fluid analysis laboratory. What started as a cautious experiment in 2015 to educate and train our customers on the strategic value of an effective fluid analysis program has grown into a mainstay that brings together more and more customers each and every year. It’s our Customer Summit.

In past years, we’ve focused on issues that matter most to maintenance professionals and fluid analysis leaders. Driving Action. Champion Impact. Connected Performance. Now in 2018, we bring you a summit that focuses on Elevate. Our fourth annual Customer Summit is set for November 5-7, 2018, at the Alexander Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

Elevate will help our customers sharpen their focus and take their fluid analysis program to the next level. With a dynamic and diverse speaker lineup in the works, we are committed to helping you close the gap and build a fluid analysis strategy for the future.  We’ve structured this summit to be for maintenance professionals by maintenance professionals. We simply provide a platform for key players at companies like yours to learn through peer-to-peer conversations. In turn, our customers leave with a better understanding about what needs to be improved, accelerated and leveraged the most in their programs. You can’t afford not to engage in these conversations – so we encourage you to come experience it first-hand at the 2018 Customer Summit this November.Building on past feedback from nearly 200 customers across more than 90 companies, the 2018 summit will provide greater variety and depth in the content we share. This is a must-attend for new and returning customers. Specific content will include new insights on:

  • Expanding and maximizing your program
  • Securing greater executive support
  • Importance of proven impact, uptime and savings
  • Contamination control
  • Business impact initiatives to improve fluid analysis
  • Innovative technological solutions to maximize your program
  • Optional lab tours before and after the summit schedule

Mixing work with some memorable fun and networking is how we do it. What’s more, we do it in a way that is affordable for multiple members of your team to attend.

Are you ready to take the next step elevate your fluid analysis program? Then clear your calendar in November and join us in Indianapolis at the 2018 POLARIS Laboratories® Customer Summit. We’ll circulate more details when registration opens in late April! Click here to be notified when the 2018 summit registration process opens.

Proven Impact. Proven Uptime. Proven Savings.
Let us prove it to you.

Published March 27, 2018