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Underrated, Overlooked Machinery Lubrication Issues Across Your Plant

Jim Jung


Before It Ever Gets to the Machine, the Journey of Lubricant Is a Key Piece of Oil Intelligence

If you’re like most maintenance and reliability people, you think of your equipment lubricant in service in the machine. But there’s a lot more to the story.

Let’s be honest. The way many operations store and handle their critical machinery lubricants is not very careful or thoughtful. What happens before the oil even gets put into the machine? Was it any good when it got to your facility? How has it been handled since then?

Every lubricant is subject to different conditions, processes and iffy human behavior throughout your facility (and even before it gets there). And at every turn is risk. From a lubricant’s arrival, to its storage, transfer and application, and throughout its life cycle, what happens can have a big impact on the viability of your lubricant.

Sampling and testing the oil at these different stages, which we refer to as dimensional oil sampling, is one of the pillars of what we call Oil Intelligence – deeper, more valuable insight into the viability of your machinery lubricants.

Here’s an overview of the different points at which you should take samples and test on a regular basis.


Sure, it’s “new” oil. But newly delivered oil may not be as clean as you think because of the risks of contamination.

How clean were the barrels the oil came in? How clean were the hoses used to fill the barrels? Damaged or open containers could lead to contamination, and distributors may not follow proper cleaning and refilling procedures for sealable and reusable containers and tankers. You won’t know unless you sample and test the oil coming in.


Do you have a dedicated, clean, well-organized space for your equipment lubricants? If your facility is like thousands of others, probably not. It’s amazing what passes for storage containers sometimes. Old coffee cans and soda bottles, often left outside in the elements without any kind of proper seal or nozzle.

Come on, people! In these situations, you’re at high risk of oil getting contaminated during storage. People are one of the leading causes of contaminant ingression, especially if you don’t restrict access and enforce clean storage and handling practices. So you should take samples and do oil analysis anytime you open a barrel so you know what kind of condition the oil is in after it’s been sitting around exposed. By the way, Trico has lots of options for reliable lubrication storage solutions here.


The risk of lubricant contamination may be the highest at the transfer stage.

Many facilities transfer oil haphazardly, using equipment of questionable cleanliness, which can lead to contamination. And even if you’re doing a better job – using dedicated, sealable containers and single-use funnels and following a color-coding scheme to keep things clean and organized – it’s still a good idea to sample after the transfer stage.

Add Some Dimension to Your Oil Sampling Regimen

Hopefully you can understand from this overview why it’s important to take reference samples at each stage – arrival, storage, transfer and when put into use – then continue to sample and compare oil analysis results over time.

Dimensional sampling, analyzed in context with detailed application data as well as the physical condition of the oil at the machine, is crucial to gathering valuable Oil Intelligence that solves or prevents real lubrication problems.