Lubricant Testing and Condition Monitoring: Insights and Innovations
Earlier this year, testing, inspection and compliance provider, SOCOTEC, introduced a new eco-friendly initiative for taking oil samples.
Forming a key part of the organisation’s sustainability agenda, the new method encourages clients to switch to reusable sample pumps instead of single-use syringes. Any remaining oil-contaminated waste will be recycled into low-grade plastics by an approved waste carrier, creating a significant saving on waste disposal costs, as well as reducing the overall level of plastic consumption.
In this article, Peter Hardy, business manager, Lubricant and Condition Monitoring, SOCOTEC UK, discusses the latest insights and advancements surrounding lubricant testing and condition monitoring, including how these developments have been designed specifically with sustainability in mind.
Changing an oil based on its condition as opposed to the length of time it has been in the asset has served as a major development within the condition monitoring sector. By establishing a proactive approach to oil condition monitoring and testing, the number of oil changes performed on an asset can be reduced, along with the amount of oil required on site/for disposal, serving as an altogether more sustainable method.
Thanks to the scientific advancements made by lubrication and oil manufacturers, oils last longer and are able to withstand more stress than ever before, therefore providing the maximum amount of lubrication and protection to the asset. By analysing and trending the data, the lifecycle of the asset can potentially be extended, improving the circular economy and reducing the need to purchase a new asset due to its old age.
Working in a digital environment also has sustainable benefits as it enables the testing labs to go paperless, with data automatically sent straight from the analytical instrument to the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). Not only will this reduce the risk of transcription errors and paper usage, it will also allow reports and data to be sent directly to the client without the need for postage.
As the data can be immediately accessed and interpreted by the end user, the switch to a more digital method of working will save time and ensure that the best course of action is taken to maintain the asset and ensure that it is continuously running. The development of cloud-based systems means that data no longer has to be used in isolation, allowing assets to be compared against one another to determine whether any trends are present that may lead to faults, or whether there are any assets that are not performing as they should be.
Given the amount of data in the asset care sector, the ability to visually inspect and analyse information and results can provide engineers with a clearer overall picture with regards to the performance of the asset. This has become easily achievable thanks to the development of cloud-based real-time asset management system and integrating data sets from various sources.
With organisations across the globe striving to become eco-friendlier, the ways in which assets are monitored is changing, including how samples are taken and how much waste is generated. Making a few simple changes can have a dramatic impact on the output of waste generation, although it is important to ensure that the integrity of the sample is not compromised. Switching from single-use disposable plastic syringes to reusable vacuum pumps has proven a great success for SOCOTEC thus far, having considerably reduced both the amount of hazardous/plastic waste and associated costs due to there being no need to have a specialist waste handler on site to oversee removal. This also reduces the clients’ carbon footprint due to the need for less waste collections, as well as the risk of incorrect waste disposal, such as by placing oil-contaminated plastics in normal bins.
SOCOTEC’s Oils team has a waste handler’s licence for oil-contaminated plastics and recommends clients return all used tubing for safe disposal, helping to prevent plastic from entering the environment. They have also developed methods to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint, including the reuse of postage tubes once the sample has been received – thereby reducing the number of single-use plastic bags – as well as recycling cardboard to prevent waste from going to landfill. These subtle yet effective measures have helped the laboratory and clients to reduce the amount of plastic and hazardous waste generated, all while ensuring that the integrity of the sample is not affected.