Spectro Scientific

Analyzing Lubricant and Machinery Condition Using Q5800 Portable Oil Analysis Lab - Case study


Courtesy of Spectro Scientific

The United States Marine Corps (USMCJ maintains a fleet of thousands of mechanized vehicles consisting of heavy equipment ranging from bulldozers to transport vehicles and armored vehicles. A decade ago, they participated in an oil analysis program as a means to determine lubricant and machinery condition with emphasis on reducing operating costs and improved equipment readiness. Five years ago, they cancelled their participation in the Navy Oil Analysis Program (NOAP) because the response time between sample submission to the nearest laboratory and receipt of maintenance recommendations based on the lab analysis failed to provide the desired benefits. In a mobile environment the information failed to reach the deployed maintainers in time to make the necessary recommendations to either service the lubricant or take appropriate maintenance actions before the vehicle was redeployed. As a result, they returned to an interval based fluid maintenance protocol.

In early 2014, USMC Headquarters Installations and Logistics (l&L) embarked on an effort to reinstate condition based maintenance (CBM) through oil analysis as a result of a directive to reduce lubricant and fuel consumption from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). In order to effectively accomplish this directive, the USMC pursued an Expeditionary Fluid Analysis Capability (EFAC). The EFAC model is based on having analytical equipment which is portable and provides results in mere minutes, providing maintenance recommendations at the time the vehicle is being serviced by maintenance personnel.

The program consisted of two separate test sites. The first site was tasked to analyze and assess lubricant condition using a FluidScan Q1000 handheld infrared spectrometer combined with a SpectroVisc Q3050 handheld kinematic viscometer. The second site was tasked to analyze and assess the lubricant condition plus the physical condition of the same mechanical assemblies using a Q5800 Portable Oil Analysis Laboratory device.

This white paper will primarily focus on the test site using the Q5800. The Q5800 contains the same analytical capability found in the two separate handheld devices plus it includes in-depth analysis of the mechanical condition of the assemblies by measuring fluid cleanliness as well as the particulate concentration and elemental composition of wear metals contained therein. The test site, test vehicles, test results, business case analysis and conclusions will be explained in this paper.

The objective of the USMC HQ l&L was to determine if handheld and portable instruments can be used effectively in an operational maintenance environment as well as a forward deployed expeditionary environment. In order to be effective. the equipment must be rugged and capable of being operated in an open field or a maintenance building environment by junior level USMC mechanics. The program must demonstrate cost effectiveness by extending the oil drain service intervals (determined by the lubricant properties and viscosity) while ensuring that the mechanical assembly (engines, transmissions, etc.) are not experiencing mechanical degradation (determined by particulate concentration and elemental composition of wear metals).

A business case analysis (BCA) will be conducted over this program period that will determine if the potential cost avoidance that is achieved through extended oil drain intervals will significantly offset the cost to buy the instrumentation and support the program. In addition to the potential cost avoidance due to extended oil drain intervals, the mechanical integrity of each component will be determined. When abnormal wear is detected, immediate maintenance action can be performed resulting in substantial material and labor cost savings. Examples of these cost avoidances will be detailed in the following sections of this paper.

Test Site
USMCHQI&L chose USMC Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. as the site for this test and evaluation program due to the availability of equipment and maintenance facilities. Initial training on the operation of the Q5800 and the basics of CBM was conducted for approximately 10 junior level (LCpl and Cpl) mechanics. The Q5800 was set up in a tool room and eventually two mechanics were chosen to be the main operators based on interest and skill level. After an hour of hands on training, both were proficient at data entry and operating the four test modules.

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