Large City Fleet Saves $2M Using Oil Analysis to Extend Oil Drain Intervals - Case study
Condition-based maintenance saves time and money and increases productivity
A large municipality in the northwestern United States operates over 1.700 vehicles and over 3.000 pieces of motorized equipment ranging from riding lawn mowers to bulldozers Oil changes constitute a major expense. For example, the 500 heavy duty trucks in its fleet previously had their oil changed every 2,500 miles at a cost of around $400 per change. Assuming that each truck is driven 40.000 miles per year, total oil changes on these vehicles alone cost over $3 million per year. By using oil analysis to track oil condition, the City now performs oil changes only when necessary and has reduced their total oil change costs for these vehicles to below $1 million per year. Substantial savings have also been achieved on other types of vehicles and equipment. Furthermore, the City has achieved considerable but unmeasurable savings by identifying serious problems in oil analysis and fixing them before they cause a catastrophic failure.
Previous oil analysis methods
The 37 service technicians employed by the City are responsible for maintaining the vehicles and equipment used by the City to patrol its streets, fight fires, maintain streets, bridges and other public property, provide fresh water and other general functions. The City recognized the value of oil analysis years ago as a way to maintain the equipment critical to their city operation. About five years ago, the City contracted with a testing laboratory for oil analysis and received the test results in about six days. At its peak, the City sent 4.500 samples per year for analysis at a cost of $6 per sample.
The City achieved considerable savings by increasing oil change intervals on larger equipment but the lag time between when the samples were collected and when the results were received limited the value of using an outside lab. Switching from mileage-based to condition-based oil change intervals required that vehicles be brought into the shop twice - once to draw the sample and a second time to change the oil, if necessary -so oil analysis could only be justified for vehicles with large oil reservoirs. The cost of the analysis was another limiting factor to expanding the sampling program. The fact that the lab did not provide a historical record of the results for each vehicle also made it difficult to identify problems such as when the metals content in a transmission oil suddenly rose above its normal range.
Selection of easy-to-use in-house analyzer
The City's Operations Manager had experience in the military using oil analyzers. He felt the City could benefit from owning and operating its own analyzers so any required maintenance or repairs could be performed immediately after analysis. The Operations Manager also believed in-house oil analysis would reduce analysis costs, making it possible to test more vehicles and equipment to achieve greater oil change savings. After researching the leading oil analyzers on the market, the City selected the MicroLab® lubricant analysis system from Spectro Scientific because of the instrument's ease of use.
All the user has to do is insert a sample, input some basic information about the oil and equipment and the instrument performs up to four different types of analyses. These analyses provide a complete picture of the oil and powertrain condition.
In less than 10 minutes, the instrument provides complete test results with color coded alarms and maintenance recommendations. The City also purchased the optional LubeTrak® data management system from Spectro which organizes test data for easy viewing of history and trends across the entire fleet.