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Are Fluids Analysis Labs Becoming Extinct?


On-Site Fluids Analysis Can Save Your Operation Time and Money.

By Will Willis, Jr.

We all know that dinosaurs became extinct because they failed to adapt to changing conditions. Well off-site fluids-analysis labs are going in the same direction. Abraham Lincoln said, “I can only judge the future by the past.” Well, let’s look at similar industries that went the way of the dinosaur.

An interesting analogy of what is occurring within the independent fluids-analysis lab industry is what has evolved within the photographic industry. When I was a child, I remember my parents taking photographs and sending the film off to Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., to be developed.

Approximately two weeks later, the photographs would arrive in the mail. As the industry progressed, they then dropped the film off at the local drug store and retrieved the photos a week or so later. Then, a Japanese company called “Fotomat” started allowing you to drop off film and pick it up the same day.

As technology and innovation progressed, the evolution continued to “one hour development” to now, when you take your memory card and not only develop photos instantly, you are able to review the photos before you print them, allowing you to not waste money on poor or unwanted shots. Even with the reintroduction of the Kodak Polaroid camera, it was too little, too late. Today, you can even process your photos in the comfort of your own home!

So why are fluids-analysis labs going in the same direction as the photographic industry or the dinosaur? Think about it. Fleet operators currently draw samples and mail them off to an independent lab, not dissimilar to the old “film” days. Unfortunately, the length of time waiting for test results can range from several weeks, for samples generated in remote locations such as aggregates operations, to one or two days (even the labs that promise 24- to 48-hour turn around fail to mention it’s from the time that they receive the sample!)

Either way, the time delay between pulling the sample and getting the diagnostic results can be expensive and even catastrophic. Additionally, the fleet maintenance operators run the risk of the samples being lost, contaminated, or even misdiagnosed. When an abnormal diagnostic analysis is reported, it’s recommended by labs to retest the fluids to make sure that human error or cross contamination didn’t occur. If they do not re-test to validate the analysis, there is a possibility that they will cause expensive downtime by making unnecessary repairs.

Today, there is on-site fluids analysis technology that is changing the fluids analysis industry, similar to that which on-site digital processing technology changed the photography world. Analyzers are able to analyze on-site just about everything that would have previously been sent off to a lab.

On-site diagnostics are fast, reliable, comprehensive, and easy to understand, allowing fleet operators to make preventative maintenance decisions while the vehicle is still in their service bay. In most cases, the cost per sample of on-site analysis is even less expensive versus the cost to package and send samples to an off-site lab.

It’s time that fleet operators take a hard look at their fluids-analysis program and question why they’re still using 1900s methods when 21st century alternatives are available and even less expensive. Plus, by conducting on-site fluids analysis, fleet operators are able to safely extend oil drain intervals, thereby saving money and helping to “green” their fleet. It’s quite possible that in the not too far future, we’ll be talking about independent labs the same way we talk about the demise of the dinosaur; they failed to adapt.


Will Willis, Jr. is CEO and president of On-Site Analysis Inc. (OSA), Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., www.on-siteanalysis.com, a privately held technology company with patented technologies relating to on-site diagnostic analysis of used lubricants.