Podcast Masterminds in Maintenance

Episode 7: Oil Analysis and the Importance of Condition Monitoring with Sanya Mathura

Ryan Chan

Episode 7: Oil Analysis & The Importance of Condition Monitoring with Sanya Mathura

This week on Masterminds in Maintenance, we’re excited to welcome Sanya Mathura, Managing Director & Senior Consultant at Strategic Reliability Solutions! Together we discuss the critical role condition monitoring plays in maintenance as well as a deep dive into oil analysis:

  • How important is a lubrication program?
  • Should every component get oil analysis? What types of tests are recommended?
  • Are all lubricants compatible?
  • What are some of the biggest causes of lubrication failures and how can oil analysis assist?

Tune in below to learn more and thank you, Sanya, for joining us!

Listen to this week’s episode online here or on Apple podcasts here!

Connect with Sanya Mathura on Linkedin here.

Join the conversation!

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Stay tuned for more inspiring guests to come in future episodes!


00:01 Ryan Chan: Welcome to Masterminds in Maintenance, a podcast for those with new ideas in maintenance. I’m your host, Ryan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. Each week, I’ll be meeting with a guest who’s had an idea for how to shake things up in the maintenance and reliability industry. Sometimes the idea failed, sometimes it made their business more successful, and other times their idea revolutionized an entire industry. Today, I’m excited to welcome to the show, Sanya Mathura, managing director and senior consultant at Strategic Reliability Solutions. Welcome, Sanya, to our show.
00:33 Sanya Mathura: Hi. I’m so glad to be here Ryan. Thank you for having me on.
00:37 RC: We’re glad to have you as well. First, we’d love to hear about where you are today, where your focus is, and what you’re excited by about the maintenance and reliability industry? 
00:50 SM: Well, the exciting thing right now for me is that strategic reliability, we just completed two years of incorporation. So we’re glad to make it past the two year mile marker. So that’s a major accomplishment there. We’re going for more than that, but having two years done is very awesome and being able to be in that space and understand how it works from the side of the industry has been very, very knowledgeable. Our main focus right now is just spreading the knowledge of reliability. The knowledge of how we can actually make things better within the industry and just sort of increase up-time and decrease that down time. So mainly, that’s our main focus right now and just to get the industry where it needs to be through training and also offering some strategic solutions.
01:58 RC: Absolutely. So, Sanya, would love to hear about how you got started in maintenance and reliability and also, where you are today and your background.
02:10 SM: Well, so it’s been a very interesting journey. I started with my bachelor’s in electrical and computer engineering, believe it or not. And I worked within the industry in that area, more of the electrical side. And I may have worked in the industry for about a year or more. And then I made this complete transition into a lubrication role, and what I realized from being in lubrication is that everything is connected and lubrication is connected to maintenance, it’s connected to reliability, and there’s a whole cycle that goes on with all of that.
02:53 SM: So after doing my bachelor’s in electrical and computer, jumping into the lubrication role, while in the lubrication role, I actually did my master’s in engineering asset management. Which is very interesting ’cause it kind of brings reliability back and gives you a more holistic approach to what you have to do. So that was very, very, very interesting. And I actually did my thesis on lubrication failures in an ammonia complex, which was one of the first challenges that I had to solve going out on the plants. The ammonia plants, they had some issues with their oil. Of course they did.
03:43 SM: And their oil was getting contaminated with ammonia. So while that was one of the first issues that I faced when I entered the industry, what I realized from that is that a lot of times we couldn’t get information or couldn’t get stuff on different case studies that were done globally and the information just wasn’t readily available. So I wanted to do my thesis on that to sort of bridge gaps, not just for me, but anybody else looking back on the thesis or the work that was done for the thesis. So, that’s it, yeah.
04:21 RC: Awesome. Let’s dive deep into lubrication because it’s such a common failure mode for a lot of plants and businesses. What’s one thing that people don’t commonly know about lubrication and the importance of lubrication? 
04:40 SM: Oh boy, there are so many things, you want me to just choose one? I’ll try. [chuckle] One of the main things I think people don’t understand is that… Really understanding what is going on with your oils that are in service, helps you so much in terms of maintenance. So understanding that your oil may be degrading or it actually has a high content of wear metals in it can tell you that something else is going on inside one of your components that you need to look at.
05:20 SM: So I think a lot of people underestimate the power of oil analysis and how it can be used and integrated into your maintenance schedule. So just by having a report done, getting bath oil analysis for a particular component, you can estimate that you may need to do some sort of maintenance on this gearbox for example within the next month or two. So you can actually schedule that downtime before it becomes some sort of an issue and you have to be getting unplanned down time, and getting guys to come out when they shouldn’t be coming out and they should be at home. So it’s all about proper planning and scheduling and that’s what oil analysis can help you to do.
06:16 RC: Absolutely very… Yeah, super interesting. What we’ve also heard as well is that this stat that says, “The most common failures for bearings is because of poor lubrication or poor maintenance.” Do you think that’s true? And am I over-simplifying it? 
06:38 SM: I think a lot of things have to be simplified so that we understand it and that we can break it down to one level and then we can build from there. So that’s definitely not over-simplifying it. Bearings have been… If you look at any manufacturing facility, one of the highest number of components are your bearings. So just being able to pay attention to that can actually increase your efficiency or your over-reliability by as much as 10% to 30%. So understanding where lubrication falls, in terms of bearings, is very necessary, and some of the reasons that bearings fail could be they’re either over lubricated. Yes, that is a thing. That is a thing. Because I see guys going around with the grease guns and they’re just pumping grease into the bearings until it falls out. And I’m like, “What are your doing?” ‘Cause what they don’t realize is that by putting more grease into it you’re actually… The bearing starts to run a bit hotter, and you’ve actually helped in killing it faster.
07:58 RC: Wow.
08:00 SM: So you can either over lubricate or you can under lubricate. And that’s why you would have like separation of your bearings, and that is an issue as well.
08:11 SM: So yeah, so you can either go extreme too much or extreme too little. So it really varies but just knowing and understanding the right amount of lubrication for your bearings can save you a lot in the long run. And it can save you a lot of headaches, and ordering parts crazily, and getting into fights with your warehouse manager. Yeah.
08:36 RC: Yeah. Absolutely. When you’re saying this idea of over lubricating, I’m remembering one of the comments that someone I talked to mentioned, and he basically said, “Lube is life.” And now it’s making me think, “Oh shoot, I wonder if he’s over-greasing and over-lubricating and if that’s a… “
08:55 SM: Yes. What would be a great thing for him to do is and I found that it actually helps if he has access to a thermal camera he should try getting somebody else to take a picture or do a video before he starts lubricating the bearings, during the lubrication of the bearings, and then when he starts to over lubricate. And he’ll see the difference in terms of the range of heat that happens in that transition time. So, and for them seeing it for themselves and understanding what their actions are actually causing, it helps them to realign themselves and try to get the best.
09:43 RC: Absolutely. I think that exercise would be such a great exercise to go through and it’s such an easy thing to do and a pretty low cost way as well.
09:53 SM: Uh-huh. Yeah. You just need a guy with a thermal camera.
09:57 RC: Let’s talk about oil analysis because you mentioned that that’s really important as well. What role does this play with regards to condition monitoring and maintenance, for oil analysis? 
10:11 SM: So, oil analysis, I like to bring it back to testing, medical testing. So when you… So for most of us that are getting older, we usually have to do a bunch of different tests, like we do cholesterol, we check up on all of these different things. And it’s by doing these tests, we understand what’s going on inside of our bodies.
10:37 SM: It’s the same thing for oil analysis. By getting oil analysis results, we understand what’s going on the inside of the equipment. So just having a proper oil analysis program in place can actually help you to understand how to plan your maintenance. ‘Cause I’ve had a… I had a guy with a truck. Just bringing it back to some of the fleet guys, and we did oil analysis for him on one of the units and we got a lot of wear, a lot of iron in the engine component. And he’s like, “This should not be happening, I should not have iron.”
11:19 SM: And then he said he was gonna take the truck down for the weekend and look into the engine, look at all the different iron components. And when he got back to me on the Monday, he said, “One of the couplings on the inside started wearing away.” And he would have never known until it was actually completely gone and the truck would have been stalled. And he would have like a back-up of deliveries. So oil condition monitoring plays a very critical role in maintenance and being able to schedule maintenance in time, and let’s you know what’s going on on the inside of the equipment. So very critical.
11:57 RC: Absolutely. And for the facilities that are trying to figure out what should get some sort of oil analysis or schedule of preventative maintenance program, how do you guide companies on which components, in which places within their facilities should get an oil analysis? 
12:23 SM: Well, I think the first thing that we need to understand is, what is the role of each of your components, which are your critical components? ‘Cause understanding your critical components helps you to place more emphasis on that. And when I say critical, critical could be defined as so many different things for so many different people. What I like to define it as though, would be the pieces of equipment that if they down, your production goes down. So your production line goes down, your cost of operation goes up. So those pieces of equipment, you want to pay particular attention to them. And what I like to do when designing a lubrication program, ’cause the same lubrication program does not work for everyone, we can not do cookie cutter on this one. I like to sorta divide the components into critical, semi-critical, and non-critical.
13:32 SM: So, your non-critical pieces of equipments, those are like your secondary, your back-up… Back-up pieces of equipment that if they go down, they don’t necessarily hamper the operation. So, you’re not… While you wanna know what’s going on with these pieces of equipment, you can keep that at a basic testing level. Just doing viscosity where components probably like contamination, TBM, CBM. Those are your basic, very basic level. And, if you go into your semi-critical, you wanna do a little more advanced testing for those, or you can either do advanced testing or advanced frequency.
14:21 SM: So, your frequency kind of depends on how often you’re changing your oil. So, if your lifetime of your oil is 250 hours, I would always recommend do a test before the 250 hours, maybe at 200. Let’s see what’s going on inside of your component. And depending, do you want to run the oil longer? 
14:42 SM: ‘Cause that’s always an option, but that has to be guided by proper oil analysis. So, your main, main components which are critical components and I like to kind of align those to turbines ’cause turbines are super critical and super expensive. You don’t want those going down. Those are the ones that you wanna place more emphasis on and specialized testing, like your MPC or RPVOT, and depending on your budgets as well. Then you know how often you can afford these tests, ’cause those are pretty expensive tests.
15:19 RC: Yeah. And I would imagine, as well the other really important thing to know and have is someone to be able to analyze all of these results. So, if we do an oil analysis…
15:31 SM: Exactly.
15:31 RC: Yeah, if we do an oil analysis… If we spend all of this money, do we have someone to actually analyze them? 
15:38 SM: Exactly.
15:39 RC: So, Sanya, what would you recommend for the facilities that, “Yes, we want to do an oil analysis but we may not have someone who’s done a master’s in lubrication and spent a lot of their career… ” Where would you recommend them going to really, not just do the test to do the test, but analyze the results and produce some sort of meaningful outcome and action item? 
16:06 SM: So, for them… What I would recommend is going to an expert. Go to a consultant. And the reason I want to do a consultant and somebody that’s outside of the company is that they’re bringing a fresh pair of eyes. They’re bringing a different perspective to the way that the components are working and they can shed light in that respect. So, while a person’s working in the company may think that it’s completely normal for certain things that happen, it is not. So, they bring in that fresh pair of eyes and they can sort of guide them. This is how you should take a sample or this is how you should set up your lubrication program.
16:53 SM: And they can either do that through a consultant or through an oil analysis lab ’cause most of these oil analysis labs, they have technicians as well and they may be able to deploy their technicians, so that for the first set of samples, your technicians take the samples. They get it to the lab. When the lab produces the results, they can actually assign someone to help them to look at the results and produce some sort of information.
17:24 SM: And one of the things that I’ve realized is that while we may have guys get into reports… And they see it, let’s say like a traffic light system; If it’s on green, it means it’s good. That may not necessarily be the case ’cause even though it’s on green, you can see with a trend over time that a particular wear metal may be increasing. While it has not reached a particular warning limit, you should still be aware that this has increasing and this should not be like that. So, that is a piece of valuable feedback and information that they would need from the lab. So, the lab may be able to provide them with that or you can either go to a consultant.
18:11 RC: So I’m curious as well, Sanya, what are some of the biggest causes of lubrication issues and how can an oil analysis assist with this? What do oil analyses typically uncover? 
18:27 SM: Wow… They uncover so much. So, one of the major issues that we have when lubrication failures is oxidation. And, I am just bringing this back to turbines ’cause turbines are the ones that experience oxidation the most. And they are the ones that it hurts the most as well, ’cause when you have oxidation occurring, you actually have varnish and sludge and all of these crazy by-products being produced. And when they are produced they can actually either remain in solution and travel throughout the entire system or they can start plating out on different… On different areas on the inside of the system.
19:12 SM: Now, when they do that, that complete and utter problems for your maintenance guys ’cause they have to try and get this stuff out of the system now. With oil analysis though, there are particular tests that you can do like RPVOT, MPC, QSA, and what it sort of tells you is that… It tells you how much oxidation has occurred with your RPVOT and with your MPC, it kind of tells you the amount of varnish that you have in your system. So knowing that can help you to plan. If you can take your equipment down, clean up the oil or clean up on the insides before you have a major order come in, so that it doesn’t hamper your production as much. So, having oil analysis in it just sorta simplifies it a bit and it keeps you prepared for what may happen.
20:12 RC: Wow. Yeah. I definitely learned a whole lot just now, especially over the last 15 minutes.
20:19 SM: Oh boy. You’re welcome.
20:22 RC: Thank you, yeah. Sanya, you’re also an entrepreneur. What made you decide to start your own business? 
20:28 SM: Oh my gosh. So, what happened is that while I was writing my thesis, I was in the corporate world and I am a stickler for quality. If it doesn’t come up to standard for me, it’s not of my standard, it’s not of my league, and I decided to leave the corporate world to write my thesis on lubrication failures. So, it was a really big jump. And while doing research and writing my thesis, I started to reach out to SMEs globally. I was very surprised that they responded, first of all, and they were actually able to give me a lot of good information and then I started questioning, “Why don’t we have this in Trinidad? Why is this not available readily to us in the Caribbean?”
21:21 SM: And I think that was the moment that I realized that we need to bring this to Trinidad. We need to be able to have this level of expertise available to us. And it’s easier if we bring our guys down to Trinidad and get them trained, so that they can in turn dissipate the information throughout the industry. So, that was the entire idea behind the business, and it has been growing since inception two years ago. So it’s very interesting to see the direction that strategic is heading in. Initially, we were just confined to reliability solutions, like root cause analysis, and now we’re sort of branching off into project management and helping engineers in that department as well. So, it’s a very interesting role right now.
22:23 RC: Very cool. Congratulations on all that success, Sanya.
22:26 SM: Thank you.
22:26 RC: That sounds like an amazing journey.
22:28 SM: It has been.
22:31 RC: So, I’m curious, what are you excited by about the future of maintenance reliability? 
22:35 SM: Oh my gosh, IoT.
22:38 RC: Tell me more.
22:39 SM: IoT… IoT has been very exciting ’cause it’s interesting to see the way that we’re using AR and VR in the maintenance fields. And in the maintenance field, what we’ve had traditionally is we’ve stuck to one method of doing things and it’s been that method for 30-40 years. So, seeing developments in the way that things are moving now, wireless transmitters or having safety glasses that have AR on it, that you can actually see equipment IDs, that is very, very cool. And I’m seeing right now, as well, that they wanna start using drones to do oil sampling, which is extremely cool, and would save a lot in terms of guys going up on wind turbines or things that may have been previously very high risk. So, it’s very interesting to see the way that the industry has been revolutionizing with the introduction of IoT, so that’s interesting.
23:56 RC: The future is coming, huh? 
23:58 SM: It is. It’s here.
24:01 RC: What would you say to young women and girls who wanna become part of the maintenance and reliability world? 
24:07 SM: Oh wow, I would say be yourself, maintain your integrity, whatever you do, and just remain committed to your work. And know that when you walk into a room, you bring value with you. It doesn’t matter who’s in the room, you bring value and the value that you’re bringing, you are the one that’s delivering the value. It doesn’t matter, girl, guy, no matters at all. There are no glass ceilings anymore, and I think that we’ve had this perception that women in the maintenance and reliability field, it’s very uncommon, but that’s what society is telling us.
24:51 SM: Society is telling us that we have that glass ceiling there, but we don’t. We’re all human and we all have brains that function most of the time, and that’s what we need to remember. We’re bringing value and we want to, whenever we go into a field or a room or a situation, we just need to remember the value that we’re bringing and bring that value. So, that’s what I’ll tell them. Pursue your passions, and make sure that you know what you want to do, and just keep true to yourself.
25:26 RC: Absolutely, and I think it just comes back to this idea of constantly learning, constantly being better. There is no ceiling.
25:34 SM: No, there isn’t.
25:37 RC: Going off of that, piggy-backing off of that, what resources do you go to continue learning and where do you go for new ideas? 
25:48 SM: Well, I just use LinkedIn actually, ’cause my feed is so diverse. And I actually, I love LinkedIn because there’s so much value content that has been created just over time, and I think that just by connecting with different people and looking at what they post, and usually they post very good articles. And I’m always on LinkedIn ’cause it’s always good to be updated about what’s going on. You see a lot of stuff from renewable energy, and then you see stuff with maintenance, and then you see stuff with these drones and what they’re doing with oil analysis. And you see ICML 55 which is very exciting as well, but I think that right now LinkedIn sorta captures all of that information in one space. So I’m very, I like LinkedIn for that. I love that.
26:48 RC: Yeah. The internet has allowed us to just generate so much content and read so much content in such a easy way, and LinkedIn is, you’re right, a great, great place. I kind of know what you’re gonna say next, but where can our listeners go to connect with you and follow your journey? 
27:10 SM: So, they can check… They can find me on LinkedIn at Sanya Mathura and they can also look at my website, strategicreliabilitysolutions.com. And there on my website we actually have a learning corner, where we have all different… All of the articles about lubrication failure is. I have “Lubrication Failures in Ammonia Plants”, “How Can a Lubricant Fail”, “Lubricant Failures in Industrial Plants.” So, it’s a lot of different information that if you want on that it’s a great, great place to go to. So, we have a lot of resources there.
27:53 RC: Alright, sounds like I need to go check it out…
27:55 SM: Yes, you do.
27:55 RC: And start learning a lot more about lubrication as well. [chuckle] Well, thank you so much, Sanya, for joining us, and thank you to all our listeners for tuning in to today’s Mastermind at Maintenance. My name is Ryan Chan, I’m the CEO and founder of UpKeep. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, as well, and also directly, if you shoot me an email at [email protected] Until next time, thanks so much, Sanya.
28:21 SM: Thank you.

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