Paul Hiller, ICML, April 24, 2020 | Around the world, municipalities have taken actions intended to mitigate the spread of covid-19 in their communities. These actions have included so-called “social distancing” directives as well as the public designation of “essential” v. “non-essential” operations. The resulting economic downturn has been predictable and swift, greatly impacting industry sectors where many of our certified lubrication and oil analysis practitioners are employed.

Several ICML members have provided us with descriptions of their experiences so far, sharing how their plants and labs are dealing with the covid-19 fallout. If these stories are any valid indication, our members are struggling with production shortages, work-at-home issues, postponements, and governmental compliance—the same kinds of challenges facing other industries.

At the same time, our members are adapting in positive ways: recommitting to CBM efforts, developing online training alternatives, and focusing on providing service to critical & life-supporting businesses. See below.


Ventas Tecnicas

ICML Full Member, submitted by Marcelo Robert, MLT II, Support & Technology Engineer (S&T)

First big thing that has impacted the lubrication in our operations has been the contraction of the available people to do the jobs, due the restriction for movement and the prevention of contact between people. This supposes that the people available to do the work have to be highly skilled and able to do the best with the lack of human resources or spare parts for automated lubrication systems, for example.

Also, condition monitoring has been very important in order to prevent failures which could be a big problem in the current situation. Of course, the condition monitoring is not something to plan and do, from one day to another, but it is very important not to ignore it in the hurry of every day urgency.

So far as we have been able to see in the Chilean mining industry, the production capacity has not been shortened yet, and that leads to a stress for both machinery and the maintenance team, and that requires a lubricant able to work longer and under toughest conditions, to surpass and cope within the next weeks or even months.

Vivek Venugopal, MLA III

ICML Associate Member, Laboratory Supervisor at Intertek

Situations are getting worse day by day. Sample volumes reduced to 30% in last weeks. UAE operational hours limited to 0600-2000Hrs, 80% of the employees advised to work from home. Employers in UAE are granted to take appropriate strategic position to protect the business. We are working to figure out new opportunities, testing different commodities other than what we do now. Hope we can conquer this pandemic situation.

Hydrotex Manufacturing

ICML Full Member, submitted by John Cummins, Executive VP Product Technology

As a manufacturer of synthetic lubricants and greases, Hydrotex is a designated critical business.  As an NSF/ISO 21469 facility we produce many food-grade lubes and greases for food processors as well as freshwater treatment facilities. Our many customers, which are household names like Coke, Frito Lay, Nestle, etc., depend on us to feed the supply chain so they can feed people.

We are fortunate to have small work forces in large footprint facilities. We are able to continue our production while keeping the necessary social distancing to help prevent the spread of the corona virus.

Our 105,000 square foot manufacturing plant is manned by 14, and our headquarters with 25,000 square feet (which also houses R&D and pilot plant) is manned by 28. With the exception of process engineers and laboratory scientist, we all have the ability to work from home if required. We are highly dependent upon virtual communication to collaborate with our national sales force of Lubrication Consultants as well as our customers.

All common areas are disinfected. Special attention is given to hand rails, forklifts, desks, keypads, tables, work benches, instruments, etc., which are wiped down multiple times per day. Cleanliness is already built into to our manufacturing processes with our ISO 21468 certification. We have just increased our personal focus to keep everyone safe.

We have postponed our Hydrotex Lubrication University classes here in Dallas, and are conducting weekly training webinars on Friday mornings for our customers and sales force to attend.

Zach Shiveley, MLA I, MLT I

ICML Associate Member, Reliability Technician at Greenpoint Metals, Inc.

Circumstances have made it extremely difficult to get the lubricants we need, which in turn has set us back in our PDM and lubrication program that I am in the process of developing. Our budget has been cut to pennies. On top of all of that, even our oil analysis samples that were sent out two weeks ago have not come back yet. It’s making it difficult to gauge what needs to be done.

MRG Laboratories

ICML Affiliate Member, submitted by Rich Wurzbach, LLA II, MLE, owner/president

At MRG Labs we have been discussing and preparing for COVID-19 since February. Initially, we looked at supplies that we use that might be multi-purpose and could see their supplies disappear as the nation responded to the pandemic.  We held a team meeting to brainstorm vulnerable supply chains and checked our inventory of gloves, syringes, etc. Since our staff are all able to use latex gloves, we use them for most activities in the lab and realized we could continue to use them without impacting the medical supply which typically needs to avoid latex for allergy concerns.

We held training sessions with our staff in early March on proper hand washing technique. Fortunately, I had experience working in radiologically contaminated areas at nuclear plants, and had worked in active BSL-3 facilities and had received good hygiene training from that work that I passed on to our staff. We stressed the importance of carrying over these practices to the home and to those we lived with. We provided staff the opportunity to take gloves, goggles, alcohol wipes and other safety-related items home that could help them implement a 24/7 response to protection from COVID-19.

We cancelled all travel plans and made contingencies for work from home. We worked with our remote training vendor, DigitalSamba, to utilize that tool with all employees having video conference access.  Our first video conference was held in mid-March, as employees with vulnerable individuals at home began working from home. We instituted daily employee meetings to coordinate activities in the lab and those working from home. We created a core team to continue to go to the lab to conduct analysis, with all other employees working remotely. The need to remain in operation is consistent with Pennsylvania’s Life-Supporting Activities restriction. In March and April, we have analyzed samples for several nuclear power plants, wind farms, a bleach manufacturing facility, a toilet paper manufacturer, and the National Institutes of Health, including the buildings where Dr. Anthony Fauci works. 

We have implemented procedures for package handling that include using our HEPA laminar flow hood to minimize risk while opening and disinfecting sample shipments. We have implemented social distancing in the lab, and our employees working from home are sewing face masks for those who are still working in the lab.

Some of our customers have continued to send grease and oil samples, while others have experienced reductions in labor that might be pushing activities like machine testing and lubricant sampling temporarily to the side. To serve these customers we have moved our scheduled training activities online, and have MLT, MLA, and MLE training session scheduled. We also created a DVD series for Laboratory Lubricant Analyst training that we’ve seen an uptick on demand in the past few weeks. Our goals are to continue to support those industries that are Life-Supporting and critical infrastructure by offering lab analysis for submitted oil and grease samples, filter analysis, or root-cause failure analysis, while utilizing our SambaLive remote training platform to deliver classes to those who may now have a few days for essential lubrication training.

We are also building a satellite lab using redundant oil and grease analysis instrumentation. Even if we are quarantined, we will have access to facilities and equipment to run grease and oil samples for our customers.

Julio Acosta, MLA II

ICML Associate Member, Technical Business Consultant at POLARIS Laboratories®

As a provider of fluid analysis laboratory services, we continue to provide reliable and timely information and recommendations for companies who are continuing to operate critical industrial and mobile equipment needed during this crisis in all six of our laboratories around the globe. Our customer-facing teams are working closely with customers to provide the support and training necessary for their programs. Each of our laboratories is sufficiently staffed onsite to handle the daily volume, and our administrative teams are splitting their time between the office and working remotely. We have experienced a slight decline in sample volume, but our direct communication with customers has increased as we help ensure their equipment is ready for action when the economy rebounds and production restarts.

Image adapted from original jonathang1995 from Pixabay