Optimizing Specification Development

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A proposed new engine oil specification development process would disconnect engine test development from the specification development itself, with the goal of reducing delays related to new test development and to better prepare for future needs. The Lubricants Specification Development Review Group will seek approval from stakeholders by the end of this year, according to an update provided at a recent ASTM meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Kevin Ferrick, director of American Petroleum Institute Product Programs, delivered the update on June 26 during ASTM Committee Week. Ferrick noted the industry has a rare opportunity to step back and look at how it develops new specifications, now that both PC-11 heavy-duty engine oil (API CK-4 and API FA-4) and the ILSAC GF-6 A and B passenger car engine oil standards are in place. He said that many stakeholders are concerned about the time it takes to deliver a new specification and how costly these upgrades have become.

Ferrick said that new test development and maintenance of existing tests are fundamental issues that need to be addressed in a more strategic and tactical way to produce specifications on a timely basis and – just as important – to ensure that current specifications are maintained.

New tests must be relevant and, when necessary, help ensure back serviceability for specifications that require it. If efficiently done, he said, this would provide benefits to all stakeholders. This includes reliable protection of engine hardware helping to lower emissions and ensure sustainability.

Long delays and lack of predictability for commercial upgrades also significantly add to the costs of additive companies, base stock producers and marketers that need to develop the new products and make investments in order to supply those products.

Key drivers for a new lubricant specification primarily include new engine technology required to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for tailpipe emissions and Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, as well as field concerns or warranty issues. API mentioned that the introduction of replacement tests does not drive a new category, but stakeholders need to consider how long categories will be needed, and therefore how long tests will be needed to support both new and older categories.

The current specification development process tends to focus on immediate and past needs as opposed to what will be needed 10 to 15 years in the future. It also does not encourage original equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders to proactively invest in new hardware or maintain older hardware that may be required far into the future.

All stakeholders recognize that test development has been the key issue impacting timely introduction of new specifications. Managing this effort as an ongoing task can lead to a more efficient process. The Lubricants Specification Development Review Group has issued proposals to its stakeholder groups for review. These groups include the OEMs for both heavy-duty and light-duty engines, oil marketers, additive companies and base stock manufacturers.

Funding for these future efforts is still pending. Funds today mainly come from licensing fees on API approved engine oils along with contributions from the American Chemistry Council, test labs, individual marketers and OEMs in the form of resources, donated tests and hardware.

In turn, Ferrick said, ongoing funding of new or replacement test development should lead to more timely delivery of new specifications for OEMs and should allow all stakeholders the ability to provide products in an efficient manner. Its our goal to secure acceptance of the new proposed process from all stakeholder groups by the end of 2019, Ferrick concluded.