Independents Offer Oil Quality Measures


After nearly two years of planning, the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious program to test members engine oils and, in cooperation with other industry groups, wants to expand bulk oil monitoring. ILMA plans to implement its testing program Jan. 1, 2007.

The goal is to improve quality, ILMAs legal counsel, Jeffrey L. Leiter, told Lube Report. There is oil out there that is misrepresented, so legitimate folks are hurt. A lot is perceived as coming from independents, and that gives a bad name to independents.

Two years ago, the Alexandria, Va. based trade association resolved to work within the industry for better enforcement of lubricant quality, and decided to look first at engine oils. ILMA turned to the American Petroleum Institute, whose aftermarket audit program (AMAP) currently tests some 600 samples of API-licensed engine oils annually for compliance with licensing requirements, to explore expanding APIs established program.

Under the proposal developed by ILMA in cooperation with API, based in Washington, D.C.,approximately 70 percent of ILMA members who sell engine oil will have their products tested in a given year.ILMA described the proposal to members atits Management Forum in Tucson Mar. 31,inviting member input before ILMA and API finalize it.

For those ILMA members whose engine oils are API licensed, API will continue to randomly select samples for testing, and API will pay the costs of that testing. ILMA estimates that about 33 samples from ILMA memberswill be selected through the normal AMAP process and testedannually.

In addition, ILMA will randomly select another 42 API-licensed samples from its member companies that were not included in the AMAP selection. ILMA proposes splitting the cost of these tests on a 50/50 basis with API.

ILMA will also randomly select for testing about 20 engine oil samples that are not API licensed. These ILMA members samples will be tested to determine adherence to the products marketing claims, for example, meets API SM. Finally, ILMAs Ethics Committee may request that samples of a particular companys engine oils be tested. In both of these situations, ILMA will pay all the testing costs.

While ILMA and API are still discussing specific tests to include in the ILMA-funded program, ILMA is looking at testing for viscosity, viscosity index, low-temperature pumping, volatility, additive elements and infrared, in the initial round of product testing. If a sample fails the initial tier of tests, it would be subject to a second tier of testing that might include shear stability, coefficient of friction, low-temperature cranking, and copper corrosion.

Cost of the testing could run from less than $300 up to $450 per sample for the first tier, noted Leiter, while the second-tier test regimen might run about $650 per sample.

ILMAs and APIs lawyers are now working on the agreements between the two groups. The proposed program is expected to be on the agenda at the API Lubricants Committees May 2 meeting. With final approval from both ILMA and API, ILMA anticipates implementing the program Jan. 1, 2007.

Looking Ahead
ILMA will test samples from nonmembers when its Ethics Committee determines there are grounds to do so, Jim Taglia of Nor-Lakes Services Midwest, Hugo, Minn., told Lube Report. Taglia, immediate past president of ILMA, chairs the Ad Hoc Ethics Committee that has developed theprogram.

We dont believe there are many ILMA members with [quality] problems, said Taglia. We didnt do it because ILMA is dirty. The primary problem, he said, is that ILMA members must compete against some nonmembers who misrepresent their products.

In the event a members samples flunk the testing, ILMA will follow the procedures spelled out in the associations enforceable Code of Ethics, first seeking voluntary compliance with minimum recommended practices. Only if that fails will ILMA apply the sanctions spelled out in the Code, which can include publicizing the failure and expulsion from the association.

If a nonmembers samples flunk, said Taglia, ILMA will pursue the matter with the appropriate state weights and measures officials or other government enforcement agencies.

People knowing that were going to do this will help to clean up a certain percentage of the industry, Taglia noted.

Some additive suppliers say they have already seen increases in additive purchases by companies that did not previously buy the minimum additives required for the products they claimed to be marketing, saidLeiter.

Taglia said that ILMA definitely wants to expand its quality monitoring program beyond engine oils, once the initial program is in place. The next area is tractor fluids and transmission fluids, and any other areas that need improvement.

Ultimately, its ILMAs goal to create an ILMA brand, said Taglia. We want to get it out to the industry that being an ILMA member will mean quality.

ILMA members will be proud to be part of this program, ILMA President James L. Kudis of Allegheny Petroleum Products, Wilmerding, Penna., told Lube Report. We can assure our customers that our products are on spec. This program will be fantastic for our members, and as a member, Im looking forward to it.

Manufacturing Guidelines Offered
Earlier this year, ILMA released its proposed Best Practice for Blending and Handling Lubricant Products, guidelines intended to identify minimum procedures and processes that should be in place in order for its members to manufacture and supply quality lubricant products.

The Best Practices guidelines, which are currently undergoing final editing for approval by the ILMA board, include sections on

  • equipment calibration;
  • product blending procedures and documentation;
  • product testing procedures and documentation;
  • lot traceability;
  • sample retains;
  • storage tanks;
  • lines, pumps, meters and hoses (including recommended flush volumes for different product groups);
  • bulk vessel inspection;
  • bulk product loading;
  • packaging inspection and product fill;
  • shipping documents.

ILMAs Best Practices document is intended to complement the American Petroleum Institutes Recommended Practice 1525, Bulk Oil Testing, Handling and Storage Guidelines.

The Bulk Oil Challenge
Sampling and testing bulk oil for quality is a problem, Leiter told Lube Report. API has long wanted to expand the numbers of bulk oil samples included in its AMAP program, and ILMA wants to be sure to include a representative number of bulk oil samples in its proposed expansion of AMAP. There can be serious chain-of-custody issues, said Leiter, and bulk oil distributors will be a key link in expandedtesting.

Emphasizing that the bulk oil program is at a preliminary stage, Leiter said that ILMA is meeting later this month with API, the Automotive Oil Change Association, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the American Chemistry Council (which represents the additive industry and whose role is advisory), and possibly others to explore a voluntary bulk oil certification program.

AOCA, representing the fast-lube industry, has held several meetings with API to identify steps to prevent substandard engine oils from reaching consumers through fast-lube outlets. AOCA, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is now drafting motor oil purchasing and delivery guidelines.

AOCAs goal is a program that would combine distributor information and disclosure requirements with an indemnity program for delivery of incorrect product and a random testing option. This, AOCA, said, will virtually eliminate a distributors ability to pass off junk as top-dollar motor oil.

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