Machinery Lubrication / Workforce Development / Career Development

Which professional lubrication certification is right for you?

Consult this table to identify which development opportunities fit your career goals and fill gaps in your skill set.

By Michael D. Holloway, 5th Order Industry, LLC; MLE, MLT (I, II), MLA (I, II, III), LLA (I, II), OMA I, CLS

No one ever regretted an education. And no one ever regretted earning a degree, a diploma, or a certification.

Achieving a recognized level of performance satisfies several incentives: social recognition of your accomplishment, professional acknowledgement of content mastery, and a personal level of satisfaction. There are thousands of professional certifications for seemingly all disciplines. In the world of maintenance and reliability there are at least 10 for lubrication alone. With such choice, it can be confusing (and argumentative) as to which certification is best suited for a given position. This article organizes the offerings, and aligns them with job functions.

Two organizations stand out as global leaders in lubrication certifications: STLE and ICML. Established in 1944, the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers is the premier technical society serving more than 13,000 individuals and 250 companies and organizations that comprise the tribology and lubrication engineering business sector. STLE supports these distinguished men and women with a variety of professional education and certification programs.

The International Council for Machinery Lubrication is a vendor-neutral, not-for-profit organization founded to serve global industry as a world-class authority on machinery lubrication that advances optimization of asset reliability, utilization, and costs. ICML is an independently chartered organization consisting of paid professional staff members and volunteer committees.

Being in the business of lubrication for more than 25 years, STLE had the reputation of being an academic/sales-based organization with a balanced member representation of university professors, research and development scientists, and sales professionals looking to gain a professional advantage over the competition. That is not necessarily accurate. While membership is strong in the lubricant finished-product sector, there are many members who work for instrument manufacturers, raw material suppliers, or oil analysis labs, as well as many end users.

STLE offers four certifications, all of which require work experience, professional training, and a passing exam grade: the Certified Lubrication Specialist (CLS), the Oil Monitor Analyst (OMA) Level I and Level II, and the Certified Metalworking Fluids Specialist (CMFS). The CMFS will be explored in a future article that explores specialized certifications. STLE has recognized approximately 1,800 professionals globally.

ICML has a balanced membership of professionals who are certified representing all facets of lubrication research, production, and use. ICML currently recognizes more than 8,600 certified professionals globally and provides Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA), Machine Lubrication Technician (MLT), Laboratory Lubricant Analyst (LLA), and the new Machinery Lubrication Engineer (MLE) certifications. The MLA and LLA certifications have been pioneered into ISO 18436-4 and 18436-5 Standards. ICML also heeded National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) guidelines in the development of its certification programs. Certification requires work experience, recognized training hours (except MLE, for which formal training is optional), as well as successful passing of an exam.

The following tables break down the areas that each certification embodies, the required work experience, and the required/suggested training class length.