In this Ask the Experts feature, expert practitioner and consultant members of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication (ICML) tackle questions on best-in-class lubrication practices. Seven industry experts who hold Level 2 certifications—either Machinery Lubrication Technician (MLT) Level 2 or Machine Lubricant Analyst (MLA) Level 2—responded to a series of questions on why they pursued these second-level credentials and what has been the impact on both their organizations and their careers.
This month’s panel:
- Wesley Cash, MLE, MLT II, MLA I, vp services at Noria Corporation
- Johnny Chirinos, MLE, MLA III, MLT II, CMRP, CRL, technical consultant at Cotriman
- Durval DaSilva Filho, MLA II, MLT I, maintenance technician at TMX Aerospace
- Michael D. Holloway, MLE, MLA III, MLT II, LLA II, VIM, VPR, president at 5th Order Industry
- Timothy Hubert, MLT II, reliability technician at Kensing Solutions LLC\
- Greg Romer, MLE, MLA III, MLT II, LLA I, technical secialist at Hydrocarbon Program Consultancy (HPC)
- Martin Williamson, MLE, MLA III, MLT II, lubrication expert at KEW Engineering Ltd.
Q1: Thinking back, how would you describe your reason for wanting to hold MLT Level 1 certification at all, even before you ever considered MLT Level 2?
Greg Romer: In the beginning, lubrication knowledge was passed on verbally with no defined procedures or skillset. Being offered the opportunity to attend a certification training course expanded my basic knowledge in determining best practices. The Level 1 provided a solid foundation for understanding where focus and efforts could be placed and how to approach them.
Before commencing this journey into lubrication and now as a specialist, I was steering toward vibration training. It wasn't until I began learning and studying that I realized how much difference lubrication and contamination control can have in equipment health.
Timothy Hubert: My predecessor held a MLT/MLA I certifications and advised me to take it when I switched from being a maintenance tech to a reliability tech, (and) I had to fill the position as the “designated lubrication specialist.” Part of that was getting used oil analysis samples from equipment, interpreting the data for our facility, and answering any lubrication-related questions from maintenance technicians, process engineers, and project engineers.
Johnny D. Chirinos: Since my beginnings in the field of machinery lubrication, obtaining an MLT I certification meant having a rigid base in the fundamentals, selection and application of lubrication in my daily inspection and technical support activities.
Michael Holloway: I will have to answer these questions from a few different perspectives: as an end user / practitioner, as someone who evaluates programs, and as an instructor.
- End user / practitioner: The Level 1 MLT and MLA provide a requirement for a baseline education for the job of maintaining equipment that requires grease or oil. The MLT I and MLA I share about 70% of the same content requirements; the difference has to do with the emphasis on machine versus analysis. If a technician or mechanic is going to be involved with managing lubrication, the MLT is the path. If the organization embraces and practices oil analysis, the MLA has greater focus on oil condition monitoring.
- Someone who evaluates programs: Level 1 provides the needed foundation of understanding to build from. A mechanic, technician, and even a manager needs the fundamentals. Someone who becomes a physician has to begin by first understanding anatomy and physiology; without that, they could not properly diagnose an illness or engage in any surgical procedures with any level of patient success.
- Instructor: I was teaching CLS and OMA certification exam preparations and recognized ICML as offering a greater diversity in certification offerings, as well as a strong global presence. I wanted to earn the Level 1 in order to establish credibility in teaching it.
Q2: At the time you earned Level 1, what were your perceptions about Level 2? For instance, did you think of Level 2 as “more difficult” or “higher level science”?
Wesley Cash: I assumed Level 2 would be a more difficult test as it was a higher level, so therefore it made sense to be more involved.
Durval DaSilva Filho: I believe in always pursuing a challenge and following what I enjoy doing. Level 2 was more difficult but not impossible to pass and I love science. My perception was that I knew that it was going to be more complex and challenging.
Johnny Chirinos: Obtaining the Level 2 certification meant leaving the operational area and going to the tactical and strategic part of tribology and not only thinking about lubrication. It was seeing oil analysis, monitoring, materials and technologies that are integrated to achieve an extension of the useful life of physical assets.
Martin Williamson: I left it sometime before gaining MLA III (or what would have been MLA II back then) and MLT II as there was simply not the demand for this in terms of training and thus little incentive to pursue it. In addition, back then (in 2005) when the ICML was less well known outside of the USA, I did not perceive it would offer much extra. However, I would stress now that with the continued education of the end-users, it has become more important to obtain these higher levels, and I would say to anyone now that gaining the next level is an absolute must to stay ahead.
Greg Romer: Level 2 certification courses began to test knowledge and skills. I must admit, Level 2 was challenging but not unattainable. Looking back at MLT II, I found this better for practical or project management type career pathways. It built on the Level 1 with greater explanation.
Michael Holloway: MLA differences have to do with job responsibility and ownership. The Level 1 establishes the groundwork for greater responsibilities. Level 2 is involved with sample management, performance of simple onsite tests, managing test results and performing simple diagnostics. The areas emphasized to a higher level are the lubricant roles and functions, oil analysis as they relate to maintenance strategies, and an introduction to wear debris monitoring and analysis. There is also a Level 3, which drills down on machine wear, analyzing lubricant degradation, and oil analysis program development along with program management.
Q3: What made you finally decide to pursue Level 2? What were your expectations, and were those expectations met?
Durval DaSilva Filho: I wanted to pursue a better understanding on how I could improve and implement a system that would benefit the assets in my company. My expectations at work are above and beyond what I could imagine, uptime on the assets is at 97% and going strong. I have the tools and knowledge that I can apply for our plant, and now I am starting condition monitoring at another plant.
Tim Hubert: Part of pursuing MLT II aligns with my current position of being a reliability technician. The other part is, it was a personal challenge to work up to MLE. My expectations were to gain more machinery lubrication knowledge that I didn’t already know, and to be able to apply the knowledge into everything I do in regards to lubrication at our facility.
Everything I learned from MLT I, II, and currently working on MLA II, has assisted me in making daily lubrication-related decisions. Here are some examples:
- Preventing lubrication-related failures—We maintenance technicians are putting desiccant breathers on all pumps and gearboxes and will be switching to 3D bullseye sight glasses based on operating temps and chemical compatibility. I have also been finding some pieces of rotating equipment that don’t have the right type or the right viscosity of oil in the equipment based on OEM specifications.
- Teaching maintenance techs the difference between regular general-purpose grease and coupling grease, and why you should never use regular grease on steel flex grid couplings.
- I also updated our facility’s lubrication procedure from a 6-page document to a 22-page document, which now includes lubricant specifications, color-coded lubrication points, proper lubrication storage and handling, food grade lubricants and the requirements, performing oil changes, oil flushing, lubrication spills and prevention, and disposal of waste lubricants. Also special thanks to ICML 55.1 Standard for the help on updating the procedure. I can’t wait for 55.2! (Note: for more on ICML 55.1 see https://info.lubecouncil.org/icml-55-standards)
Michael Holloway: For what I do, which is analyze, audit, engineer, and teach, it was really important that I became highly competent in the field of lubrication and tribology. I also knew that it was important to build on my knowledge base and do it in a disciplined manner. Working through each level helped me accomplish that. The stepwise approach works, and it affords the opportunity to pace development.
Greg Romer: Level 2 was always part of a career pathway. To specialize and become a leader in this field became my drive, and to become recognized as a specialist is my passion. My goal was to pass the levels and so be able to teach these levels. The expectations were quite surprising as I gained confidence and education in the fields.
Earning respect and reputation as an industry leader is something I feel extremely humbled by. I am now asked to present at conferences on topics of my choosing, contracted to companies and organizations to provide technical support, provide training and even advise on laboratory instrumentation recommendations.
Q4: Do you know any Level 1 colleagues who specifically say they do not want to pursue Level 2? If they are open to the idea, what factors or issues should they consider?
Martin Williamson: Those with whom I speak that do not wish to follow onto Level 2 are usually in a broader role and do not see it as being of value to their career. I would ask how they see their careers progressing and whether the Level 2 (or even 3) would assist. If they think yes, then that is their answer. In reliability, certification is key to employment nowadays thanks to ISO 18436.
Wes Cash: In the field, usually they aren’t interested in Level 2 because their employers only requires Level 1. (I would say) keep the momentum going to take the class and/or test.
Johnny Chirinos: What I always recommend to applicants for Level 2 in MLT is to set your goals not only to the application of lubricants but also to the results that one wants to achieve in any world class lubrication program, and this includes monitoring of the lubricant in service, warehouses, health, wear monitoring and control of contaminants in lubricants that can damage physical assets and impede business objectives.
Durval DaSilva Filho: Some of the fellows that I talked to mentioned that they wanted a little longer course with some hands-on tools like microscopes, oil samples, and visual exposure to examples in the book. For Level 2, they must want to understand, not just memorize, and really get involved. Certifications are a starting point to carry out the next step to the next level by applying what was learned.
Michael Holloway: The difference between the levels really has to do with the desire to learn more and the requirement to take on more responsibility. I found that in many instances, the ones that learn more become more confident in their decisions. This confidence is recognized by leadership and often rewarded in terms of advancements as well as raises.Tim Hubert: If someone wants to pursue Level 2, I encourage them to 100% go for it! You get a sense of personal satisfaction after passing the exam and you gain more knowledge. I think the first priority is to review the “basics” of lubrication of everything they learned in Level 1. One thing my grandfather taught me a long time ago was, “Never stop learning,” no matter how old you are or how much you think you know. You never know when the information or the skills you learn will come in handy and solve the simplest or the most complex problems.