Reliability Services Company Recognized as Best Managed Company, 2017
As a leading provider of lubrication analysis and management solutions, Fluid Life has the expertise to help its customers achieve a higher level of reliability.
Back in 1981, Devar Chisholm was selling speciality lubricants and was using oil analysis services to sell the benefits of his products. He was dissatisfied with the testing services of the local lab that he was using and felt that he could do it better. Armed with a background in chemistry and business management, Chisholm started a company in Edmonton called Industra-Lube Testing Laboratories. The company was formed on the basis of one major contact in the mining industry.
Not too long thereafter, he saw the need to computerize both internally and externally. Chisholm wanted to offer remote electronic oil analysis reports for customers—an industry first back at that time. He took on a partner, Larry Dick, to make this a reality. Dick had experience in computer systems design, project management and systems consulting, and Remote Oil Analysis Services Terminal—ROAST—was born. That innovation turned out to be ground-breaking and was the first of many significant innovations over the years.
Chisholm and Dick guided the company through the early years, enjoyed steady growth and purchased another rival laboratory called Oil Check Labs in the process. One of the early innovations was an automated viscometer that provided a high degree of accuracy and throughput. The viscometer was so successful that commercial versions of the instrument were later marketed internationally.
The company name was changed in 1992 to Fluid Life because of the expansion of services from testing oils only to also include fuels, greases, coolants, and filtration debris. After Chisholm’s untimely death in 1993, Dick took the sole reins of the company and later oversaw expansion comprising of new laboratory operations in Brantford, Ontario and Bloomington, Minnesota.
During this period, Fluid Life kept its ear close to customers and their needs. A new software platform, now called WinROAST, rapidly evolved with many new releases. Each time advanced new features equipped customers to better manage their oil analysis programs. WinROAST even incorporated tools to manage both lubrication and maintenance tasking. Fluid Life’s slate of test options grew much broader and deeper in order to diagnose complex lubrication and mechanical related issues. Another primary focus was quality. Fluid Life obtained ISO 9001certification and not long after acquired ISO 17025, the highest certification attainable for laboratories. Fluid Life also recognized the need for customer education to improve their skills in managing lubrication and oil analysis programs. A Training and Education division was established to provide public and private training seminars. To date, Fluid Life has trained literally thousands of lubrication and maintenance practitioners across the continent.
Focus on Reliability
In 2011 Dick’s daughter, Heather Hunt, succeeded him as President of Fluid Life. At this point Fluid Life was recognized as an industry leader with a reputation for quality, innovation and customer service. However, more progressive change was to come. Fluid Life recognized a need in the market to provide customers with a much higher level of machinery reliability, and accordingly Fluid Life transformed into an equipment reliability services company. A new Reliability Services division was established, staffed with reliability engineers and lubrication experts. A range of reliability based services designed to solve many of industry’s operational pain points was created.
Major investment was necessary to build software infrastructure and an internal experts system to support the new service offering. myLab, a web-based portal replaced WinROAST and again was revamped to include reliability management features and KPIs. The company transformation has been extraordinarily successful for Fluid Life and its customers alike. The current time is an exciting one for Fluid Life—more cutting-edge products are presently under development. “The company goal is keenly held in sight: to help our customers save $250 million by 2025,” says Les Boake, Vice President, Sales, at Fluid Life. “Partnering with them on their path towards reliability excellence is the key.”
Contributing to successes
Fluid Life’s customer base is largely composed of resource based industrial companies that are very sensitive to global commodity prices and other external environmental pressures. This heightens the importance of Fluid Life being a nimble and adaptable organization. The team constantly monitors the evolving landscape in the industry, from advances in heavy equipment design to changes in testing methodologies and new lubricant formulations. Resource-based industries such as Mining, Construction and Oil & Gas are provided a comprehensive group of services including industry-segmented oil testing packages; a full complement of reliability service solutions including an ongoing service engagement, Condition Assessment and Reliability Evaluation (CARE); best-of-breed software tools; and world-class education and training services.
The client gains are significant: better reliability of assets, improved productivity, longer component life, lower oil consumption and lower cost of operation.
Jacob Grzywacz of SunHills Mining told Business Elite Canada, “We use Fluid Life and their oil analysis lab and their reliability team to help us predict component wear and avoid catastrophic failure as part of our cost avoidance program. There are a lot of variables in the mining business and we require a lot of flexibility. Fluid Life provides, especially in the reliability team, the support and consistency that we require in keeping a healthy oil analysis program.”
Navigating the Price of Oil
In the past few years, the Oil and Gas industry in North America faced one of its most challenging periods in its history due to the slump in global oil prices. Fluid Life adopted a simple but effective strategy of support – bolster customer service and communication to these clients to ensure that their immediate needs were being met. Recognition of mechanical problems, as well as efficient lubrication practices becomes even more critical in a downturn. On the humanitarian side, Fluid Life participated in the Fire-Aid Concert as one of the sponsors to assist Fort McMurray wild fire victims. This was another measure of offering support.
Fortunately, Fluid Life is in a better position than most companies when faced with an economic downturn for a specific industry segment because it serves many diverse markets and are able to nimbly shift focus as required. During the recent oil and gas market downturn, Fluid Life focused more on the industrial plant sector and simultaneously developed a new CARE offer for this market. This offer has substantial application in the Oil & Gas market for SAG-D operations, large gas plants and refineries. Oil prices have stabilized more recently and Fluid Life is now in a solid position to onboard many of these operations to the CARE program. Many other Oil and Gas clients are taking advantage of other reliability solutions like Audits, Scorecards, Lubrication Policies and Procedures, Professional Training plus many more options.
A Reliability Services Company—Not just a Lab
In 2011, the oil analysis market was getting a little crowded with competitors and oil analysis was rapidly becoming commoditized. At the same time, a shift in the market occurred. Industries were facing much higher demands with stiffer competition, manpower shortages, lack of expertise in specific areas and more complex equipment designs. Quite frankly, industries required a lot more support.
Fluid Life responded in two ways. First, Fluid Life segregated its market into four sectors: Mining and Construction, Industrial Plant, Oil and Gas and Transportation. Industry-specific test packages were developed for each sector from basic to more advanced packages depending on the exact needs of those industries. Second, Fluid Life decided to re-invent itself with the objective of being much more than a traditional oil analysis laboratory. The result: an equipment reliability services company.
The transformation included offering an array of reliability solutions specifically designed to industry’s pain points. Services were created like the Oil Analysis Audit, Scorecard, Criticality Analysis and Industry Benchmark that identified operational gaps yet presented customers with a road map to follow. Improvement projects like Failure Follow-up, Flagging Optimization, Process Mapping, Onsite Coaching, and Professional Training became readily available.
And finally, CARE (Condition Assessment & Reliability Evaluation), a full-time engagement was developed. CARE provides a sustainable solution by addressing operational gaps in manpower, expertise and process issues. It encompasses predictive data streams like oil analysis data, maintenance work histories and telemetry to gain a full diagnostic window. Then corrective actions are recommended, acted upon, followed up and financial results tabulated.
CARE has been a spectacular success for Fluid Life’s customers: traditional oil analysis normally provides a 3:1 payback at best; however, CARE consistently ranges from an 8:1 to 20:1 return on investment. Fluid Life has captured a broad range of customer case histories across various industries showcasing cost savings that are wildly successful. Bottom line improvement is one thing but Fluid Life’s CARE customers rapidly become more competitive and win more contracted work projects as a result. Not surprising, Fluid Life’s conversion rate of oil analysis customers over to CARE has been extraordinary.
Customer feedback has been very positive. As one customer states, “Fluid Life’s CARE allowed us to turbocharge our maintenance program and we have seen a drastic increase in realized component saves.”
Another customer in the mining industry says, “Fluid Life has worked very closely with us over the past couple of years to help put our lubrication program back on track. Outside of the obvious contamination alerts, we have used the information out of the CARE program to help influence best sampling practices, machine modifications, and are currently using it to optimize our oil change durations.”
Community Outlook and Chrysalis
Fluid Life generously donates to a range of charities and support causes that are of personal importance to its employees and community. The company also offers paid days off for its employees who would like to volunteer for a charity of their choice.
One organization that is close to Fluid Life is Chrysalis, a non-profit organization committed to advocating on behalf of adults with disabilities. For over 23 years, Fluid Life has been dedicated to providing secure employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. These individuals come to Fluid Life through their strong partnership with Chrysalis.
Fluid Life is proud to support Little Warriors; a charity focused on child sexual abuse and has recently opened the Be Brave Ranch, a facility that offers a family-oriented treatment program east of Edmonton. Fluid Life has been a title sponsor of the Little Warriors annual fundraising luncheon for two years in a row, sponsored the construction of their outdoor hockey rink and Fluid Life employees have also given countless volunteer hours to this important cause.
One of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, 2017
In March, 2017, Deloitte announced Fluid Life as one of the 2017 Canada’s Best Managed Companies recipient, recognizing the company for its exceptional business performance and expectation of growth.
“While many companies look only to revenue growth as a key marker of success, Best Managed companies take strategic risks to grow in a number of different ways,” said Lorrie King, National Co-Leader of Canada’s Best Managed Companies program and Partner at Deloitte. “It’s this adaptability and approach to business that sets them apart from the status quo.”
Les Boake, Vice President, Sales, at Fluid Life, speaks on the several reasons for receiving this accolade. “Fluid Life has always had and still has a very strong commitment to innovation,” says Boake. “We have a creative management team who can nimbly adapt to market changes. We have committed to leading change in our industry rather than simply following it. Fluid Life’s strong corporate culture certainly is another key component.”
Fluid Life is also considered “a courageous company”. Despite the many recent challenges posed by a tough economy and the scourge of the Fort McMurray wild fires, the team never lost sight of their goals. “We just kept soldiering on,” says Boake. “I suppose you could say that we have a developed a tough resolve over time.”
For more information on Fluid Life, please visit www.fluidlife.com