Contamination Control Lubricants Lubrication Oil Analysis Services and Certification Storage & Handling

ICML Sets Standard For Best Practices

Ken Bannister | September 18, 2019

Rolled out in May 2019, ICML 55.1 can be purchased at

The International Council of Machinery Lubrication has introduced ICML 55.1, a new standard for lubrication-management programs.

It’s usually an occasional, yet significant, event that prompts the beginning of meaningful change and results in a wholesale paradigm shift in thought and behavior. Once such event in the maintenance world was the January 2014 introduction of ISO 55000, the world’s first universal asset-management standard. Loosely based on the original British Standard Institute’s public available specification, PAS 55, which focused mainly on physical/fixed assets (machinery), the ISO 55000 standard has truly revolutionized maintenance-department thinking about the value and importance of maintaining its interrelated non-traditional, or “soft” assets.

As good as the ISO 55000 standard is, it is a high-level document that requires extensive interpretation to make it a practical implementation tool, especially in the area of lubrication-program management. In recognition of this requirement, in May 2019 the International Council of Machinery Lubrication (ICML), Broken Arrow, OK (, released its own groundbreaking ICML 55.1 Standard Part 1: “Asset Management—Requirements for the Optimized Lubrication of Mechanical Physical Assets.” Developed independent of, but aligned with, the ISO 55000 standard, this is the world’s first standardized practical blueprint for the implementation of a best-practice lubrication program.

Understanding ICML 55.1

The ICML is an international, vendor-neutral, not-for-profit certification body, founded in 2001, to serve industrial-lubrication and oil-analysis practitioners and global industry as the world-class authority on machinery lubrication.  Developing the 66-pg. ICML 55.1 Standard Part 1 took several years with input from 45 leading lubrication experts.

Similar to ISO 55001, ICML 55.1 supports and employs the Schewart/Deming Plan/Do/Check/Act (PDCA) management system for deployment of its 12-part interrelated lubrication-program elements. The standard is broken down into seven major sections:

ICML 55.1 maps out 12 interrelated elements that, collectively, build a complete strategic lubrication-management plan that facilitates the implementation and sustainability of a best-practice program. Image courtesy ICML

Section 1.0 — Scope: The first section defines the scope of the standard as it pertains to a corporation’s rotating, reciprocating, powertrain, and hydraulic-system physical assets to which lubricants are applied to reduce friction, corrosion, wear, heat and energy transfer/consumption. The scope also includes the use of finished tribological fluid products that include lubricating oils, fluids, and greases, and the organizational assets that support lubrication of physical assets. These include lubrication personnel, policies, procedures, and management support.

Section 2.0 — Reference Publications: This section references all publications used to derive and/or support development of the ICML 55.1 standard. These include a long list of the standards (ISO, ASTM, API, BSI, EN, IEC) and referenced publications that also make up part of the ICML domain of knowledge used in the newly introduced ICML Maintenance Lubrication Engineer (MLE) certification program, ICML’s highest designation.

Section 3.0 — Terms and Definitions: The section defines many of the technical terms used in the standard.

Section 4.0 — Lubrication Management Objectives: Describes the 55.1 standard’s objectives.

Section 5.0 Lubrication — Management Plans: This is the meat-and-potatoes section of the standard. It maps out 12 interrelated elements of a practical lubrication-program plan, in which each element requires its own unique lubrication-management plan. Collectively, the elements build a complete strategic lubrication-management plan that facilitates the implementation and sustainability of a best-practice lubrication program.

Element 1: Skills. To ensure program success, it is crucial that lubrication personnel and program-management personnel possess the knowledge, skill set, training, and qualifications to carry out the requirements of the lubrication-management program. This element outlines skill requirements based on major program requirements.

Element 2: Machine Lubrication and Condition Monitoring Readiness. This element examines the decision process and parameters used for choosing suitable lubricants to match equipment design and operating conditions, and how to monitor lubricant condition.

Element 3: Lubricant System Design and Selection. Element 3 addresses lubricant application systems, their operational design, ergonomics, component/system standardization, and contingency for system failure and lubricant loss. In addition to delivery systems, this element also spells out requirements to be addressed when selecting lubricant suppliers.

Element 4: Planned and Corrective Maintenance Lubrication Tasks. A lubrication work order, or notification, must successfully address health and safety issues surrounding the use of lubricants, as well as provide meaningful and objective instructions for performing PM and corrective lubrication work. This element examines requirements for safe work practices and all of the essentials that go into the development and scheduling of a lubrication PM and corrective work order.

Element 5: Support Facilities and Tools. This addresses infrastructure (lube rooms/storage facilities for lubricants and hardware) and the necessary tools and equipment required to successfully move lubricants from a dock to a machine with minimal contamination.

Element 6: Inspection Methods. Successful inspection is dependent on observing the machine and lubricant condition in an optimal way. This section details the type of inspections conducted in a best-practice operation and outlines a step-by-step plan for setting up an inspection-based program.

Element 7: Oil Analysis. Element 7 focuses on the minimal requirements needed to implement an oil-analysis program.

Element 8: Troubleshooting/Failure Analysis. When problems and failure occur, managing, documenting, and understanding that failure can prevent recurrence, thereby, increasing reliability. This section details the root causes that undermine program success.

Element 9: Lubricant Waste Handling and Management. Achieving the goal of responsible waste handling/management is discussed here. 

Element 10: Energy Conservation and Environmental Impact. Effective lubrication practices reduce carbon footprints. This section outlines where maintenance must focus its efforts to gain the best results in this area.

Element 11: Oil Reclamation. This portion examines how lubricants can be reclaimed for further use.

Element 12: Program Management and Metrics. This final element reviews how management structure, authority, and responsibility plays into implementing and sustaining an effective program. It also addresses the documentation, data, and reporting metrics required to successfully manage the program.

Section 6.0 — Additional Requirements. This section discusses setting up a lubrication-management program and how to audit it and manage all pertinent records.

Section 7.0 — Program Oversight and Management Review. This section instructs us to be mindful of any corporate-oversight requirements, providing required feedback to management and stakeholders.


Having a blue print to work from helps us understand all of the elements that make up a successful lubrication-management program. The ICML 55.1 Standard is an industry first that can be used as an audit document/implementation guide to best practices. Purchase it for $175 at EP

Contributing editor Ken Bannister is co-author, with Heinz Bloch, of the book Practical Lubrication for Industrial Facilities, 3rd Edition (The Fairmont Press, Lilburn, GA). As managing partner and principal consultant for Engtech Industries Inc., Innerkip, Ontario, he specializes in the implementation of lubrication-effectiveness reviews to ISO 55001 standards, asset-management systems, and training. Contact him at, or telephone 519-469-9173.



Ken Bannister

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top