About Us

Specification Innovations (PTY) Limited who are the custodians of ISLS (Industrial Standard Lubrication System)  and registered intellectual property owners of the ISLS, was founded back in 2004.

Our primary objective was to provide an easily accessible Internet library of meaningful data that standardises lubricants and lubrication products of various brands and product-names into generic classifications using accepted accredited specifications and standards, thus giving multiple supply options from different manufacturers and marketers. Our target market is the oil industry, mining houses and heavy industry and any person who uses lubrication products.

ISLS History


The Oil industry has moved to a simpler labelling system due to mass production of drums and high speed filling lines. Our Web based ISLS does not use the "Drum Marking" and "Symbol Identification" as this requirement is deemed to be no longer necessary. Some oil companies still produce products with the original drum colours and markings, however we see this as a practice which is no longer necessary and will probably be phased out.

For a clearer understanding and with respect to the original working group, we have reproduced the information below from the original ISLS document, which will explain a great deal about the origin and thinking behind the ISLS system. The Web based system does not replace the old system, but is rather more of an update of all current specifications and new OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) requirements as well as the on going research and development by the oil industry to provide better performing, cost effective and environmentally friendly lubricants.

The following is not a verbatim reproduction, but should rather be read as a more explanatory review of the history. Author's notes below refer to notes from the ISLS team at Specification Innovations (PTY) Limited and not the original ISLS working group. These notes are to assist the reader who is not familiar with ISLS and is for the benefit of readers from outside of South Africa for a global understanding of the system.

Industrial Standard Lubrication System

The standardised lubrication system was devised on behalf of industry in South Africa. Due note was taken of existing systems both locally and internationally and a rationale was adopted which was considered to be best suited to the industry's need

The system was split into 4 parts as follows:

  1. Lubricant product nomenclature
  2. Drum colour markings
  3. Symbol identification
  4. Descriptive or explanatory lettering

Note: We can only assume that the detail involved in the above mentioned parts was to ensure correct application and minimise any confusion due to the numerous suppliers and their products that were originally listed. It is also understood that the level of literacy of many underground mine workers was limited as they were mostly migrant labourers from other countries surrounding South Africa and English was not a common language. The common mining language in South Africa, and still used today is Funagolo (pronounced foony galore).

1. Lubricant product nomenclature

No international standard for product coding in current use could be located. It was thus decided to base the nomenclature on the NATO system for general product classification. Here the product is identified by using the first letters of the descriptive terms, the first word being descriptive of the broad classification followed by a group and sub-group description. Therefore in the case of an air compressor oil one would have:

* Oil, Compressor, Air, viz OCA

Or in the case of Automotive Gear Oil one would have:

*Oil, Gear, Automotive, viz OGA

It will be seen that this is descriptive of the application where the lubricant is to be used. The second part will have a number indicative of the viscosity (either SAE or ISO) followed by any letters to indicate lubricant composition or property.


Application Description - Property description

e.g. OGI - 220SP

This would indicate Industrial Gear Oil of 220 ISO viscosity grade with a sulphur phosphorus additive. It can be written simply as OGI-220 if it is felt that this is all that is necessary.

This rationale is to be used throughout for all lubricants, both oils and greases.

Authors note:
We have maintained the above system of devising new nomenclature for products that previously did not exist and will continue to do so for new products as they are added to the system.


The oil categories are as follows, with each example of a specific viscosity in each case.

"S" Series Engine Oil   - OES-30
"C" Series Engine Oil   - OEC-30

Authors note:
The "S" was the designated symbol for Service Station classifications of engine oil, these being predominantly petrol engines, however it is nowadays more prudent to refer to them as Spark Ignition Oils which more accurately describes their function as a petrol crankcase oil.
The "C" was the designated symbol for Commercial classifications of engine oil, these being predominantly diesel engines, however it is nowadays more prudent to refer to them as Compression Ignition Oils, which more accurately describes their function as a diesel crankcase oil.

Automotive Gear Oil   - OGA-90
Automotive Transmission Oil, Dexron Type - OTA-DX 11
Circulating Hydraulic Oil   - OHC-32
Circulating Hydraulic Oil, High Viscosity Index Type - OHC-32V

(Note the V is placed as a suffix to the viscosity number to indicate high viscosity index. It refers to a viscosity property and is therefore affixed to the viscosity number where it belongs).

Fire Resistant Hydraulic Oil   - OHF-100
Industrial Circulating Oil   - OCI-220
Circulating Turbine Oil   - OTC-46
Industrial Gear Oil   - OGI-220
Electrical Transformer Oil   - OTE-15
Steam Cylinder Oil   - OCS-680
Refrigeration Compressor Oil   - OCR-68
Air Compressor Oil   - OCA-46
Girth Gear Oil   - OGG-1000

These are the major oil groups used by the gold, coal and diamond mines.

Authors note:
The fact that only gold, coal and diamond mines are mentioned dates this publication to before the global interest in Platinum Group Metals.

We have managed to maintain a large number of the above listed nomenclature but care has been taken to update the minimum specification requirements as well as the adherence to the minimum specifications by the lubricant manufacturers, hence going forward only products bearing the Registered ISLS Brand Mark will be acknowledged as being equivalent to the ISLS nomenclature.


Greases are categorised similarly according to application and properties.  Grease properties are designated according to the following:


    The consistency of grease is denoted by the use of NLGI (National Lubricating Grease Institute) numbers. These numbers range from 000 to 6, NLGI number 000 being the softest grade of grease and 6 being the hardest. The chart below shows the full NLGI range of greases.

    NLGI  ASTM D217
    Number  Worked
    Penetration at 25 degrees C

     000   445-475
     00   400-430
     0   355-385
     1   310-340
     2   265-295
     3   220-250
     4   175-205
     5   130-160
     6   85-115


    Grease is made by thickening oil with a soap filler. The soaps or fillers used are Lithium (L), Calcium (C), Soda (S), Bentonite (B) and Polyurea (P). Complex soaps are chemically stabilised soaps. Lithium (LX), Calcium (CX) and Aluminium (AX) complex soaps were available.

    Authors note:
    The letter suffixes relate only to the nomenclature of the ISLS and do not refer to periodic table symbols. Also the suffix S after Soda appears to be incorrect and should refer to Sodium Soap Thickener, thus Sodium (S).

Performance additives

    E.P. grease contains a chemical extreme pressure additive. Graphite and Molybdenum Disulphide greases contain small particles of these lubricating solids. The letters G and M are used to designate their presence. These greases are used in applications with heavy to severe loads. Tackiness additives are indicated by the use of the suffix T.

Designation examples:

GPG 2 LEP designates that the grease is for general purpose (GPG with a consistency of 2 and a Lithium (L) thickener and an extreme pressure additive (EP).

Other examples are:

    Winch Gear Grease  - GGW-1/2 BT (Bentonite Tacky)
    Rock Drill Grease  - GDR-380
    General Purpose Grease  - GPG 2CX EP (Calcium Complex, Extreme Pressure)

Quality Assurance

Lubricants supplied to the above nomenclature will be subject to quality control to ensure consistency of quality from batch to batch and according to the laid down SABS specification and any additional requirements.

Authors note:
The above Quality Assurance is far too broad, and locally specific, to provide the peace of mind required by the modern day mine manager operating million Dollar pieces of equipment. The onus rests with the oil company to prove their compliance of the ISLS system for their specific lubricants, regarding their usage of raw materials and additive packages as well as the latest ISO standards globally accepted for lubricant manufacturing.
Lubricants bearing the SABS Mark

These have an inherent assurance of quality. Suppliers holding a mark are required to comply with the requirements of SABS 0157* "Quality Management Systems". Further products are sample inspected for adequate quality levels at continuous but irregular intervals. Quality problems experienced in use may be referred to the SABS.

Authors Note:
*SABS 0157 has since been superseded with ISO 9000/2000
Brand Name Lubricants

The scheme encompasses a quality assurance system similar in concept to the SABS mark scheme. Suppliers will be required to obtain the "SABS Listing for Accessed Capability", which will assure compliance with SABS 0157.

Quality Controls include the following:

    Product compliance with performance specification i.e. a type test.
    Quality Control of production by sampling techniques.
    Production process reviews.

Authors note:
Again, what is said above will be reviewed and modernised to a globally acceptable accreditation system and any "Brand Name" meeting the ISLS specifications will be allowed to apply for the ISLS Brand Mark.


We do not believe it necessary to give the rest of the detail regarding Drum Colours and Symbols as we believe these will become obsolete in the near future with the progress and development of new products within the oil industry to meet the more stringent demands made by the OEM's.

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