Efficient Changeover of Tube and Pipe Tooling

Everyone’s heard the saying “time is money”.  This applies to changeovers on your tube, pipe and roll forming mills.  When the line is down during changeovers and setups, you are not producing sellable parts so it makes sense to minimize this downtime as much as possible.  For those that do not have rafted mills or mills with some type of automated changeover system, here are some things to consider:


  • Always consider the safety of the crew doing the changeover.
  • Never sacrifice safety for shorter changeover times.
  • Assess the safety concerns for your particular situation and address them accordingly.



  • Choreograph the changeover like a dance or run it like a pit stop in auto racing.
  • Everyone involved should know exactly what tasks they are expected to perform and at what time during the course of the changeover.  Create a checklist so nothing gets overlooked.  Everyone should be properly trained in all aspects of the changeover.
  • More bodies do not necessarily mean faster changeover times.  You don’t want people tripping over each other.  Efficiency is the key.
  • Build storage racks for your tooling that make it easy for the changeover crew to initially strip the mill and then install the next set of tooling.  For example, the racks can be designed to correspond with each pass on the mill.  To make them easy to move around, they can be made with casters to push them, fork tubes for use with a tow motor or eye hooks for use with an overhead crane.  Find out what works best for you.
  • Consider shooting video of a few changeovers then watch them and look for ways to improve your times on the next one.


Keep the machinery, roll tooling and hand tools as clean as possible.  There is nothing worse than trying to do a job quickly and correctly when the environment you’re working in is filthy.


  • Even though you are trying to perform the changeover as fast as possible, take the time to do it right.  Finishing a task quickly means nothing if you have to go back and do it over again.

Documented Setups

  • Be sure to document all of your setups.  This can help to reduce your changeover time significantly as well as reduce scrap.  Remember, the true changeover time is not just the time it takes to swap tooling.  It should also include the time it takes before you are producing a good quality part.

Author: Tim Nahm, Project Manager
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