Tube Mills

Application Notes

About Tube Mills

Manufacturers in this industry have a continuous production process that takes rolled sheets of flat steel or other metal and forms it into tubes.

Machine rate and runtime are the best indications of overall process efficiency.

Examples of Machines Monitored

  • Roll forming tube mill
  • Die punches
  • Cut off saws
  • Laser cutters
Manufacturing Challenges FreePoint technologies

The Challenge

Lost production time, or production time run at a slower rate, is lost revenue. PLCs controlling the line often have little or no effective connectivity to other devices or monitoring software. The uptime of the roll forming mill is critical to the operation since it is the first stage of manufacturing process and every other process depends on it. As such, it cannot be offline for extended periods, making retrofits and upgrades difficult to do.

By collecting empirical data, management can provide more accurate job estimates on both time and cost, improving its competitive advantage, while increasing overall production capacity with real-time machine utilization and production information at their fingertips.

The Environment

Some mills are controlled by PLCs where there is an output that toggles to indicate 1 foot or 1 meter of tube has been produced. This output provides the ideal primary signal to be monitored. In other cases, a proximity sensor could be mounted to detect the keyway on a feed wheel. This would serve as a good alternative as a primary signal. Other signals that are useful to connect to include the cut off saw, in line punches, out of material sensors, and auto/manual indication.

The primary signal would indicate that value adding work is being done, and would be used to calculate linear feet/meters or tube produced, plus feed rate of the material. The cut off saw would indicate how many lengths of tube were made, and in conjunction with the primary signal, how long each piece was.

industrial environment freepoint technologies

The Solution

FreePoint connects non-invasively to roll forming mill and the other machines involved. Our ShiftWorx software would track the mill’s uptime, running time, linear feet (meters) produced, and feed rate. Our Narrative’ software would allow the tracking all of the non-productive time – through the use of reason codes.

The increased transparency often results in an increase in productivity right away. Engaging the operators through a very simple, intuitive “Narration” tool, does two things: it collects empirical downtime information that facilitates “data driven decisions”, and it engages the operators, making them part of the solution.

  • Increase mill capacity & productivity
  • Reduce downtime by increasing process visibility
  • Generate more accurate production & downtime reports
  • Monitor production activity remotely



Using FreePoint’s “Narrative” module, Operators are engaged in the data collection process by empirically identifying all the non-value adding periods (down time causes), which gives management the information they need to make better decisions.


Using FreePoint’s “Notifications” module, supervisors, managers and maintenance staff can be alerted via text or email whenever a critical machine has stopped for a defined period of time, minimizing or eliminating unnecessary down time.



How many pieces of finished tube have been produced (hour/day/shift)


What feed rate the tube mill is running (feet/meters per minute)


What % of time the mill has been running (uptime) by hour/day/shift


What feed rate the tube mill is running (feet/meters per minute)


Which machines run at capacity and which machines are constrained


How many pieces of finished tube have been produced (hour/day/shift)

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