A very basic but important for metal fabricators is this: when should you get into roll forming? How do you justify it? In this post, we'll discuss some rules of thumb for when metal fabricators should begin looking into roll forming.

When to Get Into Roll Forming: Volume

Generally, a shop that's already press braking, that their volumes have increased, is a good candidate for roll forming, as long as the parts are roll form-able. If the volume has grown enough, it's likely time to graduate over into roll forming. But what's a good number? It's definitely not 30,000 feet; usually in the several hundred thousands of feet range to be able to justify the equipment.

Roll-forming is a high volume production system. If your shop can run a part at a hundred feet a minute and the part is 10 feet long, it doesn't take long to run 300,000 feet. There are applications where you may run slower, but even if you're running 20 feet a minute, and your average part length is 5-6 feet, this is still a lot of parts. Most shops want to make sure their machines are constantly running, unless you have a specialty application, like aerospace, where the material costs matter more than anything and the client just needs the consistency that you get. In general, you should start looking at roll forming once you hit the over 300,000 feet range, and definitely if you're over a million.

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Why Not Just Add More Press Brakes?

The simple is answer is that technically, you could just add more press brakes. However, there's extra capital that you're going to have to spend for that, in equipment, personnel, and labor. And this can be a challenge in today's hiring market.
 
If you already have multiple press brakes and personnel, there are other benefits in switching to roll forming. First, you can redistribute your labor force into other areas of your facility or into your process because roll forming is going to generate more footage at a higher line speed in the overall throughput of product compared to what's going on in a press brake system. While a roll forming line's also going to require capital, to what extent?
 
A roll forming line needs one or two people, typically, to run the line. Meanwhile, every press brake has to have more people, so you save that labor with a roll former. Additionally, if you are already buying some roll formed parts on the outside, from a vendor or a custom roll former that runs smaller amounts, now you can get the tooling make them it yourself. This way, you control the quality and the inventory when you bring it back in-house.

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