The use of ultra high strength steels (UHSS) in the automotive industry presents a significant opportunity for continued vehicle light-weighting, due to possible strength-to-weight improvements of three to four times that of conventional sheet steel grades. This performance benefit is achievable whist maintaining most of the advantages of low-cost mass-production associated with the cold stamping of sheet steel for automotive body components. However, the introduction of UHSS can result in significantly increased wear of the stamping tools, which is difficult to predict at the design stage and can lead to unexpected process failure during mass-production. Therefore, there is a need to be able to monitor and predict the onset of severe wear, such that the best course of condition-based maintenance can be scheduled and unscheduled stoppages due to tool wear eradicated. This paper describes a novel active monitoring system that is being developed by researchers at Deakin University, The Australian National University and Ford Motor Company, Asia Pacific and Africa. The aim of the active monitoring system is to detect the initial onset of a change of state, such as wear, through the measurement of variables such as punch force and audio signals. A semi-industrial stamping process, using a progressive die setup and high strength steel sheet with hardened tool steel tooling, is the experimental basis for the initial model and system development.