Product improvement and cost reduction have always been important goals in the metal forming industry. The rise of finite element (FEM) simulations for processes has contributed to these goals in a major way. More recently, coupling FEM simulations to mathematical optimisation techniques has shown the potential to make a further giant contribution to product improvement and cost reduction. Much research on the optimisation of metal forming processes has been published during the last couple of years. Although the results are impressive, the optimisation techniques are generally only applicable to specific optimisation problems for specific products and specific metal forming processes. As a consequence, applying optimisation techniques to other metal forming problems requires a lot of optimisation expertise, which forms a barrier for more general industrial application of these techniques. In this paper, we overcome this barrier by proposing a generally applicable optimisation strategy that makes use of FEM simulations of metal forming processes. It consists of a structured methodology for modelling optimisation problems related to metal forming. Subsequently, screening is applied to reduce the size of the optimisation problem by selecting only the most important design variables. Finally, the reduced optimisation problem is solved by an efficient optimisation algorithm. The strategy is generally applicable in a sense that it is not constrained to a certain type of metal forming problem, product or process. Also, any FEM code may be included in the strategy. Furthermore, the structured approach for modelling and solving optimisation problems should enable non-optimisation specialists to apply optimisation techniques to improve their products and processes. The optimisation strategy has been successfully applied to a hydroforming process, which demonstrates the potential of the optimisation of metal forming processes in general and more specific the proposed optimisation strategy.