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Warehouse Pallet Racking Fact Sheet

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Warehouse pallet racking is one of the highest priority considerations for companies setting up their warehouse and distribution centres. Many questions need answering when you are considering racking for your warehouse. In this article, we will look at the facts and guide you through some of the questions you should be asking:

What is warehouse pallet racking?

Warehouse pallet racks allow goods to be safely and securely stored vertically instead of horizontally to optimise available storage space and save floor space. They are load-bearing racking systems where forklift operators access placing and retrieving pallets or single items stored on the shelving.

Understanding the Benefits of Warehouse Pallet Racking

Warehouses are functional floor spaces where all inventory is stored. The size of the warehouse is defined by the business’s inventory levels and manufacturing requirements. The goal of all warehouses is to maximise the used space efficiently. Warehouse racking is the ideal solution as it leverages the vertical space in a facility, allowing the storage of more inventory and materials without expanding your horizontal footprint.

Thus, the benefits of pallet racking include:

  • Lowers your cost per order as the amount of floor space is minimised
  • Maximises space utilisation from floor to ceiling by taking advantage of vertical space
  • Keeps your operations organised
  • Assists in preventing damage to products on the ground from pests, moisture, equipment impacts, etc.
  • Provides access to pallets to retrieve them more quickly and easily

How to design warehouse pallet racking?

Any pallet racking used in a warehouse should be designed with an understanding of the floor space and inventory levels. In addition, the racking must be specifically for the size, shape and weight of the products your operation will be storing. Critically, it is also important that all racking is set up and maintained according to the manufacturers’ instructions. The use of second-hand or used pallet racking can be dangerous for your operation if the product is compromised or not used to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The design and layout must consider accessibility by material handling equipment with allowances for aisle width, usable footprint and racking height are also important considerations. The racking layout should be compatible with the material handling equipment being used. Aisle width is a priority and sets the tone for the facility’s efficiency. The aisle width is defined by the turning circle of forklifts used for picking stock and replenishment. 

Additionally, the layout should consider loading and unloading bays, emergency access points, adequate lighting and any manual handling activities.

What rating of pallet racking do I need?

The most important consideration for pallet racking is its rated capacity – the weight it is capable of holding safely. 

The two critical rated capacities related to pallet racking that should never be exceeded are:

  1. maximum unit load – an individual item stored on the rack or shelf that can be placed or retrieved in one lift operation.
  2. total rated capacity for each bay – the weight of combined unit loads stored in one racking bay, should never exceed the rated capacity of the bay.

This critical information should be provided to those people who operate equipment and load/unload the warehouse racks. A constant reminder and most effective method of reinforcing this information is to display it clearly in a visible location on the racking. An example of a load capacity sign is below:

As part of the OHS requirements for warehouse racking, the racking supplier should provide the following for display:

  • manufacturer’s name and their trademark, the supplier’s name (if they differ), and the installation date
  • warehouse designer’s company name 
  • the certified working unit load limit
  • the certified total working unit load limit for each pallet beam level
  • the certified total working unit load limit for each bay
  • the certified maximum distance from the base plate level to the first beam level and maximum distance between adjacent beam levels

The warehouse racking systems must conform to Australian Standards to ensure high quality and safe storage system.

Warehouses should be a method of determining the weight of each unit load being placed into the racking to ensure compliance with the ratings.

What are the best types of warehouse pallet racking available?

There are two categories of warehouse pallet racking systems (a) low-density and (b) high-density. The primary advantage of low-density systems is that they provide better selectivity of inventory, and the opposite can be said of high-density systems.

What Does Selectivity and Density Mean?

Selectivity in warehouses is how easily accessible inventory or materials are for forklifts or pickers. Certain types of warehouse racking can offer easy access for pickers (i.e., high selectivity). At the same time, other racking systems do not allow order pickers to access inventory and materials as easily (i.e., low selectivity).

Density is the reference for how much inventory or material can be stored in a warehouse.

The selection of your warehouse racking style and your products will define how much (i.e., higher density) or less you can store (i.e., lower density).

Some examples of high-density racking systems include:

  • Double or triple depth racks
  • Drive-in or drive-through
  • Push back spring rail

The density and selectivity are interrelated and determined by the higher the density of storage, then the lower the selectivity available.

With that in mind, let’s review the common types of warehouse pallet racking, their advantages and disadvantages, and the common industries they are used.

Low-Density Racking Systems

Selective racking is the most popular type of pallet racking used in warehouses as it works with any forklift, so no specialised lift trucks are required. The two types of selective racking are (1) one-pallet deep and (2) double-deep racking.

Selective racking can store just one pallet deep.

This system provides unhindered access to each pallet within the racking system, making it ideal for the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory systems, an inventory and accounting method wherein the first products stored are also the first to go out.

Overwhelmingly the most popular warehouse inventory storage method and a logical, simple system to operate. Additionally, it works well for companies selling perishable goods and other products that have expiry dates or obsolescence, such as industries like:

  • Food and beverage industry
  • Fashion and apparel industry
  • Pharmaceuticals industry
  • Electronics industry
  • Cosmetics industry

Additionally, selective racking systems are well-suited to operations with low inventory turnover and high product differentiation.

Selective Racking Advantages:

  • Lower acquisition cost
  • Design Flexibility
  • No specialty operational equipment is required, such as forklifts 
  • Accommodates a wide array of products with differing volume, weight, or size
  • High stock visibility and accessibility
  • Lower risk of product damage

Selective Racking Disadvantages:

  • Low storage density

Common Industries using Selective Racking:

  • General warehousing
  • General distribution centres
  • General manufacturing
  • Retail

Double-Deep Racking

Double-deep racking systems have many similarities to selective racking, but instead of operating one row, the racking is placed two rows deep.

Double deep pallet racking provides double the storage of single selective racks by placing the racks either back-to-back or two rows deep on each side, maximising density.

A key feature of this racking system is it offers a more effective use of the warehouse footprint by reducing the number of aisles. However, it is only compatible with First-In, Last-Out (FIFO) inventory management.

Double-reach racking is best suited for operations with multiples of the same stock.

Double Deep Racking Advantages:

  • Lower acquisition cost
  • Higher storage density

Double Deep Racking Disadvantages:

  • Reduces pick selectivity
  • Specialty forklift truck required – which may add cost if not part of your current fleet

Common Industries:

  • General warehousing
  • General distribution centres
  • General manufacturing

High-Density Racking Systems

Drive-in or drive-through racking

Drive-in or drive-through racking operates with pallets stored on rails instead of shelving. The rails extend the length of the rack, allowing forklifts to drive into the racking laneways for pallet placement and removal. 

Drive-in or drive-through warehouse racking is ideal for storing a limited number of inventory SKUs with uniform pallet sizes and load measurements. This continuity in sizing allows for consistent load rail heights.

These racking systems are ideal for warehouses operating with Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory systems.

Drive-in or drive-through racking Advantages:

  • Increases pallet positions
  • Requires less warehouse space

Drive-in or drive-through racking Disadvantages:

  • Reduced picker selectivity
  • Increased opportunities for impacts or contact between forklift and racking

Common Industries:

  • General warehousing
  • General distribution centres
  • Freezer/cooler
  • Retail

Push-back Spring Rail Racking

Push-back spring rail racking is a series of pallets that glide on rails. When pallets are loaded, the springs stretch to allow the pallet to be loaded in front. As most pallets are loaded, the spring stretches to cover the full length of the track. During unloading, the driver removes the front pallet, and springs automatically push forward all pallets leaving the next pallet ready for access.

It’s very similar to soft drink coolers in convenience stores. As you remove a drink bottle, a new one slides forward. Push-back spring rail racking works best with limited storage space and products with consistent size and weight. This system is optimum for Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory management systems.

Push-back spring rail racking Advantages

  • High storage density
  • Reduces picking time
  • Requires fewer aisles
  • No specialty equipment is necessary

Push-back spring rail racking Disadvantages

  • Increased expensive storage option
  • Potential for lost pallet positions

Common Industries

  • General warehousing
  • General distribution centres
  • Retail

Pallet Flow Racking

The pallet flow racking system allows up to 20 pallets to flow or roll down an incline to the front of the racking on a series of rollers or wheels. The pallets are loaded at one end of the system and unloaded at the other end. This maximises the use of floor space with limited aisle requirements. It also makes it optimal for First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory management.

This system is an excellent choice for operations with large volumes of a very limited number of SKUs. It also functions well for perishable or time-sensitive products.

Pallet Flow Racking Advantages:

  • Increased product selectivity
  • Superior density rates

Pallet Flow Racking Disadvantages:

  • High expense per pallet position
  • Potential for lost pallet positions – the system is on an incline which takes up more space
  • Pallet flow system requires maintenance

Common Industries:

  • Grocery
  • Retail

Cantilever Racking

Cantilever racking consists of protruding arms designed to hold lengthy or unusual shaped materials, like pipes and wood. The racking is designed to have no front-loading access obstructed with solid vertical uprights making it well suited for awkward or oversized materials.

This system is best used for Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory systems.

Cantilever Racking Advantages

  • Simple to install
  • Simple to adjust
  • Flexibility to store oversized or awkward materials and products

Cantilever Racking Disadvantages

  • Requires wide aisles unless using a specialised lift truck

Common Industries:

  • Building supplies
  • Metal shops
  • Plumbing
  • Furniture

Warehouse Pallet Racking Comparison Chart

We’ve compiled this quick pallet racking comparison chart to assist you in deciding which option/s will work best for your facility.

Racking Type Ideal For: Specialty
Equipment Required
Storage Density Inventory
Management System
Cost  
Selective Products of any volume,
weight or size
No Low FIFO $  
Double-Deep Multiples of the same stock Yes Medium LIFO $  
Drive-In/Drive-Through Limited number of SKUs with
uniform measurements
No Medium LIFO $  
Push-Back Spring Rail Products consistent in size and weight No High LIFO $  
Pallet Flow Very limited number of SKUs in
large volumes
No High FIFO $  
Cantilever Oversized and awkward products No High LIFO $  

 

These warehouse storage solutions ensure your products and services assist in providing excellent customer service through warehouse efficiencies.

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