Warehouses and distribution centers employ various inventory storage and retrieval systems. A pallet flow rack, also known as a gravity-flow rack, stores products using the first-in-first-out (FIFO) stock rotation method to economize on warehouse space and maximize throughput efficiency. A pallet flow rack is an excellent solution for high-volume storage and the distribution of multiple pallet loads containing the same product.
A pallet flow rack system is a high-density, multi-deep storage solution consisting of upright frames and horizontal beams that support inclined roller lanes. In this system, the worker loads pallets into the rear of the rack with the assistance of entry guides.
The gravity-assisted roller lanes transport the pallets toward the front face for retrieval. Multiple pallet positions allow for high storage density, which is ideal for warehouses distributing goods with a high turnover rate.
In a well-designed racking system, each flow lane has automatic brakes to control the flow rate, increasing safety and minimizing the risk of product damage. Depending on the footprint and design of the racking system, it may employ rollers, polycarbonate wheels, or skate wheel rollers. When the pallet reaches the pallet stop, it’s ready to be removed. As a forklift operator retrieves one pallet, the one behind it flows forward into the unloading position.
Pallet flow rack systems are ideal for warehouses where aisle space is limited because they take up 60-70% less space than traditional pallet racking systems. These racks have specific loading and retrieval faces that reduce the need for parallel aisles.
Using the FIFO method ensures automatic product rotation, which can help businesses manage high-volume inventory more efficiently. This is especially important for the food and beverage industries, where best before dates must be carefully managed to avoid waste. Cold storage is a good application for flow storage systems.
Pallet flow racks also offer ease of accessibility when loading and unloading pallets of goods, meaning higher productivity and speed of operations in the warehouse. It is a good idea to have a maintenance plan in place and perform routine safety checks to ensure pallets are flowing correctly and the system remains safe.
Pallet flow racks are incredibly versatile and available in various sizes and densities to meet almost any set of warehouse requirements. Pallet flow racks can be a single pallet high, or you can choose a multi-level pick module. Individual racks can also be extended to reach up to 20 pallets per lane.
When deciding on how to configure your pallet flow rack, consider the following:
All pallet racks are available in either a boltless or structural configuration. The type that you should select depends on the warehouse.
The boltless or rivet design doesn’t require fasteners. Instead, it uses keyhole-shaped slots in uprights that connect to horizontal beams using rivets. Boltless pallet racks are comparatively lightweight, simple to assemble, and inexpensive to manufacture. However, the lightweight construction also reduces load capacities and durability compared with structural systems.
Structural racking consists of hot-rolled steel components bolted together. The steel construction is thicker and can support heavier loads. It’s also more resistant to impact damage caused by forklift trucks. As a result, structural racking is generally advisable for warehouses that experience high forklift traffic. However, structural pallet racks are also more expensive to manufacture and ship because of the increased complexity and weight.
A carton flow rack uses the same operating principles as a pallet flow rack. The primary difference is that a carton flow rack is designed for storing and transporting cartons, such as cardboard boxes, from the rear to the front for picking.
Regardless of whether you’ve installed a traditional pallet rack or a flow system, there are several accessories you can implement to increase the safety of your goods and personnel. These include:
Our Pallet Rack Guarding, manufactured by Complex Steel & Wire Corporation, consists of heavy-duty welded steel wire mesh to prevent goods from falling from racks. This system won’t interfere with visibility, air circulation, or the effectiveness of sprinkler systems, ensuring a safe work environment.
Another way of safeguarding your workers and merchandise is to install guard netting. Manufactured by Carron Net Company, Inc., these guard nets are made from nylon mess with poly rope binding. Thanks to the modular design, you can cover up to three continuous bays with one net, provided they’re the same width and height.
Whether pallet or carton, flow racks can reduce handling costs and equipment costs, more efficient use of space, and high productivity. At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., our knowledgeable staff can design the optimal racking system for your storage and retrieval needs, according to the requirements of your business.