Many warehouse operations store materials in bulk. Often, these items can be more complicated to store than traditional palletized inventory. Storing heavy and irregular objects, like drums, barrels, bricks, furniture, or raw materials, can pose a challenge to warehouse managers.
While some of these materials can be stored using the block stacking method, which involves stacking inventory on the floor, pallet racking is a versatile solution that can be used to store bulk materials more effectively.
Why Should I Choose Pallet Racking for Bulk Storage?
Compared to block storage, pallet racking systems offer several unique advantages. The main challenge posed by the floor stacking method is a limitation on vertical height utilization (items cannot be stacked high due to the risk of collapse). Plus, floor stacking can put undue constraints on logistical options, like inventory management systems.
Use Space More Effectively
The main reason many warehouses use pallet racking systems is the ability to take advantage of the storage facility’s vertical space. By allowing products to be stored higher, warehouses can improve their storage density significantly.
Often, warehouses that use pallet racking can compound their overall storage capacity by two to three times. This allows the facility to store more products, increase profitability and enable the business to grow organically. With more usable space in the warehouse, expansion can be as easy as purchasing a few extra pallet racks. This can save businesses costly renovations or facility expansions.
Another major benefit of using pallet racking systems is improved flexibility. Since inventory is neatly organized and accessible with pallet racking, warehouse managers can implement more involved inventory management systems. Some types of pallet racking are compatible with computerized inventory tracking systems, which can save businesses time, money, and effort compared to manual inventory tracking.
Besides providing an opportunity to use advanced management techniques, pallet racking is also flexible from a layout standpoint. There are several possible configurations of pallet racks, and since many racks are relatively easy to move, you can reorganize your racks as the needs of your business change.
Durability and Inventory Protection
A major problem posed by the floor stacking method is an increased risk of inventory damage. Stacked products on the floor can be exposed to pests and natural elements, facing a higher risk of being damaged in a forklift collision.
However, if you stack products using a pallet racking system, the product is placed in an elevated position. Keeping products off the ground diminishes the risk of damage from things like water and pests. The metal racking system also provides inventory with protection in the event of a forklift collision.
Pallet racking systems are made from durable metal materials that are intended to last for years with proper use and maintenance. For example, Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s galvanized pallet racks are made with galvanized steel to provide a long-lasting and durable storage option that can hold up to the weight of palletized loads.
Besides improving storage capacity, improved efficiency is one of the top reasons storage operations use pallet racking systems. Pallet racking systems make material handling and inventory retrieval easy. Depending on the setup of your pallet racks and the type of racking you use, you may be able to access an increased amount of your stored inventory and reduce the time it takes to retrieve it.
Besides making inventory more accessible, pallet racking can also improve your inventory organization. With a pallet racking system, you can label each shelf, bin, or rack, allowing employees to store and access inventory with less effort. This also helps you track inventory more effectively.
Combined, these increases in efficiency can improve the operation’s profit margins over the long term.
While pallet racking systems may require a larger initial investment than the floor stacking method, warehouses installing pallet racking will reduce overhead costs. Over time, these savings will dwarf the cost of the initial investment in the racks.
Since products stored on pallet racks are less likely to be damaged than those stored with the floor stacking method, your business will see a decreased shrink rate. The improved efficiency provided by pallet racks can save the operation on labor costs.
As your business grows, you will need to use more of your warehouse’s space. If you do not use pallet racking, much of your facility’s vertical storage space will be wasted, meaning that if the business wishes to expand, it will need to pay for an expansion or buy a new warehouse.
With pallet racking installed, you can simply expand your pallet racking as you grow, delaying or eliminating the need to expand your facility.
Choose the Correct Pallet Rack for Your Materials
While pallet racking systems offer various benefits to warehouses that use them, they cannot provide their full potential unless you choose the right type of rack for your operation. Pallet racking can be divided into four main types, with many variations within each group.
Selective Pallet Racking
The most popular type of pallet racking system is selective pallet racking. Using selective pallet racking systems, items are stored on load-bearing, heavy-duty pallet racking beams attached to supportive rack uprights. These racks can be configured to fit the dimensions of the products you are storing and can be an excellent option for businesses that store a wide range of SKUs.
Selective pallet racking is popular due to the level of access provided by the racks. With selective pallet racking, each pallet is accessible at all times; this facilitates simplified product retrieval and inventory tracking.
Another benefit of selective pallet racking is that you can access a pallet without moving other warehouse pallets. Accessing pallets at the back of the storage area or underneath other pallets can be difficult with the floor stacking system. Selective pallet racking solves this problem by offering individual access to each pallet.
Since selective pallet racking is made with interchangeable components, you can customize your racks to fit the needs of your business. For example, Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s FastRak Uprights allow facilities to quickly and easily adjust the configuration of the rack. These pallet racking uprights allow facilities with constantly-changing storage demands to adapt to their inventory needs.
Drive-In Pallet Racking
Another storage option that many warehouses use is drive-in (or drive-through) pallet racking. These racks are designed for forklifts to drive directly up to the rack, accessing the pallet from one side (or two sides with drive-through racks).
The main benefit of these pallet racking systems is an increase in storage density. Compared to other racking systems, drive-in and drive-through pallet racks allow warehouses to store more pallets in less space; as a result, these pallet racks are most commonly used by warehouses that store a large number of the same SKUs, where pallet selectivity is not a primary concern.
One drawback to drive-in pallet racking is that the racks are more prone to damage due to increased interaction between the racks and forklifts. Frequent pallet racking inspections are paramount to avoid a potentially costly collapse.
Pushback Pallet Racking
One variant of pallet racking that can be useful for some applications is pushback pallet racking. With pushback racks, pallets are placed on nesting carts, which slide along integrated inclined rail systems. When a pallet is placed in the rack, it pushes any already-present pallets back with it, keeping the most recently stored pallet in the front. When the front pallet is removed, the remaining pallets slide forward.
For this reason, pushback pallet racking is primarily used by storage facilities that must use a last-in-first-out (LIFO) inventory management method. The improved storage density and LIFO compatibility for these facilities make pushback pallet racking a top choice.
Although not technically a type of pallet racking, many bulk storage facilities choose to use cantilever racking for irregular objects like logs or steel pipes. A cantilever rack uses cantilevers (arms extruding from the rack that are supported on one side) to store long objects.
If you are storing bulk lumber, piping, beams, couches, or other objects that cannot be palletized, cantilever racking may be your best option. Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s galvanized cantilever racks are designed to handle the rigors of this type of storage. Constructed with galvanized steel, these racks can even be used in harsh outdoor environments.
Pallet Racking Systems at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.
Facilities that must store products in bulk often face unique challenges compared to other storage operations. With a higher number of similar products, bulk storage operations must consider storage density above all else. Pallet racking systems are often the best way to store more inventory in less space, making them a popular and effective option for bulk storage facilities.
If you operate a bulk storage facility and are looking to install a racking system, call the storage experts at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. at (800) 589-7225. Our team can help you choose the best type of rack for your storage facility, recommend pallet rack accessories, and provide safe and efficient installation with the help of our in-house installation crew.
Contact us today to see how we can help you improve your facility’s storage density, safety, and overall productivity.