How to Find the Right Size of Pallet Rack

Pallet Rack

The economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on various industries, and the storage and order fulfillment sector is no exception. With retail businesses closing across the country, many consumers were forced to shop online; industry surveys show that 60% of shoppers ordered online during the pandemic.

As the world begins to move past the pandemic, consumers continue to take advantage of the convenience of online shopping. As a result, storage facilities and fulfillment centers must adapt to the consumer’s changing demands. Among these new demands is an increased need for rapid order fulfillment and an increased need for warehouses to store a greater variety of products.

Pallet racks, used to organize inventory and improve workspace productivity, are an essential tool for businesses in this sector striving to meet these new demands. However, selecting a correctly-sized pallet rack can be challenging. If you are deciding on the right pallet rack size for your storage solution, keep these factors in mind as you shop.

Consider Your Pallet Size

Storage facilities in the United States use hundreds of millions of pallets each year, with different types of pallets and size variations among them. The most common pallet size, accounting for more than 30% of the pallet market share, is 48 inches by 40 inches.

The 48×40-sized pallet became the predominant choice due to a push from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (now called the Consumer Brands Association), which created a standard-sized pallet for grocery-related storage operations.

While no official standard caught on, the 48×40-sized pallets are still the most widely used, and many pallet racking systems are designed to handle this size. This makes them a common choice for businesses that use automated or mechanized pallet racking systems, such as selective pallet racks or pallet flow racks.

While the 48×40 pallet (also called the GMA pallet) is the most common size, it is far from the only option. Though typically for more niche operations, three additional pallet sizes (48×48, 42×42, and 48×45) are also widely used.

The 48×48 pallets are primarily used to transport inventory stored in drums, such as oil or other liquid goods. On the other hand, the 42×42 pallets are used principally to transport telecommunications equipment. The slightly larger 48×45 AIAG pallet is used for wide or heavy-duty loads.

Unless you store liquids, heavy loads, or telecommunications equipment, your facility would likely be best served by 48×40 GMA pallets. Since these pallets can be used with various pallet racking systems, they provide greater flexibility.

Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. offers several pallet models, including stackable and nestable pallets. These pallets are perfect for operations that require a pallet with a little extra capacity because they are made with heavy-duty, high-pressure injection molded plastic in 48×45 AIAG dimensions.

Determine Optimal Frame Depth

A pallet rack’s frame depth measurement indicates the space between the rack’s beams. The rack’s beams are the portion of the rack that connects to the rack’s frame to support the inventory.

Optimally, a pallet will overhang each beam by three inches to allow the beams to support the pallet’s full weight. If the beams are separated by too much space, the torque of the load will not be optimally supported, potentially causing a rack failure.

To calculate your optimal frame depth, subtract 6 inches from your pallet’s depth. If you are using a 48×40 pallet, the optimal frame depth would be 42 inches. This would also be the optimal frame depth for a 48×45 AIAG pallet or a 48×48 square pallet. If you use the smaller 42×42 pallets, the ideal frame depth would be 36 inches.

Many pallet rack frames are available, including Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s Tri-Boro pallet rack frames. These frames are available in various sizes to match your facility’s pallets and feature a one-piece design to prevent hang-ups.

Determine Optimal Frame Height

You will also need to determine the maximum possible upright height for your pallet rack frames. Since floor space is limited in any storage operation, using as much vertical space as possible is the easiest way to increase its storage density. As a result, you want your frames to be as tall as your facility’s dimensions permit. The best way to determine the amount of available vertical space in your facility is by taking a ceiling measurement.

OSHA standards require a minimum vertical clearance of 18 inches between racking and fire sprinkler systems, so you should factor this into your assessment.

Another critical factor to consider before purchasing a pallet rack is your facility’s material handling equipment, such as forklifts. Standard warehouse forklifts may not be capable of reaching inventory stored on the higher levels of the rack, which would render the facility’s storage racks useless. Therefore, your pallet racks’ height may be limited by your forklifts’ vertical reach capability.

Reach fork trucks, which can load and unload inventory stored at the highest levels of the racks, may be a wise investment for rapidly-expanding operations that wish to install taller pallet racks.

Warehouse Pallet Racking

Select a Suitable Beam Size

A pallet rack’s beam length measurement will determine the number of pallets you can store per rack level.

The most common beam size is 8 feet, accommodating the storage of two 48×40 GMA pallets per beam level. The second most common beam size is 12 feet, accommodating three GMA-sized pallets per level.

While they hold fewer pallets per level, shorter beams like the standard 8-foot beam have a higher maximum load capacity and are better suited for storing heavier inventory.

Longer beams (12 feet or longer) have a different weight distribution that limits the beam capacities. These beams are best suited for the storage of medium or lightweight inventory.

Beyond the length of the beams, you should also consider their face size, which helps determine the beam’s maximum load capacity. Beam face measurements typically fall between 3 and 6 inches.

Beams with a wider face size can support larger loads due to their increased surface area, while smaller-faced beams will be more suitable for storing lightweight goods.

To increase the security of your inventory, you can invest in rack beams that feature a safety lock, such as Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s step load beams. These heavy-duty beams feature an integrated safety lock to keep the beam securely attached to the frame and are available in a range of maximum weight capacities.

Pallet Racking Solutions at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.

Choosing the correctly-sized pallet rack is a vital yet often overlooked task. While installing an incorrectly-sized rack will limit your facility’s ability to meet the demands of today’s consumers, installing a rack of the correct size can improve the efficiency of your storage operation.

If you are having trouble finding the perfectly-sized pallet rack for your storage facility, call Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. at (800) 589-7225 to speak with one of our experienced project managers.