Pallet racks are vital parts of any warehouse or storage facility operation. An unsuitable or improperly laid out racking storage system can lead to poor workflow, decreased productivity, injuries to workers, and damage to inventory and systems. The right racking system improves storage density, maximizes your use of your facility’s storage space, and boosts your operation’s safety and profitability.
It is vital to understand what they are, how they are used, and what types are available to get the most out of your pallet racking systems. This information enables you to select the optimal product for your warehouse space, distribution center, or storage facility.
Pallet Rack Terminology
Before purchasing a pallet racking system, you should know the components and terminology used to describe them.
Also called access aisles or forklift aisles, this term refers to the space between rows to provide access to pallets. They are typically wide enough for material handling equipment to maneuver safely.
Anchors and Bolts
Anchors are devices that secure the rack to the warehouse floor. In some systems, a warehouse may use the anchors to attach the rack to a mobile slab. Most anchors, like Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc.’s anchor bolts, are constructed using heavy-duty steel or metal.
This term refers to the space between the two upright columns. The bay’s purpose is to store pallets; there are typically multiple bays on different vertical levels per rack. In drive-in racking systems, bays must be large enough to allow forklifts to maneuver in and out.
A rack’s beam is the horizontal component that supports the weight of the stored inventory. Beams are attached to the rack’s upright columns and are available in numerous sizes, dimensions, and capacities.
For example, our adjustable Unirak beams are available in various dimensions and include a high-gloss powder finish to prevent abrasion and enhance visibility.
A rack’s capacity refers to the maximum load the racking system can safely handle. The capacity varies depending on the system’s design, dimensions, and materials.
Pallet rack decks are additional horizontal supports attached to the uprights to assist the beams in handling the load. Decks are available in various materials, such as plywood, galvanized steel, or mesh wire decking. Although decking is not always necessary, it can facilitate the storage of specific items.
Footplates (also called baseplates) comprise the base portion of the rack’s uprights. They allow the uprights to be secured to the floor. Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc.’s deluxe foot plates are compatible with the FastRak™ pallet system and are designed to be secured directly into your warehouse’s concrete slab for optimal stability.
A pallet rack’s frame is its overall structure, including the uprights, beams, and any attachments and accessories, such as decking. Our Unirak frames are designed to be highly adjustable, facilitating the storage of an ever-changing inventory pool.
Pallets are used to store and transport standardized quantities of inventory. In a warehouse setting, most products are palletized. They can be made from various materials, including plywood, plastic, rubber, and metal, each supporting varying weight capacities.
For example, our aluminum pallets are designed to withstand the mass of heavy objects without bending or cracking.
A run is a row of pallet racks set up together. Runs consist of many pallet racks and bays, and most pallet racks are configured in runs.
A shuttle is a section of a mobile pallet rack that moves pallets or other inventory for easy access. They are similar to pallets, but they have wheels. Some mobile pallet racks use gravity to move pallets, while others use a motor.
A rack’s upright is the vertical column of the frame that supports its horizontal beams. Decking may also be attached to the uprights. Uprights are available in various dimensions and capacities and often include slots to adjust beam heights easily.
Our FastRak™ uprights feature a detachable footplate and a 7,000-lb. weight capacity.
Wall ties are intended to secure pallet racking to a wall or other structure. They provide additional stability and help prevent a collapse.
Types of Pallet Racking
Although there are many styles of pallet and warehouse racking systems available, they can be grouped into the following five categories:
High-Density Pallet Racking
High-density pallet racking is designed to improve a warehouse’s storage density. These racking systems are composed of stackable and adjustable pallet racks, though other variations are also available. Typically, high-density racking systems are used by facilities with high numbers of the same SKUs, where selectivity is only a secondary concern.
For example, our teardrop pallet rack frames are intended to maximize your facility’s flexibility. The rack uprights’ teardrop design allows easy, on-the-fly adjustments without requiring specialized tools or training. The racks are available in length configurations ranging from 24 to 48 inches, with width configurations ranging from 96 to 288 inches.
Selective Pallet Racking
While selective pallet racking helps improve storage density, its primary goal is facilitating easy access to any pallet.
Inventory stored using selective pallet racking systems is always available for picking or processing without moving inventory or racks, which makes them a popular choice among facilities managing diverse SKUs. Many types of selective pallet racking are available, including pallet flow racking, structural pallet racking, or traditional racking systems like our galvanized pallet racks.
Our galvanized pallet racks allow warehouse workers to access all stored inventory easily. They are available in a high-quality powder-coated finish or in hot-dipped galvanized steel, which enables the frame to withstand harsh elements.
The rack beam spacing is configurable, ranging from 36 to 96 inches, allowing you to adjust your racking system to best suit your storage needs.
Mobile Pallet Racking
Mobile pallet racking is primarily intended to improve warehouse workflow. These racking systems consist of standard pallet racks placed on a movable chassis, which travels along a preset rail system.
Mobile pallet racks can be considered a hybrid of selective and high-density systems. As mobile systems, they eliminate the need for permanent access aisles, whereas their configuration allows warehouse workers to access any stored pallet, much like a selective pallet rack.
Cantilever racking is a storage solution used to store long, irregular objects. They are structurally different from other pallet racking types, with a single strong upright that supports several angled arms to support inventory.
Specialty Racking and Other Racking Types
There are also specialty racks for storing unique or irregularly-sized objects. For example, our drum pallet racks are suitable for storing liquid goods in barrels or drums, such as water or gasoline. Smaller racking systems designed for single-unit access instead of pallet access are also available for non-palletized goods.
Choosing the Correct Pallet Racking System
With so many types of pallet racking for sale, determining the best system for your business can take time and effort. Here are the essential factors to consider when choosing a racking system:
The depth of a rack upright measures the distance between the front pair of uprights and the back pair. Knowing the depth helps determine the system’s overall capacity while setting an effective maximum on the size of your inventory.
Another vital consideration is the rack’s upright height, which measures how tall the rack stands. Effectively using the storage facility’s vertical space is the easiest way for warehouses to improve storage density and profitability. As a result, managers should aim to use the tallest racking system possible.
However, ensure that you leave plenty of space above the top of the rack to allow sprinkler systems to function correctly in the case of a fire and to comply with OSHA and local standards and codes.
Your rack’s upright capacity measures the maximum safe load capacity for each rack. Since this number indicates the maximum capacity for the uprights, it defines the combined load-bearing capacity for each rack level, determining how much inventory you can safely store in each rack.
The pallet racking beam’s width partially determines the storage rack’s total capacity. Wider beams are traditionally capable of bearing more weight, while narrower beams have reduced weight capacity thresholds.
The rack’s beam capacity determines the maximum load the beam can safely support. The beam and upright capacities are necessary to assess which inventory you can safely load on the racking system.
You should also consider the rack’s decking. Some racking systems may not include decking, whereas others may provide slots to add decking, like our wire decking, or come with pre-installed decking.
Heavy-duty decking allows you to store heavy and bulky objects. This decking type typically employs a solid wood, plastic, or metal construction. In contrast, wire mesh decking is suitable for light-duty storage where light exposure and airflow are crucial, like for food, medicine, perishables, and agricultural products.
Type of Inventory
Another primary consideration is the inventory that your facility will be storing. The number of SKUs stored by your facility will largely determine the best type of pallet racking system for your operation.
For example, if your facility stores many items but few SKUs, you may need pallet racking systems that prioritize storage density over selectivity. If your warehousing facility manages numerous SKUs, your staff must be able to access any pallet at any given time. In this case, selective pallet racking systems may be more efficient.
You should also consider whether your inventory requires special storage considerations, such as airflow, light exposure, or protection against rust and corrosion.
These materials may need to be stored using accessories like mesh wire decking, which improves airflow and light exposure while reducing the accumulation of dust and debris. The size and shape of your inventory determine the dimensions and capacity of your racking systems.
Inventory Management System
Your business’s preferred inventory management style may influence the type of racking system you need.
For example, businesses handling time-sensitive inventory with expiration dates need fast access to the oldest stock first. Consequently, their inventory management style is First in, First out (FIFO), and they may need gravity flow racking.
Facilities that prioritize access to the last added items may use the Last in, First out (LIFO) management style. One of the best pallet racking systems for LIFO facilities is pushback pallet racking.
Purchase and Install the Perfect Pallet Rack with Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc.
Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. offers the comprehensive selection of pallet racks and accessories you need to improve your storage business. We provide installation, setup crews, and project management consulting services.
If your warehouse or storage facility can benefit from pallet racking systems, call one of our experienced project managers at (800) 589-7225 and learn how we can improve your operation’s workflow, storage density, safety, and profitability.