What is That Shelving Unit in Warehouses Called?

Industrial Metal Shelving

To determine exactly what kinds of storage systems you need for your warehouse, it’s worth understanding the options available and how they differ from each other. With this knowledge, you can maximize your warehouse storage space and increase the efficiency of your operation.

Shelving or Racking?

Whether you need shelving units or racking systems depends on the types of inventory you’re storing. Shelving units are preferable if you store lightweight, compact items, such as cardboard cartons, loose parts in bins, or consumer products for order pickers to retrieve by hand.

Shelving is also ideal for supplementing the storage needs of warehouses that use racking systems, allowing you to keep spare parts and accessories for your equipment protected yet accessible.

Racking systems fall into several categories and are designed to store heavy, bulky inventory items for retrieval by forklift trucks or workers using pallet jackets. Pallet racks, specifically, are designed to store palletized inventory. Some allow forklifts to drive into the system to load and unload inventory.

What is a Pallet?

Pallets are some of the most important items in the global supply chain. A pallet is a flat, square panel-like structure on which workers place loads for handling by forklift trucks and pallet jacks. Products are fastened to the pallet using plastic film, strapping, or other methods to secure them in place and keep them organized and stable. Forklift trucks load pallets into racking systems, placing them on horizontal beams.

Common Types of Racking

Warehouse racking systems are available in a wide variety of configurations, depending on the precise needs of the warehouse. When choosing a racking system, typical considerations include selectivity, storage density, how narrow the aisles are, cost, and product type.

Selectivity vs. Storage Density

High selectivity, which provides increased inventory access, typically results in less storage density. If you need to store multiple products in low volumes on a FIFO (first in, first out) basis or have more space than you need, this may be suitable for your purposes.

Typical examples are selective, and pallet flow racks, which allow you to retrieve the product you need at the time. Selective racking is also cheap and versatile, so it’s what most warehouses start with.

However, as your warehouse expands and you store products in higher volumes, you’ll need to determine whether upgrading to a high-density system is a worthwhile investment. Push back racking is a popular high-density choice because it reduces the footprint of your racks and frees up floor space for other use.


Several factors affect the cost, from how the system is assembled to the complexity of the design. Used racking systems are generally cheaper than new ones, and the depth of the pallet rack frame you choose will also affect the price. A single-deep selective rack is less expensive than a rack that’s two or more pallets deep.

Product Types

Not every rack is designed to store pallets. For example, cantilever racks are used by warehouses that store everything from lumber and bar stock to furniture. In addition, products with long shelf lives with low turnover rates typically require a LIFO system (last in, first out), such as a drive-in rack.

For more specialized applications, such as the storage of metal drums, Meco Drum Pallet Racks combine cradles, made from 1¼” metal tubing, with traditional horizontal beams. The tubing is designed to protect the drums, reducing wear. To reconfigure the rack structure, simply remove the cradles, and the beams will support your palletized inventory.

Common Types of Shelving

Not to be confused with racking, warehouse shelving units are commonly used in warehouses to store non-palletized inventory items.

Wire Shelving

Wire shelving is lightweight and versatile, consisting of upright posts connected to wire-strand shelves. Its open mesh design allows light to penetrate the system, increasing visibility and user access.

The air can circulate freely between the shelves and inventory items in wire shelving units, keeping products fresh and free from dust and condensation. This design also ensures that sprinkler systems can extinguish fires before they spread.

Industrial Steel Shelving

Heavy-duty shelving units are available in various configurations and may be closed or open. Closed designs use rear and end panels to increase structural strength and protect inventory items from falling. These systems may be boltless, assembled using fasteners, or welded.

Boltless Shelving

Also called rivet shelving, this assembly method can apply to several shelving systems and allow you to assemble units quickly and easily. Rather than using bolts, clips, or other fasteners, boltless shelving uses rivets or connecting posts that attach to teardrop-shaped slots in the system’s uprights. This creates a locking action that increases with the downward pressure of loading.

Mobile Shelving

Electrically or mechanically operated, mobile shelving systems use carriages that slide along tracks in the floor, providing a high-density storage solution for warehouses and other businesses. When aisles are not needed for worker access, you can close them, reducing the required floor space. Mobile shelving is popular for storing physical archives, such as paper files and books.

Shelving Accessories

There are plenty of accessories you can add to your shelving units, depending on the design. Drawers, bins and dividers allow you to keep items separate and properly organized, whereas caster assemblies can turn your stationary wire shelving unit into a mobile one. You can also use S hooks to attach shelving units, increasing the storage capacity.

Find the Right Shelving Unit or Rack

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we specialize in both shelving and racking systems for warehouses. If you have any questions regarding storage options, give us a call at (800) 589-7225, and we’ll help you determine the best kind of shelving or racking system to meet the needs of your business.

You can also browse our online catalog or explore our educational blog series to learn more about shelving and racking units and their accessories.