Features and Advantages of Wide Span Shelving

wide span metal shelving

Wide span shelving is an industrial shelving system type and one of the many options a warehouse facility manager can use to store and organize merchandise. It is one of the essentials that every warehouse or storage facility should possess.

Learn about the characteristics of wide-span shelving, which objects it is best suited for, and how to make the best out of this storage system.

Wide Span Shelving Product Description

Wide span shelving, also known as bulk shelving, is a well-known and widespread storage solution type for warehouses and storage facilities in many industries.

Wide span shelving is ideal for storing non-palletized products and merchandise that would be considered too small to fit on a typical pallet rack or cantilever rack. Typically, these items are individually handled instead of transported by forklift.

Object types best suited for storage in wide-span shelving include boxes, packages, small crates, bins, and other similar items. In general, if you need to store and access items and products requiring individual piece picking, wide-span shelving is one of the best solutions available.


Bulk shelving units usually feature two parts: the frame and the shelves, also called decking.

Standard shelving units allow for loading and unloading items by hand, from the front and the sides. However, specific bulk shelving units may feature side support beams, giving additional strength to the structure while preventing access to the stored products from the sides.

Frames are typically built out of heavy-gauge steel (usually 14-gauge), providing maximum stability, strength, and support for heavy loads. Shelving units are available in almost any height from 4’ to 26’, making them suitable in virtually any environment, from the garage to the large-scale warehouse.

Multiple deck types are available, each suitable for various purposes, from standard wood, metal, or particleboard solid shelves to wire decking.

wide span industrial shelving


Bulk shelving units exist in many sizes, shapes, and configurations, making it easy to adapt units to your specific needs. In addition, a typical wide-span shelving unit is relatively inexpensive, easy to assemble (many models require little to no tools), and requires next to no maintenance, making it very cost-effective.

A wide span shelving unit design supports each deck on all four corners, guaranteeing stability, high capacity, and even weight distribution. Most heavy-duty steel frames can support up to 2,000 lbs. of products per shelf.

Another advantage is the modular nature of the supports and decking. Wide-span shelving is versatile and easily reconfigurable, letting you assemble and disassemble each unit and change the decks to a different type in a matter of minutes, often without tools. They are a great option if you frequently need to reconfigure your floor space.

Shelving units are available in a wide variety of widths, up to 48” between each post. However, keep in mind that the closer the support beams, the higher the load capacity. A long shelving unit may require more careful load management and distribution to avoid bending or damaging the shelves.

For additional security, you may also fit your decking with a locker assembly, keeping them locked in place as shelf supports and preventing them from falling off of the support beams.

These devices are an ideal option if you frequently store and remove heavy items that could easily displace or knock a shelf.


While wide-span shelving units have many applications and have undeniable modularity, they are intended strictly for hand-loaded, individually stored objects. These shelving units cannot accept palletized goods, nor are they suited for forklift loading.

You should also keep the maximum capacity of each shelving unit in mind, mainly if you store large quantities of heavy objects. Exceeding this capacity can cause damage to the decks or the shelf supports.

Warehousing, Item Picking, and Inventory Management

Treat wide span shelving as a means to complete your facility’s storage capabilities rather than a single all-purpose storage method, especially if you need to store specific goods and items that are unsuited for palletization.

Examples of suitable merchandise include the following:

  • Storage bins or buckets containing small parts and elements
  • Boxed products
  • Small amounts of cut lumber
  • Mechanical components (e.g., motors)
  • Small stocks of many different product types

Prepare Your Warehouse For 2021 And Beyond

Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. specializes in warehousing storage and material handling for over 40 years. Take advantage of our expertise and choose from a wide array of shelving units, racking systems, and other types of industrial equipment for all of your bulk storage needs.

We also offer a range of consulting services, from quotes and information to complete turnkey facility designs. If you have a question or a request, please call our customer service at (800) 589-7225.


What is the difference between wide span shelving and standard racking systems?

Although both are storage systems, the primary difference between the two is the loading and unloading method. A racking system typically requires a forklift, while shelving is manually loaded and unloaded.

What is the best material for decking?

It depends on your applications. Three of the most common types are solid particle board decks, plywood lattices, and wire mesh decking. Wire mesh is typically the best choice because it is insensitive to fire and capable of supporting the highest load capacities.

Are wide span shelves suitable for the automobile industry?

If you run a garage, a repair shop, or another type of automotive facility, wide span shelving is an excellent way to store many parts and products, from bins filled with loose elements to large parts and components.