Choosing Used Pallet Storage Racks

If you’re on a strict budget, used pallet racks offer a cost-effective solution to the problem of increasing warehouse storage capacity when floor space is inherently limited. Whenever you’re searching for used equipment for your warehouse or factory, however, it’s important to consult the manufacturer or supplier.

You should also learn to inspect racking systems for damage and signs of wear that could compromise the safety and functionality of these systems. Being diligent when purchasing used racking ensures you gain the greatest advantage from this exchange.

Used Pallet Racks

Pallet racks, as industrial storage solutions, have numerous benefits for the warehouse. These include increasing storage density, protecting inventory against damage or spoilage, making better use of vertical space, and providing an efficient method of retrieval for order fulfillment.

The priority when searching for a suitable used pallet rack is to know what kind of design you need for your warehousing needs. This should be based on a careful assessment of your warehouse layout; the dimensions, weight, and perishability of your inventory; and seismic calculations.

Clear Height

Rather than the height of the ceiling, the clear height is the distance between the floor and the lowest hanging object. This determines the maximum safe height of your racking system.

Floor Space

Available floor space will determine the most practical storage solution for your warehousing facility. You have to balance several factors when considering the type of pallet racking, such as aisle width and storage density. Your forklift drivers need sufficient room to safely turn and maneuver, minimizing the risk of collision and impact damage.

Inventory Variety

The variety of the products you’ll be storing will play a role in the best kind of storage racking system. Everything from sizes and shapes to weight and quantity will play a role.

Forklift Height

When the forklift mast is fully extended, what is the maximum height of the vehicle’s forks? You’ll need a pallet rack that matches your forklift’s capabilities.

Buy From a Trustworthy Source

The supplier of used pallet storage racks should conduct its own thorough inspection of the products to ensure safety standards. Structural weaknesses or undiagnosed damage can have severe consequences, especially when your rack supports heavy products.

FIFO and LIFO Racking Systems

One of the first points you’ll need to consider when searching for an appropriate pallet rack is what stock rotation or inventory management system you need. Pallet racks fall into two categories:

First-In, First-Out (FIFO)

Also, an accounting method, in a FIFO pallet racking system, both loading and retrieval take place at the same part of the rack. As a result, the item that’s first in is also the item picked first for distribution. Selective racking is an example of a FIFO system.

Last-In, First-Out (LIFO)

The last item loaded into the racking system is also the first to be retrieved for distribution in a LIFO system. Push back racking is an example of a LIFO system. LIFO is ideal for products that don’t expire quickly. Therefore, it would be appropriate for building materials but ineffective for items with an expiration date, like food or medical supplies.

Anatomy of a Pallet Rack

A pallet rack is composed of the following components:

Uprights

The upright frames are posts or columns that provide vertical structural support for the racking system. The beams and bracing connect the uprights.

Beams

The beams attach to the uprights and provide horizontal structural support for the inventory loads.

Bracing

Bracing comprises horizontal and diagonal beams that connect the uprights, providing additional structural support, increasing strength and rigidity for the system.

Foot Plates

Also called base plates, these act as anchor points, distributing the load and allowing the attachment of bolts.

Anchor Bolts

These components are fasteners that allow you to firmly attach the racking system to the floor, ensuring the system remains stable. Anchor bolts are necessary to resist seismic activity, wind, accidental forklift collision, and shear forces.

Decking

Racking systems are not the same as shelving systems. The primary purpose of a pallet rack is to store palletized inventory on beams, ready for retrieval by forklifts. Decking allows you to use a rack as a shelving unit for a wider variety of products. Decking is available in many materials and configurations.

Types of Beams

Pallet rack beams are available in two different configurations: box beam and step beam.

Box Beams

The box beam is a rectangular beam designed to provide maximum strength per square inch. Box beams require the use of U-shaped safety bars, which you lay on top of the beam.

Step Beams

Step beams are approximately L-shaped steel channels that provide a separate surface (a step) for supporting decking or pallets. While not as strong per square inch, the step beam’s height can be extended, at additional expense, to compensate for this.

Types of Decking

Whether you’re buying used or new pallet racking, it should include decking. Decking fills in the spaces between horizontal support beams in several different ways. Some styles of decking include:

Wire Mesh

One of the most versatile types of decking, wire mesh has many of the same advantages as wire shelving. Wire decks are easy to clean, allow light to penetrate for improved visibility, promote airflow for perishable goods, and don’t provide a solid surface for pests to navigate.

Steel Slats

Steel decking is the heavy-duty option for when you need additional support. As carbon and alloy steels are susceptible to corrosion due to moisture, it’s important to consider protective coatings, such as galvanizing.

Wooden Slats

Wooden slats can be used as an inexpensive type of decking. You can either buy wooden decking or fabricate it yourself by cutting spare lumber to length. Although cheap and a possible DIY solution, there are several disadvantages to using wooden decking. One such disadvantage is that wood is flammable, whereas steel is not. Wood can also crack, splinter, and act as a home to pests.

Non-flammable, durable, and moisture-resistant decking options are generally superior in the long term.

Common Types of Pallet Racks

Taking into account inventory type and rotation, available floor space, and the volume of your storage, there are multiple racking configurations and designs to choose from.

Selective Racks

For distribution centers, consider installing a selective racking system. This type of rack is selective because any stored item can be accessed and retrieved at will, providing the order picker with the flexibility needed to meet ever-changing demands. For high-volume storage and retrieval, the front face of the pallets is visible, improving inventory identification.

Cantilever Racks

Cantilever racks are an example of a non-palletized racking system designed to support long, heavy, and awkwardly shaped inventory. Rather than storing merchandise in pallets, the products themselves are cradled by sets of arms that project outward from the uprights. Cantilever racks have stabilizing bases and horizontal or diagonal bracing for additional structural support.

Live Racking Systems

A rack is considered live if it uses gravity or an electrically operated mechanism to transport pallets. These push back, pallet-flow, and carton-flow racking systems use rollers or nested carts that slide on an incline to receive pallets from the forklift.

Push Back Racking

Loading and unloading from the front, the forklift driver places a pallet on a roller bed or shuttle/nested cart in the rack, pushing the pallet behind it back one space. When the forklift retrieves a pallet from the front, the pallet in the rear moves one pallet length forward into position for retrieval. Push back racking is LIFO for non-perishable items.

Pallet Flow Racking

Unlike push back racking, in which the loading and unloading aisles are the same, workers load pallet flow racks from the rear. The pallets move on roller beds or nested carts toward the unloading/picking aisle in the front. This is essentially the opposite of push-back racking because it allows for a FIFO inventory rotation method for time-sensitive products.

Carton Flow Racking

Based on the same principle as a pallet flow rack, carton flow racking is designed to accommodate non-palletized inventory items of varying sizes, typically contained in cardboard boxes or cartons, for retrieval by order pickers.

Used Pallet Racking: Inspections

If you’re contemplating purchasing a used pallet rack system, safety is critical. You’ll need to inspect the rack thoroughly to ensure it meets industry standards and that it’s free from damage, rust, and other signs of wear.

Check the components carefully, from the fasteners/bolts to the horizontal support braces, beams, and uprights. It’s important to check the upright columns and beams for signs of deflection. Steel beams tend to flex when a heavy load is applied. As long as the load does not exceed the elasticity limits of the material, this is normal. However, when the elasticity limits are exceeded, the steel will undergo plastic deformation, which is permanent. That indicates that the beams or uprights have been damaged.

Signs of impact damage are another critical point to inspect. Racks are prone to experiencing damage from forklift trucks, especially in high-traffic warehouses and racking systems (e.g., drive-in/drive-thru).

If you’re conducting an inspection of a racking system in low light, always wear a reflective vest to maximize your visibility to forklift drivers. Take a flashlight and camera with you to take photos of any damage you find and log that information. Check the verticality of the uprights using a laser level.

Once you’ve collected this data, you can assess the structural integrity of the racking system and whether it’s safe to use.

Repairs vs. Replacement

If, as a result of periodic inspection, you constantly have to repair your existing racking systems or various replacing components, that may be a sign you don’t have the most suitable type for the level of forklift traffic, among other factors in your warehouse.

Used or new, a heavy-duty steel rack, properly shielded, can provide a significant upgrade over other systems, ensuring your merchandise remains protected, clean, and visible.

Upright Protectors

Upright protectors, also called column protectors, are a useful accessory you can buy for pallet rack systems. As forklift collisions are one of the most common causes of structural damage incurred by racking systems, the upright protectors act as shields. In addition to physical barriers, there are other ways of minimizing the risk of forklift damage.

These include ensuring that your forklift drivers are appropriately trained and certified and that there is sufficient space between racks to allow forklift drivers to maneuver safely. When aisles are narrower than the turning radius of a forklift, they limit mobility and cause unsafe driving practices.

Protecting Against Rust

Steel racking systems can rust, and you should always look for signs of corrosion. At its most superficial, rust can spoil the appearance of a racking system. At its most serious, it can compromise the structural integrity of the racking system, increasing the probability of collapse.

There should be no carbon- or alloy-steel parts exposed to the air. Steel racking components should be galvanized or powder-coated to protect against moisture. However, even with a protective coating, you should still evaluate these components yourself, ensuring that their condition meets the standards of your warehouse.

What is Teardrop Pallet Racking?

Also called roll form racking, this type of racking uses uprights with teardrop-shaped holes to insert corresponding connectors on the racking beams. This type of racking system is related to rivet shelving in design principle. Teardrop pallet racks have the advantage of simplifying the installation process, requiring less time and effort to erect a rack than other systems.

What About Structural Racking?

An alternative to roll form racking is structural racking. The manufacturer bolts hot-rolled structural steel uprights to beams for additional strength and impact resistance—a heavy-duty storage solution for environments in which there’s an increased risk of damage.

While more expensive than roll form racking, if you find that your roll form racks constantly need replacement parts due to forklift damage, structural racking can provide a more durable long-term solution. If you need drive-in/drive-thru or push back pallet racks, structural racking is ideal.

Your Source for Used Racking

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we offer a wide selection of both used and new warehouse racks for various applications. A quality used pallet rack can be a worthwhile long-term investment, saving you money. However, to ensure that the used pallet rack you’re buying is safe and high quality, it’s necessary to scrutinize it for signs of wear and damage, replacing any worn out parts.

If you’re unsure how to evaluate your pallet racks in this way, give us a call at (800) 589-7225. We have years of experience in the shelving and racking industry and would be happy to guide you through the process and recommend products to maximize your efficiency.

While used pallet racks are a great way to save money, as with any used product, there’s always uncertainty regarding structural strength, metal fatigue, and damage. You’ll need to rely on the manufacturer’s inspection or complete your own to ensure you’re purchasing a quality product. When you buy from us, we take the guesswork out of the equation.

FAQs

What is a pallet racking system?

A pallet racking system is designed to store inventory on pallets — roughly square platform structures. Pallets can be made from wood, plastic, or steel and protect inventory from being damaged by forklifts and other types of material handling equipment, such as pallet jacks.

How much does it cost to install pallet racking?

The installation costs associated with pallet racking depend on several factors. High-density storage systems generally cost more to install initially. However, if the high-density system improves the efficiency of warehouse operations, the ROI may compensate for the higher initial capital outlay.

The depth of the pallet racks will affect the installation cost. Consult the manufacturer/supplier to discuss the installation process for the type of racking system you need.