Industrial Shelving: 11 Warehouse Storage Solutions

Industrial shelving systems are ideal for any warehouse looking to maximize their storage capacity. These solutions can be custom-made to fit within the height of your industrial environment or storage space, and they are fully designed for your specifications and purposes. As industrial shelving becomes increasingly popular, you can now adapt your warehouse racks and shelves to suit a diverse variety of warehouse operations and product types, such as heavy-duty industrial storage, archival storage, or even small parts picking. As you can imagine, there are a wide variety of both industrial shelving and racking solutions available for you to implement into your warehouse operations. This guide aims to explain the differences between both shelving and racking and discuss the various solutions available for both warehouse storage systems.

Warehouse Storage Solutions – Shelving vs. Racking

Most people think that shelves and racks work the same way, but for those familiar with the warehousing business know that they two entirely different solutions. The term “warehouse storage solution” often refers to both industrial shelving and racking. While both systems can hold products or pallets of products, the application is entirely different. Shelving is the most basic form of industrial storage systems. Most industrial shelves are designed to hold small-sized goods. With industrial shelves, operators can simply pick up and place products on the shelf by hand, without the need to operate any lift assistance device such as a forklift. Goods are typically removed from their pallets and shelved individually, although sometimes small goods may be packed together in small bins. As warehouse operations move toward the digital era, they become larger and more high tech. Today we can even find more warehouses making use of automated drones to reach into their shelves to retrieve goods. Industrial shelving can be constructed from metal or wood, although wood shelves are increasingly rare nowadays. Industrial shelves can also be designed for almost any height, with any number of shelves. While most shelves are placed on the floor or secured with bolts, they can also be built on a mechanical platform, such as rails or wheels. Mechanized shelves can be moved around so the operator can access and retrieve goods from the middle section, saving on walkway spaces inside your storage area. Industrial racks, on the other hand, are much larger and are typically designed only to be accessed by devices such as forklifts or vertical lift modules. Racks are usually catered for pallets; therefore, they are built taller and deeper than shelves. Some industrial racks can be constructed to go up to 100 feet tall since they do not need to be designed to cater to a person’s reach or height. The warehouse operator can quickly store goods away on racks because they do not need to be separated from its pallets. The pallets can be stowed directly onto the rack using machinery. Industrial racks are usually constructed from heavy load-bearing materials and are almost always bolted on to the warehouse floor to prevent them from toppling. Most warehouses avoid over stacking pallets onto racks as they may endanger the operators inside. Some industrial racks do not even come with shelves at all. These type of racks feature specialized rails that the pallets can slide into quickly.

Types of Industrial Shelves

Tiered rack with sheet metal rolls. Internal warehouse of raw materials.

  • Steel Shelving

Steel shelving is some of the most popular and cost-effective warehouse storage solutions. They can even be found in offices and retail store spaces. Due to their long-lasting durability, steel shelving can be purchased brand new or used, and still survive the daily wear and tear of organizing your goods without the loss of structural integrity. Steel shelving systems are ideal for small-sized products or items that come with carton packaging. Because steel shelving allows you to adjust the individual shelf heights, you can organize it to store goods for a variety of sizes, as long as they aren’t too bulky. When choosing your steel shelving, you’ll have the option to select either the clip style or nut-and-bolt assembly system. The clip style uses a series of compression clips to support the shelves, allowing you to adjust the shelf height quickly without the use of hand tools. Nuts and bolts are somewhat outdated, but they might be more cost effective if you don’t need to make adjustments regularly.

  • Rivet Shelving

Rivet shelving, such as Allstor Shelving is also another form of durable and versatile industrial storage solution.  As the system doesn’t use any bolts or screws, you can assemble your rivet shelves quickly and easily, even for larger warehouse. Because of its usability, rivet shelving is a popular shelving choice for warehouses that wish to store bulkier items. Warehouses can choose to use either particle boards or wires for the shelves. Wire shelves are great because they can maintain their integrity even in extreme temperatures and weather. Compared to steel shelving, rivet shelving allows even more fine adjustments to suit the type of goods you wish to fit inside the warehouse.

  • Wire Shelving

Wire shelving allows you to gain higher visibility of your goods, as well as provide air circulation across shelves. While wire shelving is not quite as sturdy or durable as steel or rivet shelving, it can still withstand relatively heavy loads. Wire shelving is an ideal choice for many warehouses as the increased visibility allows operators to locate and identify their product for retrieval or stowing quickly. They are also easy to assemble on a large scale, making them suitable for both large and small storage spaces.

  • Bulk Rack Shelving

Bulk rack shelving isn’t designed just for “bulky” goods. Instead, it’s designed for light-duty shelving of items in bulk, that can that fit easily into smaller spaces. Bulk rack shelving is durable and does not require bolts to assemble. They are easy to put together and take apart for one-time use. This is a good option for products light enough to be stacked by hand or can even be fitted with casters to allow moving of the shelving around the warehouse.

  • Clipless Shelving

Clipless shelving has gained popularity in recent years. Typically made from either steel bracing or particle board, this kind of shelving is both quick to install and versatile enough for most uses. Though lightweight and easy to upkeep, clipless shelves can support up to 700 lbs of load, depending on the base shelving unit.

Warehouse Pallet Racking Systems

Warehouse pallet rack

Tiered rack with sheet metal rolls. Internal warehouse of raw materials.

  • Selective Pallet Rack

Selective pallet racks are a highly versatile pallet racking system in the warehousing industry. They offer efficient use of your storage space, letting operators have direct access to your inventory using conventional forklift machinery. This type of racking system can be constructed using debris-resistant structural steel that is easy to clean and maintain. Selective pallet racks are ideal for warehouse operations that deal with food, manufacturing or retail goods with a low turnover rate.

  • Double Deep Rack

Double-deep racks are constructed by placing a row of selective racking behind another racking. By arranging selective racking in this fashion, you can create high-density storage space cheaply, with an increased storage capacity by up to 40%. Double deep racking is ideal for general manufacturing and warehousing purposes.

  • Push-Back Rack

In a push-back rack (or back racking) setup, all pallets are seated on carts that slide down when the pallet is retrieved. It’s similar to the way frozen foods (such as ice cream) are displayed at your local grocery store. When you pick up the item in the front row, the items from the back slides to the front position. Push back racks are ideal for food-related or retail warehouse operations. As the loading and unloading of the pallets are completed on separate aisles, this setup cuts down on storage and pick up time, making it an ideal choice if your inventory gets retrieved at a high rate.

  • Pallet Flow Rack

Pallet flow rack (or gravity flow racks) use racks that are placed at a sloped angle to allow a first-in/first-out (FIFO) loading setup. Pallets are placed from the “loading” end and are then moved toward the “pick up” end using rollers pulled using gravity. As each pallet gets removed, the pallet behind it shifts forward automatically one position closer towards the pickup position. This setup is ideal for frozen warehouse operations, food distribution centers, and stowing of perishable high-volume consumer products.

  • Drive-In Rack

Drive-in rack systems are one of the highest density storage solutions available because they don’t require any aisles, allowing you to maximize your warehouse space. This system is designed for storing a large volume of similar goods that use the same loading and pickup point for each rack. Since drive-in rack systems allow forklifts to access your inventory, they allow you to stow your pallets in lanes that are over six positions deep. Drive-in rack systems can be customized specifically for your industrial needs. They can also be fitted with dual entry points to allow access from both ends of the rack. This system is recommended for industrial operations that deal with large-volume storage of similar goods, or high-turnover retail goods.

  • Cantilever Rack

Cantilever racks are an ideal option if you are dealing with goods that are long and bulky, such as carpet rolls, pipes, bars or lumber. With changeable arms, cantilever rack systems are practical for storing oddly shaped inventory. Cantilever rack systems can be designed to be either roll formed or structural steel to meet your operational requirements such as length, weight, and size. Cantilever racks can also be outfitted with several offers accessories to suit your warehousing needs.

Warehouse Racking guide

Here are some considerations you need to think about before you decide on an industrial shelving solution for your warehouse:

Costs Per Square Feet

To help keep your budget in check, first determine the total storage size of your warehouse, and total land value cost per square feet. These numbers will help determine an estimated cost per square feet to implement your warehouse storage system. If you are moving into a brand-new warehouse, consider the relocation fees; moving warehouses can be very expensive and time-consuming. Other cost factors include time, such as loss in production or training period for your warehouse operators, and labor costs for moving large volumes of your inventory.

Overall Industry analysis

Consider the type of industrial environment you are in, to understand the lifecycle of your inventory and operation. This will allow you to pick the right type of shelving solution and setup for your business. Determine if your industry lifecycle is stable or rapidly growing. An example of a stable industry is the food and packing industry, while a rapid growth industry is technology or innovation industry. By having an insight into your industry’s lifecycle, you can have a better grasp of forecasting your industrial shelving requirements.

Internal Analysis (Using Historical data)

Once you have studied the overall trends in your industry, look at your historical information. If you can forecast your expected sales in the next decade or so, it will help you keep your investment costs within expectations. Otherwise, when you over or under-invest in space, equipment or racking you could end up having some significant unexpected costs in the future.

Product Range and SKUs

Consider how much volume of inventory you will be keeping inside your warehouse. The volume of pallets and the type of goods are two critical factors to determine your racking and layout setup. As a rule of thumb, if you need to store over 3,000 pallets, it should be cheaper if you opt for a high storage density solution. Next, you should calculate how many different types of stock keeping units (or SKUs) you currently hold. Is your stock likely to increase or decrease? Analyze your average product life cycle (PLC) to get an estimated forecast of the demand for each good that requires storage. Lastly, consider the weight for each SKU. Make sure your new industrial rack can bear the load,

Capital Equipment Requirements

If you deal with pallets, look at your current pallet handling equipment. Do a stock take on the number of units that you own, and see if you need to add more machinery to your warehouse. If so, consider if you should buy brand new or second-hand machinery, and find out which machine can provide the maximum productivity.