Pallet Racking vs. Floor Stacking: What You Must Know?

Warehouse Racking In Large

The needs of supply chain-oriented businesses have changed dramatically in the post-COVID world. As the pandemic showed, businesses that cannot adapt to the marketplace’s changing needs inevitably fail. As a result, many businesses are re-evaluating their storage needs in the rapidly-evolving business climate.

As these businesses evaluate their operations, one of the most consequential decisions they face is storing their inventory with pallet racking systems or using the floor stacking method. This decision can impact how the rest of the warehouse operation is run. If you are deciding between pallet racking and floor stacking, keep these factors in mind.

What is Pallet Racking?

Pallet racking is the standard shelving and racking system used in most warehouses and storage facilities. A basic pallet racking system consists of a series of horizontal beams supported by vertical posts. Pallets, which hold inventory, are placed on the beams for storage.

Beyond standard pallet racking systems, other variants are helpful in many scenarios. Some common varieties of pallet racking include:

Adjustable Pallet Racking

Adjustable pallet racking is essentially an adjustable version of a standard pallet rack. The beams and posts of these racks can be easily reconfigured to fit the dimensions of the warehouse’s inventory. Typically, inventory is loaded and unloaded using forklifts, which access the rack using aisles that run parallel to the racks.

There are a few variations of adjustable pallet racking that aim to improve the system’s use of space, such as double-deep pallet racking (which stacks two racks next to each other) and very narrow aisle racking (which reduces the size of the forklift access aisles to increase storage density).

Adjustable pallet racking is useful in operations with constantly-changing inventories, such as fulfillment centers, which require highly flexible storage systems.

Since the standard version of adjustable pallet racking requires plenty of floor space, this type of rack is best suited for situations where efficient use of space is not the primary concern.

Compact Pallet Racking

Compact pallet racking is a subset of pallet racking intended to use a warehouse’s storage space above all else efficiently. Depending on the subtype, compact pallet racking improves storage density by optimizing horizontal and vertical warehouse space.

Two of the most common compact pallet racking variants are drive-in and drive-through pallet racking, which allow forklifts to load and unload inventory inside of the racks themselves (as opposed to in a forklift aisle). By eliminating the need for forklift aisles, warehouse operations can use this floor space for storage, significantly improving their storage density.

As a result, this type of pallet rack is commonly used in situations where maximizing the use of a facility’s available storage space is the primary consideration. Since compact pallet racking systems reduce inventory selectivity, they are best suited for operations that handle large volumes of the same types of products.

Pushback Pallet Rack Systems

Pushback storage solutions are types of pallet racking that aim to improve inventory flow and rotation while improving the facility’s storage density.

These racks are built with just one access point (at the front), where pallets are loaded and unloaded. The racks are slightly elevated on the front end, and the rack’s decking is lined with heavy-duty rollers.

The angled racks and roller decking allow pallets to slide to the back of the storage system. As a result, the most recently received pallet is the first pallet that will be accessed, with the oldest pallet in the back of the system.

This type of rack is almost exclusively used by businesses that use the last-in-first-out (LIFO) inventory management model.

FIFO Pallet Rack Systems

FIFO pallet rack systems, also called live storage systems, are similar to pushback pallet racks. The primary difference between the two systems is the rack’s number of access points. Each rack has a designated loading and unloading point in FIFO systems, while pushback systems have one dual-purpose access point.

Both FIFO and pushback racks feature an elevated loading end and rollers to facilitate the sliding of pallets; however, FIFO systems are designed to allow access to the oldest pallet first.

To do this, workers load the pallets in the elevated back end, which allows the pallet to slide to the front, where it is unloaded for handling when ready. With this system, the oldest pallet is the first pallet to be accessed. As a result, this system is primarily used in operations that use the FIFO (first-in-first-out) inventory management system.

Pros of Pallet Racking

One of the biggest demands placed on modern storage systems is keeping up with the fast-paced world of e-Commerce and its focus on rapid order fulfillment. As a result, many storage facilities must optimize their storage space to increase their overall storage volume while enabling an efficient workflow.

Many types of pallet racking improve one or both of these factors, making them a popular choice among modern warehouse operations. Here are a few more reasons why pallet racking may be an excellent option for your storage operation:

Organization

The most notable benefit of installing pallet racking in a storage facility is improved organization. By implementing pallet racking, operations managers can also implement more advanced workflow and inventory management systems.

Computerized inventory management software is often used in conjunction with pallet racks to track and manage inventory, significantly improving a facility’s ability to satisfy the needs of its customers. This is especially important for businesses that handle a wide variety of SKUs, where inventory management is a primary concern.

Even if the storage operation does not use computerized inventory management software, pallet racks improve organization by improving product visibility. With the floor stacking method, inventory can be hidden underneath or behind other pallets, making proper inventory management and product rotation challenging.

By using pallet racking, inventory remains visible and product management is simplified.

To further increase product visibility, many storage operations opt for rack decking that is designed with visibility in mind, like the wire decking offered by Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. Our wire decking is made with durable welded wire to help support heavy loads while improving visibility, airflow, and reducing dust accumulation.

Storage Density

Besides enhancing organization, improved storage density is one of the main reasons storage facilities switch over to pallet racking systems. As a business scales up, its inventory demands also grow. Since expanding the physical storage area is expensive and requires downtime, pallet racks are a common tool to improve storage density without new construction.

Pallet racks allow operations to stack pallets much higher than they could if they were unsupported, like the floor stacking method. Stacking pallets higher, the warehouse’s vertical space becomes a viable area to store products, improving the facility’s storage density.

This increased use of vertical space can significantly increase a warehouse’s overall storage capacity. Businesses that use pallet racks for storage see a considerable increase in profit margin, as they can now store and sell more products.

Flexibility

Another reason many storage operations switch to pallet racking systems is their flexibility, particularly if they switch to adjustable pallet racking systems. These systems are designed to be easily adjusted to fit the needs of the operation’s inventory, often with a minimal need for tools. This easy adjustment reduces labor hours and downtime.

Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s Tear Drop pallet rack can be adjusted to fit a wide range of inventory dimensions, providing businesses with the flexibility they need in the ever-changing storage sector.

Safety

Another major benefit of pallet racking is an improved level of safety, both for employees and stored products. By storing inventory on elevated racks as opposed to in stacks on the floor, the risk of trips, falls or tipped pallets is reduced.

Stacked inventory, particularly if unsecured, is prone to falling, which places employees and stock at risk. Pallet racking essentially eliminates this concern by securing each pallet.

Pallet racks are also made from durable materials like galvanized steel, which protects inventory from forklift collisions and damage during material handling.

Cons of Pallet Racking

While pallet racking is an excellent option for many businesses, it has some drawbacks, which include:

Larger Investment

Pallet racking is a significant upfront investment compared to floor stacking, which requires no additional funds. Although the long-term cost savings and increased efficiency can be substantial, the initial investment can be a barrier for some businesses.

Constant Maintenance

Pallet racking is constantly subjected to the wear and tear associated with bearing heavy loads; as a result, it must be maintained and repaired regularly.

Since businesses rely on their pallet racks to safely store their inventory, it is essential to constantly maintain the racks before they deteriorate. A pallet rack failure or collapse can cost a business thousands of dollars in stock, injure or kill employees, and require purchasing and installing a replacement rack.

Compared to floor stacking, the maintenance involved with pallet racking is considerable.

What is Floor Stacking?

While pallet racking is the best choice for most storage facilities, the floor stacking method better serves many smaller operations. Floor stacking is another popular inventory management style that involves storing goods and pallets on the floor instead of on storage racks.

Since it does not require additional storage or handling equipment, this method is popular with younger businesses or those with limited capital.

Traditional floor stacking means storing inventory on the floor. This often requires excess floor space and does not support, protect, or organize pallets. Many operations use a variation on the floor stacking method called block stacking to remedy this.

With block stacking, businesses still stack pallets on the floor; however, block stacking involves stacking pallets tightly next to and on top of each other. Typically, they are arranged in a manner that provides support to each pallet, such as in a cube arrangement.

Businesses can improve their storage density by stacking loads together without using pallet racking.

TLC

Pros of Floor Stacking

Floor stacking provides a unique set of benefits compared to pallet racking, particularly to smaller operations and operations with limited capital. Among these benefits are:

Flexibility

One of the main reasons businesses use the floor stacking method is its flexibility. Floor stacking requires no additional equipment to rearrange or expand inventory. This is particularly important for storage facilities that are still growing, as reorganization may be necessary as the needs of the business change.

Inexpensive

Newer operations may not have the capital needed to purchase enough pallet racks for their business. As a result, these businesses may opt to use floor stacking, which requires no initial investment or upkeep.

Simplified Logistics

Since the floor stacking method does not usually involve any racks, shelves, or other devices, the logistics of loading and unloading inventory are simplified. This is ideal for operations with a limited workforce or capital since the simplified product retrieval and replenishment can be accomplished in fewer labor hours.

If you are planning to use the floor stacking method of inventory management, you should invest in high-quality pallets that help facilitate the stacking of products.

Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. offers high-pressure injected plastic molded pallets designed to be used in a floor stacking operation. The pallets use a durable two-piece design, are impact resistant, and are lightweight, making them a perfect option for businesses that forgo pallet racking altogether.

Cons of Floor Stacking

While the low price point, simplified logistics, and flexibility of floor stacking is attractive to some warehouse operations, the method also has drawbacks. Some of the negative aspects of floor stacking include:

Does Not Optimize Storage Space

Floor stacking involves placing items directly on the floor, making it challenging to keep track of all inventory. If incorrectly planned, floor stacking can make it needlessly difficult to access certain pallets, slowing workflow and decreasing productivity.

Since products cannot be stacked as high as pallet racks, floor stacking requires more extensive use of floor space to store the same number of products. This can significantly reduce the facility’s overall storage capacity.

As a result of these factors, floor stacking is often less efficient than pallet racking systems.

Limits Visibility

One of the biggest problems with floor stacking is that it limits product visibility. When items are stored on shelves or cabinets, they are more visible and accessible. Items become hidden behind other objects when stacked on the floor and are more challenging to find.

This increases the labor hours associated with inventory retrieval, reducing your operation’s productivity and profit margin. The limited visibility associated with floor stacking can make detecting damaged or spoiled products more challenging, which can further reduce profit margins.

Increased Likelihood of Damage to Goods

Floor space is a limited resource in any warehouse or storage facility. With limited floor space available for storing products, many items will need to be stacked on top of each other to accommodate the inventory.

While this is a suitable way to increase the facility’s storage capacity, it also means inventory is more likely to be damaged with this storage system. When unsecured goods are stacked high off the ground, they are more likely to become unstable, fall, and be damaged.

Contact Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.

As businesses re-evaluate their storage options in the wake of the COVID pandemic, choosing the optimal inventory storage method for your business has never been more critical.

Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc offers custom-made solutions to your specific storage needs, with a wide range of shelving and racking solutions that can be customized to fit your facility.

Contact Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. at (800) 589-7225 to speak with one of our experienced product managers. We can help you decide on the best storage method for your operation and help you build a perfect storage system for your needs.