Pallet Racking – Which System is Right For Your Business

January 29, 2012 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Pallet Racking

Buying a pallet racking system can massively expand the storage capacity of any warehouse. Before buying a pallet rack, though,it’s important to understand what types of systems are out there and how to evaluate your own storage needs.

What’s your materials flow like? A pallet rack that’s right for one company may not work for another. The type of rack you choose has to complement your material handling policies in several ways. Here are some aspects of your inventory management system to consider:

Distribution order – Are you “FIFO” or “LIFO”? First-in,first-out (FIFO) is more common, but last-in,first-out (LIFO) is also used. Picking and placing practices – Do you have forklifts that your new system needs to accommodate? Do you pick partial loads – or individual products – out of your racks,or only full pallets? Do you need separate holding and staging areas? Load parameters – How much do your pallets weigh -specifically,what’s the upper limit,and what’s the average? How large is your typical pallet load? Do you need to store any odd-shaped loads? Inventory volume and variety – How many pallets do you need to store? How many are of identical products? Do you need constant access to all products?

The answers to these questions will determine what type of pallet rack system you should choose. The basic tradeoff is density vs. access: high-density systems can store a far greater number of pallets in a given space,but some (or most) pallets are not immediately accessible. Low-density systems can hold less because they dedicate more space to aisles,but they allow you to reach any pallet at any time.

Pallet rack construction Pallet rack systems are built from vertical frames that divide the rack into separate areas and horizontal beams that support your pallets. A single storage area is referred to as a bay. You can choose decking to provide a ‘floor’ in each bay,although for ventilation and ease of maintenance a wire mesh deck is usually preferred,as opposed to a solid floor.

Each rack manufacturer has their own unique construction method,but there are two main options: beams that are bolted directly to the frames for the greatest strength,or attached using “teardrop” snap-in construction for the most flexibility.

Types of pallet racks

Pallet racks can provide many more inventory management options than simple warehouse shelving. Here are some of the common types of pallet racks you’ll encounter.

Single deep racks are the most traditional type of pallet racks. They’re low density – you can always get access to every pallet – and allow for very flexible loading and placement. Cantilever racks use metal arms to hold non-palletized items,usually long items like lumber. Fairly low density,but highly efficient for specific types of irregularly-shaped products. Double deep racks add a second row of pallets behind the first. This increases your storage capacity quite a bit,but at the expense of limiting access to some pallets. Unless you choose push-back racks, which incorporate sliding carts or rails to easily slide pallets back and forth,double deep racks require an extended reach forklift. Pallet flow racks (or gravity flow racks) provide high-density storage for FIFO systems. Pallets are added to one end of a deep bay onto rows of wheels or full rollers. Each additional pallet pushes the rest forward,until pallets are removed from the opposite end. Drive-through racks and drive-in racks are designed to maximize use of your forklifts: each bay is accessible directly by a forklift and pallets can be picked from several heights. Drive-in racks have one entrance,while drive-through racks have two.

Pallet rack supplier considerations When designing your pallet racks,the supplier should also take into account any environmental considerations specific to your location. In more earthquake-prone areas of the country,seismic zone requirements may call for heavier frames or additional reinforcement. Warehouse shelving that holds food has FDA requirements to adhere to. Outdoor storage systems need to account for wind and snow loads.

Your supplier should conduct a thorough site visit and work closely with you to make sure they address all these factors. Beware of vendors who want to sell you a system over the phone,without taking the time to understand your specific needs.

Pallet rack pricing The type and quantity of pallet racks you buy can have a big impact on price. Total costs can range from $50 to over $300 per pallet position for installed pallet rack systems. Single-deep racks are the least expensive,ranging from $50 to $80 per position,while higher-density solutions can be closer to $80 to $120 per position. Flow-through systems like gravity flow racks are the most expensive,reaching up to $200 to $300 per pallet position.

There are many extras you can consider for your pallet rack system. Some of the most critical are safety features: column guards,for example, bolt into the floor and provide a barrier around each post to prevent damage from forklifts or other vehicles. Generally adding little to your total costs, these types of safety add-ons are well worth the cost.

You can also order pallet rack components for as little as $25 per pallet position,and assemble them yourself. Most pallet rack systems are designed to be assembled by anyone with basic construction skills. These savings come at a cost,though: non-expert construction can reduce the actual capacity of the rack system and means you won’t have any performance guarantees. Given the dangers of rack collapses,it’s usually best to turn to professional installers.



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