Choosing a racking system is one of the most important decisions you can make as a warehouse manager. Space is your most important asset, so you need to use it wisely. Storage costs are rising thanks to the backlog of goods caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent health crisis has taught us that the warehouse industry is anything but predictable. Your company needs to make sure it has space for everything coming in and out of your warehouse, including extra materials or goods that might end up sitting on the shelf for months.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choosing a racking system. Finding the right layout all depends on your specific industry and the types of goods or materials you need to store. Use this guide to find the warehouse racking system for your facility.
Intro to Warehouse Racking
Warehouse racking is an essential part of any storage facility. You only have so much floor space to work with, so it’s best to get your goods off the ground by installing a series of shelves or racks. The size and height of these racks all depends on what you’re trying to store. Most workers will use lift trucks, cranes, dollies, or automatic ladders to reach the top shelf.
These racks may be installed anywhere throughout your warehouse, depending on the size and dimensions of the space. Most facilities will leave space in between the racks to create individual aisles, which makes it easy to move throughout the space. Regardless of how you set up your racks, you need to keep your goods accessible, so your team can find what they need quickly.
Factors to Consider:
There are many things to keep in mind when choosing a warehouse racking system. You have several options to choose from. Just make sure the system best meets your needs.
The cost of the racking system is one of the biggest factors to consider. You should also include the cost of your storage containers. Some goods may be placed directly on the pallet, but smaller items will need to be placed in a plastic tote, metal, or cardboard box for safe keeping. You should never sacrifice quality to lock in a lower price. These containers and racks should protect your goods and materials over the long term. They should be durable and reliable without putting your products at risk.
You can always invest in used commercial racking systems to save money. Shop for used racks on a reputable website that connects you to sellers from all over the country.
The racking system should make it easy for your team to find the goods they need on the shelf. Consider how your staff will collect these items. Will they use a lift truck or pick up the goods by hand? Make sure your crew has enough space to get in and out of the aisle using a lift truck.
Sit down forklifts require aisle widths of at least 13 feet when handling 48” pallets, so they can safely turn around in the space. Narrow aisle stand-up forklifts need aisle widths of at least 11 feet.
If your crew is picking up items by hand, they should be able to grab the items they need quickly without second guessing themselves. Use plastic totes and containers with drop-down openings to keep your inventory visible. Keep these items close to the ground, so your team doesn’t have to climb a ladder every time they need more supplies.
Some racking systems keep inventory tucked away at the back of the line, which makes it hard to inspect inventory. Your team will have to wait until the rack slides the item to the front of the row. This can be a great way to store durable inventory that can sit on the shelf for months at a time, but it’s not suited to items that need to be inspected regularly.
Your warehouse facility is bound to change over the years. Many facilities are considering adopting automation to increase efficiency and reduce their dependence on human labor. Consider what your facility will look like in the years to come. If you plan on using new equipment, robotics, or the Internet of Things (IoT) down the line, make sure your racking systems will continue to serve you well.
Your business will likely take on new clients and products in the years to come. Make sure your racking system will support any additional inventory that’s likely to come your way.
If your facility houses a wide range of products and materials, you need to find storage racks that are versatile. Many warehouses use stack racks because they are perfect for storing all types of products. Consider what your items will look like on the shelf. You might have to invest in more than one type of rack if your facility houses more goods that one rack can handle.
For example, if you store agricultural products in super sacks, you will need to find a way to lift the container from the top without letting the contents spill onto the floor.
Your warehouse racks should improve worker efficiency and productivity. Some racks can actually make it harder for your workers to do their jobs, especially if they have to go out of their way to find what they need.
Arrange your inventory according to demand. Your most popular products and materials should be positioned at chest or eye level near the loading dock or manufacturing site to reduce picking times. Consider the ergonomics of your workplace. If your workers have to bend down or pick up heavy items by hand, they may injure themselves over time. Choose a racking system that reduces workplace accidents, so your team can worker smarter, not harder.
You also need to make sure your warehouse racking system will keep your goods safe for long periods of time. They racks should be engineered to support the products they hold with clear weight limitations. The rack itself should be tested for structural integrity. All parts and accessories should be monitored for quality control. Steel is considered the most reliable when it comes to racking systems. The raw material should be the base for more structural support.
Types of Racking Systems (And the Industries They Serve):
No that you know what to look for in a racking system, let’s look at all the different options on the market today.
- Standard Racking System
This tends to be the most popular option with storage facilities. The racks can be set up anywhere with the minimum width needed to get a forklift in and out of the aisle. Workers can manually store and retrieve items using a forklift or by hand. You can also widen the aisles to make space for more than one forklift.
It is by far the most inexpensive racking system on the market today, costing around $45 to $65 per pallet. You can use traditional stack racks to store a wide range of goods. Most facilities see storage utilization of up to 90% with around 40% floor space utilization.
This model uses the first-in first-out storage system, which means the first item stored on the shelf is the first one to go. It’s a great choice for warehouses and distribution centers that store lots of different consumer goods that won’t expire over time.
- Narrow Racking System
Narrow racking systems are similar to traditional stack racks except they have narrower aisles. They also tend to extend to the ceiling. Shortening the aisles increases floor utilization to 90% with a storage utilization rating of 95%. They are a little more expensive as well, costing around $50 to $60 per pallet. It also uses a first-in first-out model.
However, the main downside of narrow racking is that you can’t access products with a traditional forklift. Your crew will need to use an automated warehouse system with automated pickers and stockers, or articulated trucks and turret trucks to reach the items on the shelf.
- Drive-In Pallet Racking System
A drive-in racking system offers the maximum density of storage space, helping you make the most of your pace. It gets rid of forklift aisles that eat up precious floor space. Instead of having the forklift drive through the aisle, it drives right into the racking system. It costs a bit more, coming in at $160 to $185 per pallet.
Some systems have only one accessible aisle where the last product loaded in is the first one out. Other systems have a designated entrance and exit, where the first load is the first out.
Drive-in racking systems offer up to 65% floor utilization with a storage utilization rating of 60 to 65%. However, you can’t access to the products inside the racking system unless they are close to the entrance or exit. This makes it hard to rearrange products on the shelf and inspect them for damage.
- Double Deep Pallet Racking System
The double deep racking system combines the versatility of the standard racking system with the density of a drive-in racking system. Pallets are stored at two depths, which increases storage utilization. However, you will need to install extendable forks on the forklift to reach all the way to the back.
This can be a great way to increase your storage space, but your crew won’t have access to every pallet on the shelf, only those at the front of the line. It uses a first-in last-out model. It’s perfect for facilities that store the same types of SKUs.
This model costs around $50 to $70 per pallet with a floor utilization rate of 60% and a storage utilization rate of 85% to 90%.
- Pallet Flow Racking System
This is another high-density storage system where gravity is the main driving force. These racking systems often use rollers, conveyors, belts, and other mechanical systems to move product down the rack as other get removed. As soon as someone removes a container, the others will automatically move towards the front for a faster moving facility. You can store two or three pallets deep to clear up additional floor space.
They use a first-in first-out system, which can be great for facilities that handle lots of different types of goods that may expire over time. It comes with a storage utilization rating of 85 to 90% with a floor utilization of 70 to 75%. It costs around $170 to $185 per pallet, considering all the additional mechanical components. These racks require more upkeep as these mechanical components break down.
- Push Back Racking System
Like the pallet flow model, this type of system forces workers to push inventory back when they load new containers. The shelves are positioned at a slight incline, so the other products move forward when the first item is removed. It uses rollers or shuttles to automatically move products forward, so workers don’t have to reach for the products they need.
It comes with a designated loading/unloading spot, which reduces the need for aisles. It uses a first-in last-out model, so the first item will likely sit on the shelf for some time. Every shelf or slot is assigned to a particular SKU, which makes it easy to find items on the shelf.
Both storage and floor utilization come in at 75%. It also costs a bit more than other racking systems, clocking it at $275 – $295 per pallet.
- Mobile Racking System
The mobile racking system is perhaps the most technologically advanced. Racks are placed on mobile bases or chassis, which are then fixed to rails on the floor. This lets you quickly move the racks from one side of the facility to another.
In most cases, there will only be one aisle open to forklifts. This helps you maximize the available floor space, with up to a 90% floor utilization rate and an 85% storage utilization rate. It uses a first-in, first-out system to keep your inventory moving. It’s a great choice for facilities that need to keep their goods at a certain temperature. It limits the amount of space that needs to be cooled by condensing merchandise.
There are so many kinds of stack racks and storage systems to choose from. Find the right style for your inventory to keep your products moving as quickly as possible.
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