Understanding the Basics of Pallet Racking

Shelving for your warehouse can seem unnecessarily complicated for a very straightforward task. From the immense amount of different names for the same, product to the handful of available styles, it can feel like a whirlwind trying to make an informed decision on the subject. At ToyotaLift Northeast, we want to clear things up so you can be sure your company has the proper racking system based on your operation’s needs. Our goal is to break-down only the important elements of pallet racking, alleviating confusion when it comes time to narrow down your specific needs.


Pallet racking seemingly has an endless list of other names. We often hear it referred to as bulk storage racks, storage shelving, teardrop racks, warehouse shelving racks, warehouse racking systems, warehouse mezzanines, warehouse racks, rivet shelving racks, and industrial shelves.

What is Pallet Racking?

Pallet racking is simply a storage system that stores pallets of material in rows on metal shelves. The systems feature multiple levels of shelving that are accessible by forklifts. These systems are used to increase storage density by using vertical space. Think of the benefit of building skyscrapers in a city with limited space as the concept is the same.

The Basic Components of Pallet Racking

Due to its long list of available styles and sizes, pallet racking is an extremely flexible storage option. Pallet racking systems have two main parts, which are upright frames and cross beams.

The upright frames are vertical columns that run from the floor to the top shelf of the system. The upright frame will have a series of holes, allowing the ability to change the shelf size based on needs. The height of a frame should be the height of a loaded pallet + height of a beam + 4 inches for clearance. This number then gets multiplied by the number of levels you need.

The cross beams connect into the upright frame on both ends, creating a shelf for pallets and material to be stored on. It takes two cross beams to make a shelf.

Pallet racking upright frame

Styles of Pallet Racking

The most popular rack style is teardrop pallet racking. This style utilizes a tear-shaped hole where the crossbeam’s connectors are inserted. The unique shape allows the horizontal beams to be locked to the vertical upright frames for simple slide-in assembly. The teardrop shape allows for the use of boltless beams, making assembly fast and easy as bolts, clips, and fasteners are not needed.

There are two forms of pallet racks made, rolled formed and structural style. The rolled form is made by cutting and rolling cold sheet metal, while structural is made using hot sheet metal. Structural is the stronger and more durable system of the two, but it is more expensive.

Accessories

Accessories and additional components are often added to racking systems to improve the system to better fit the owner’s needs. Below is a list of popular accessories on the market.

Wire Decking 

Wire decking is the most popular pallet racking accessory as it increases the safety and stability of the pallet racking system. It significantly lowers the risk of pallets falling as it gives the pallet a larger surface area to sit on rather than sitting on the two cross beams. Wire deck is a safe deck material and often meets OSHA standards. 

Pallet racking wire decking

Post Protectors 

Post protectors or rack guards are installed on the bottom of the upright frames. They protect the frame from damage caused by pallets or forklift collisions. Post protectors are either separate from the rack and bolted to the floor or bolted directly to the upright frame. 

Pallet Racking Guard

Safety Panels and Straps

Safety panels and straps are simply a barrier between the stored material and the edge of the rack. It helps prevent the possibility of material from falling off racks. They come in many varieties and are made from different material depending on specific needs.

Pallet rack safety panel

Row Spacers and Wall Ties

Row spacers help organize products and keep placement spaced evenly along shelves. They keep pallet racks in a straight row and also help stabilize the pallet rack system. Wall ties have a similar goal but they hold racks in a fix position to a wall

Pallet racking row spacer and wall tie

Engineered Pallet Rack Systems

These systems are more complex and tailored to the specific material or operational needs. These systems are meant to improve efficiency and help warehouses stay organized.

Cantilever Rack

Cantilever pallet racking

This system is designed for long items such as lumber or pipe. it utilizes horizontally extended arms that are attached to center towers. Cantilever racks allow great and unobstructed access to long dimensional material.

Drive-in Pallet Racks

Drive-in pallet rack

Forklifts can drive into the racks to retrieve the stored material. Drive-in pallet racks are used when implementing the first in/last out (FILO) method. More simply put, the last pallet stored has to be the first pallet to be removed.

Carton Flow Racks

Carton Pallet Flow Rack

This system is made for high volume order picking operations. This system uses rollers on a slight decline to move the product forward where it can be picked. It uses pallet racks that are loaded from the rear and picked from the front. This setup makes it possible to use a first-in/first-out inventory control method. 

Pallet Flow Racks

Pallet flow Gravity flow

This system uses rollers and gravity to move pallets to the front of the rack. It cuts back on the number of aisles, increasing the available space. This set up makes it possible to use a first-in/first-out inventory control method while gaining high-density storage.

Pushback Pallet Racks 

Push Back Pallet Racking

In this system, the pallets are placed on trays that move forward and backward along rails. Pallets are placed in a line and when removed the next in line will slide in the place where the removed pallet just was. The rails are on an incline so gravity will move the pallet towards the front of the rack. This system works great when space is limited and you require a medium to high storage density. A simple way to visualize this process is to think of a refrigerator of soft-drinks at a convenient store. After you pull out your bottle or can, the next one in line will slide down to replace the one you took.

Still have questions? Feel free to contact our team of experts who can help you determine your exact needs!