Case study

Harness the potential of pallet racking and shelving options to limit costs

Jul 30, 2021 | Pallet Racking, Shelving

Storage and distribution is a costly environment with tireless outgoings. Inside specialist facilities known as warehouses, distribution centres or fulfilment centres the management of inventory involves storage, order fulfilment and shipping. Inventory management is a costly process requiring labour and equipment, not to mention the structural and non-avoidable overheads. On the opening of a new facility, prearrangement costs will be liable to the initial infrastructure of the premises and the internal fit out. An established warehouse could see costs spiralling as a result of insufficient inventory management.

So what role does pallet racking or shelving systems play in driving these costs down?

Systematic storage solutions play a crucial role in warehouse distribution because it supports the flow of inventory as it passes through the facility. That being said, every warehouse is unique in terms of space, processes and inventory type, therefore a bespoke solution should be implemented.

Warehouse racking and shelving is available in numerous configurations with various capabilities in terms of inventory and operational support. With the right storage infrastructure you can reduce these major costs:


Rental Costs

If you’re on the market for new warehouse space, it’s likely you will be looking for as much space as possible at a cost within your budget. The current peak in demand for industrial space has affected costs and availability, which has made sourcing adequate warehouse space even more difficult.

Rental rates are calculated by cost per sq ft, meaning the lager the foot print the larger the rental payments, so what if you could reduce the footprint size you’re looking for? When you consider the amount of inventory your facility would be managing, you probably don’t think this is an option, however a smaller footprint doesn’t necessarily mean less storage capacity.

Height space is just as useful as floor space, and can be smartly used to maximise space effectively. This can be achieved easily through the implementation of space saving storage solutions including:

Narrow aisle racking – If you anticipate pallets in high volumes, narrow aisle pallet racking the most frequently used system in warehouses with limited floor space and a high ceiling. The structure is configured to utilise height space by extending rack levels, and floor space by reducing the aisle width. As a result, the space can incorporate more pallet racking locations using the additional rows and additional levels, allowing sufficient use of the full cubic area. The very slender aisle is navigated using a slim line fork lift truck (FLT) which can reach significant heights whilst being safely guided using fitted guide rails. To add speed beyond the structure, pick and deposit stations (P&Ds) can be fitted, allowing the much faster counterbalance truck to transport the pallets from the racks to despatch or from goods-in to the racks.

Narrow ailse racking

Multi tier shelving – If inventory is handled manually, the multi tier shelving system will multiply the quantities you can store within the same floor surface area. The configuration consists of long span shelving built to heightened levels that can even go as high as the ceiling. Because items are picked and loaded by hand, the system incorporates floor levels with staircases for access and to transport trolleys or carts, a lift can be fitted. For fast operations, a goods chute can be used to move goods down from the upper level very quickly and easily.

Implement a mezzanine floor:

Increasing usable floor space through the installation of a mezzanine floor is certainly an option worth exploring. The mezzanine is an upper level platform which can incorporate further storage systems. Fitted with pallet gates, goods chutes, conveyors or lifts, inventory can be transported between levels with ease.  A single or multi tiered mezzanine floor can transform your facility and even if a significant amount of additional work space has been created through a mezzanine floor installation, rent can often go unaffected.

Warehouse multi tier storage mezzanine floor

Labour Costs

Labour is one of the biggest costs in warehouse operations and although it’s a necessity, automation can help drive those costs down:

The First-in First-Out (FIFO) Systems

Pallet racking and shelving systems that operate using the FIFO method have a real advantage for those managing perishable goods. When using these systems, the loading and retrieval of goods is sequenced allowing operators to retrieve goods in date order without too much thought. The FIFO system optimises the picking process, reducing time spent checking dates on the products with minimal chance of inventory going to waste.

Using a one way system, goods enter the system on one side and leave on the opposite side, which means only two working aisles are required and because FIFO systems offer high density storage, space utilisation is another great advantage.

Systems that work on the FIFO basis include:

Drive-in racking – A pallet racking configuration without horizontal beams, the deep running lanes of drive-in racking allow the FLT to enter the lane for access. To store a pallet the FLT enters the lane and travels to the next available location, following the back to back, bottom to top storage sequence. On the opposite side another FLT can enter to retrieve the pallets enabling the FIFO method whilst increasing speed.

Pallet live racking – Configured using multiple rows of racking without a fixed working aisle between them, forming tunnelled deep running lanes. The tilted lanes incorporate rollers to allow the pallet once loaded to travel, assisted by gravity towards the picking face. The only two aisles required are located on the loading face and picking face, and in the absence of aisles between the racks this is a highly effective space saving solution that saves time and money on labour.

Carton live shelving – Perfect for fast moving perishable stock, carton live shelving is made up of sloped shelved with rollers on which hand loaded items are transported to the opposite side for picking. The operators can focus on loading and picking without spending time on manual stock rotation which is hugely beneficial, especially when working in fast paced environments.

Cold Store Carton Live shelving

Shuttle racking – A fully automated system, pallets are loaded onto a radio controlled shuttle which sits at the entrance of the deep running lane. The shuttle will then transport the pallet within the structure before placing it to rest on the racks. If access to the structure is on both sides, the FIFO method can be adopted with loading on one side and picking on the other. This is a fully automated system which reduces the need for as much human labour, allowing them to use time more effectively, however the shuttle does require a little time for retrieval so if your stock needs to move at a faster pace multiple shuttles may be required.

Shuttle racking system and fork lift truck in operation

Energy Costs

Particularly in temperature controlled areas the costs to regulate temperatures in a large space can be significantly high. When managing cold chain inventory, it’s essential that the storage space in which they are kept remain consistently at a specific temperature. This increases energy consumption resulting in high costs; however these costs can be reduced through energy efficient storage systems in the form of high density storage.  As well as the FIFO storage systems mentioned above, other systems which offer high density storage include:

Push back racking – Although very similar to the pallet live racking system, push back racking offers greater storage capacity. The structure only requires one working aisle on which loading and picking activities are carried out and without the additional picking aisle, there’s more space to utilise for storage purposes. This system works on the First-in Last-out method (FILO) making it ideal if space utilisation was a priority over stock rotation. If stock rotation is a priority in your cold store area, pallet live racking is an option that offers both stock rotation and space utilisation.

Push Back Pallet Racking - front View

Double deep racking – This is a simple system where two rows of wide aisle racking are positioned back to back. The result is less aisle space and more storage and if initial investment is a concern, this is a cost effective solution which is highly versatile and can be adjusted very easily as your needs change.

Drive-through racking – Not too dissimilar from drive-in racking, drive-through racking consists of lanes which are open to allow FLT access. Drive-through racking only requires one access aisle to enter the lanes rather than two, and this means theirs slightly more storage capacity than the drive-in system, however it operates using the FILO method so would be unsuitable for essential stock rotation requirements, however the drive-in option is highly suitable if you’re looking to adopt the FIFO method and maximise storage capacity at the same time.

Mobile racking – A very distinct system, mobile racking makes full use of cubic space by eliminating all fixed aisles. Instead the racks are placed onto a mobile base which allows a new aisle to open as and when required. As only one aisle can be open at a time, the mobile racking system is most suited to lower turnover products as the process of picking and loading can take more time.


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Whether you’re looking to reduce running costs in your current facility or you want to ensure costs are limited and managed on opening a new one, WSL can assist you. By drawing on our extensive knowledge and experience, we’ll help you plan to maximise overall efficiency, reducing costs where possible. Call WSL today on 0113 2045350 to speak to a member of our design team or email

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