Case study

How long will my pallet racking system last?

May 5, 2023 | Pallet Racking

Your new pallet racking system will bring considerable advantages to your operation, but how long will it last? It’s a fair question because understandably, you’ll want to be confident that the imminent return on investment is long term

Pallet racking is a long-lasting solution, but could we go as far as to say it’s an everlasting solution? Well, almost!

In truth, the exact life expectancy of your pallet racking solution is impossible to predict given the many influential factors, but there are ways to assist conformance to your desired endurance:

Ensure quality is not compromised

Your pallet racking system has a very important job to do and this includes bearing the strain of a heavy duty operation for a long period of time. This requires nothing less than a quality assured solid structure which is fit for purpose. Whilst it’s possible to source less expensive, substandard quality solutions these structures may lack long lasting durability and can cost you more in the long run, and not just in terms of money. Inadequate quality can lead to serious risks to the health and safety of anyone working with or around the structure with significant consequences.

If your goal is to maximise longevity and safety, look for quality assurance by asking your supplier to confirm compliance with SEMA design codes (Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association). As a Full SEMA Member ourselves, WSL is engaged in not just complying with SEMA code standards but setting them too, therefore a pallet racking solution designed and implemented by WSL gives no cause for concern when it comes to high quality and safety standards.

Racking system in new warehouse

Quality assurance offered through compliance with SEMA design codes will guarantee structural safety through design and installation, but also intended purpose…….

Pallet racking should fulfil its intended purpose

It’s very unlikely for any pallet racking system which is unable to meet the needs of the operation to last long however durable the structure. That’s because there is much more to pallet racking than being a pallet-supporting steel structure, it is actually a solution designed to simplify inventory storage and handling. Because every warehouse has its own inventory needs, space dimensions and operational processes, a carefully designed pallet racking solution should meet all functional needs.  This is born from a pallet racking design inclusive of:

Specific Inventory Support – Inventory is at the heart of any warehouse operation for which effective pallet racking support is crucial. A solution that meets the specifics of your inventory will be long lasting and so the designer of your system should look at inventory volume, speed, type, variability, any specific temperature requirements and whether stock requires limited shelf-life management.  A system that doesn’t support such crucial needs will likely hinder the operation and incur unnecessary costs, leaving you with no choice but to revise your racking solution and look at how it can be improved, even if it means a partial or full replacement.

Maximisation of the space – The space in your warehouse and how you use it is a major pallet racking design component. The key is to make the absolute most of all available space with a pallet racking design that considers the full cubic area with a solution that maximises it whilst meeting inventory needs.  If limited floor space leaves no scope for heightened inventory volumes, a designer with expert knowledge on various pallet racking types and configurations will look to create a solution that increases storage capacity by using the space optimally or even using space that may not have been considered as being usable space. Height space for example can be utilised to increase storage capacity by building taller racks or floor space may have much more to offer if a deep lane pallet racking configuration is implemented.

VNA Racking

Improved running cost– There is a number of ways the fit-for-purpose pallet racking design can help to minimise and better manage the day to day running costs of your warehouse operation. It can even target labour which is the most prominent of ongoing running costs. Both full and semi-automated systems free up labour which can be used more productively by minimising time spent on loading and picking. Systems that operate on the First-in First-out (FIFO) method are particularly useful in operations where inventory is perishable as the method takes away the need to spend time carrying out manual stock rotation. The First-in-Last-out (FILO) operating systems offer the same streamlining assistance for those operations where the picking in date order is not important but speed is.  An effective pallet racking design can also help to lower energy costs, which is particularly beneficial in cold or chilled zones. This is because better space utilisation through a carefully thought out design can reduce the footprint area in need of energy for lighting, heating or cooling. A wide aisle racking configuration would force much higher energy consumption than that of a more compact configuration, particularly in a cold zone. The configuration would cost the business much more than necessary and this is something that no business could easily sustain long-term.

Push Back Pallet Racking

The future in mind–A pallet racking design without consideration given to the future evolvement of the business may only sustain until needs change and then it may be time to look at a new system, whereas a future proof design means growth doesn’t have to mean a totally new pallet racking solution. Exactly how a future-proof design will work depends on the individual future-proof features embedded into the design. As an example however it could be the ability to extended the racking system or even enhance its capabilities with ease by incorporating vital components into the original structure so when its time to pick-up speed or use the FIFO method, there is no need for a whole new racking system, making the original structure much more sustainable.

Pallet Racking Safety Maintenance

Even with intense levels of endurance, pallet racking is not ageless but that doesn’t mean that with age, effectiveness and safety must be automatically compromised. Here are just four things you can do to help ensure that structure persists with strength and durability:

Incorporate pallet racking protection ancillaries – Whilst your pallet racking structure is made up of robust steel components, protecting those components will help to conserve durability and maintain longevity. Protection ancillaries are a group of pallet racking accessories that are completely detached from the structure, yet fitted around the structure in the most vulnerable areas where a fork lift truck (FLT) collision is more likely. Without upright protectors or end of rack barriers, the structure is at risk of weakening on impact, particularly if the bumps are repeated. This can cause eventual collapse which will end the longevity of the structure. The robust protection ancillaries are positioned to be in the line of impact instead of the structure, should a FLT accidentally veer towards it.

Protection ancillaries

Never miss safety inspections – If you have protection ancillaries in place, why would you need an annual racking inspection? Well there’s the risk of bumps in unguarded areas to consider, as well as the constant bearing of heavy loads and the environment in general.  It’s advisable that a professional rack inspection is carried out yearly because every component is assessed for potential damage or weaknesses which have the opportunity to worsen as it continues to bear heavy loads. Early detection allows for early action whether that’s a repair or replacement beam which allows the solution to continue providing support for much longer and safely!

Invest in staff training – Staff training is a vital tool that can used to keep everybody safe whilst preserving the longevity of your pallet racking system.  On completion of effective FLT training the operator receives a licence to demonstrate competency when picking or loading pallets and whilst carrying out manoeuvres close to the structure. Because FLT incidents are the most common cause of injury and damage in the warehouse, operator training plays a key role in reducing the risk that come with mobile, heavy vehicles within the warehouse space. Staff training can also help to maintain pallet racking safety between annual inspections because the team can learn how to look for signs of damage and how to action them.

Display weight load notices – If operators are aware of the maximum weight load of the structure, this will help to prevent overloading. With the displaying of weight load notices, this information is immediately accessible enabling a quick referral as and when needed. Consisting of large texts and eye catching colours, the easy to read notices are fixed to the racking structure at multiple and convenient locations so there’s no need to travel far when the information is required. Pallet racking overload is something you certainly want to avoid if you want your pallet racking system to last and not collapse under excessive strain.

Weight Load notices displayed

Don’t forget about environmental factors

When is comes to maximising the lifespan of your pallet racking system, it’s important to consider certain aspects of the surrounding environment and the impact they can have.

Lighting and visibility–Warehouse lighting and how it’s configured have more of an impact on warehouse safety than many might think. A FLT operator practicing manoeuvres in a poorly lit warehouse is more likely to collide with the pallet racking structure and in turn compromise its durability. It’s advisable to avoid lights that flash, are too bright or too dim. How you position the lights is crucial too as poorly positioned lighting can cause shadows in critical areas where visibility needs to be uncompromised.

Warehouse cleanliness – A loose pallet, an abandoned box or debris on the operational floor is a hazard and can cause an accident which may then impact the pallet racking structure. It’s important to keep the warehouse a clean and tidy to prevent accidents that can cause injury or impact the lifespan of your pallet racking system.

Surrounding elements – Not all racking systems are used to store goods indoors, some are used for external yard storage. Some that are used indoors may be constantly exposed to frozen temperatures as it accommodates frozen goods. The risk of rust which contributes to weakness is higher is such environments and so extra measures can be taken to prolong structural endurance. A galvanised coat over the steel forms a barrier which prevents the structure from being effected by its surrounding environment. Galvanisation is the term for dipping the components into a solution which then permanently dries onto the components to form a robust and protective coat that acts as a barrier between the structural steel and the elements resulting in an all round, long lasting and robust solution.

Well lit warehouse with racking

What if my pallet racking becomes a “legacy product”?

If your particular pallet racking system becomes obsolete there should be no immediate effect providing you have maintained the quality and safety of the structure through periodic inspections and repair works as and when needed. Its always a good idea to keep a few spare components such as beams just in case of any required repair works once the components have left production as this allows you to go ahead with the repairs without being delayed by difficulties sourcing the components needed. Failing that, it would be worth enquiring to find out whether the WSL quick stock warehouse has the components you require as we keep hold of any components that have relevancy even after they leave the production line. An obsolete pallet racking system can be managed through a gradual migration which involves replacing the old system with new, one section at a time. This makes the process less destructive and more affordable and there is always the option to sell your obsolete components once replaced to ease the cost even further.

So as you can see there is much you can do to protect your pallet racking system from an early demise, but its not just about ensuring a long lasting solution. Maintaining the condition of your pallet racking system is a practical approach to warehouse safety as it minimises the risk of damage that can lead to a collapse that can cause serious harm to others. So by taking steps to maximise the longevity of your pallet racking system, you are taking steps to improve warehouse safety at the same time.

For more useful tips and helpful advise contact WSL today on 0113 20453502 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk

Get started

Discuss Your Project

Our service is completely client-centric. We provide all manufacturer types, as well as fitters, engineers and inspectors; which means that not only can we deliver your entire project from start to finish, but that we can provide a fully bespoke solution for your individual needs. Get in touch to find out more.