Case study

Pallet Racking and its Role in Driving Warehouse Efficiency

Feb 23, 2024 | Pallet Racking, Uncategorized

Pallet racking is a is a substantial standalone framework commonly located in warehouses, distribution centres, and manufacturing facilities, designed for the effective storage and management of palletised inventory. But pallet racking isn’t just about storage, it has several other key uses…….

What is pallet racking used for?

Space optimisation – In facilities with significant inventory volumes, sufficient space is vital. However, the optimisation of the space is paramount for achieving cost efficiency, enhancing operational performance, and meeting the demands of a dynamic business environment. It greatly improves warehouse management, playing a pivotal role in the overall success of a business. Pallet racking emerges as a valuable solution in this context. This structure efficiently handles multiple fully loaded pallets organised in rows and across various levels, enabling vertical stacking capabilities. This, in turn, facilitates the extraction of greater value from the available space and contributes to a reduction in the required footprint width, without the problem of warehouse congestion.

Promote convenient retrieval and efficient picking – Pallet racking offers a designated space for immediate pallet placement, eliminating the need for operators to spend time searching for an appropriate spot. Conversely, efficient picking is facilitated through the convenient access provided by the racks. Implementing the right pallet racking system can result in significant time and cost savings, ensuring that the process of picking and retrieval is swift, straightforward, and efficient. This is particularly useful in time sensitive operations such as an order fulfilment or distribution centre where a speed is critical.

Assist organised inventory management – Efficient use of space leads to systematic organisation and the orderly storage of multiple inventory types. Pallets can be categorised and segregated based on factors such as SKU’s, size, or demand. Finding designated pallet spaces becomes uncomplicated, streamlining pick and replenishment procedures and improving overall inventory management.

Increase efficiency in material handling – Organised pallet racking facilitates easy identification and accessibility of stored items, resulting in quicker material handling and increased efficiency. Well-designed pallet racking systems contribute to a structured warehouse layout, streamlining workflow with clear pathways and minimising unnecessary movements, ultimately improving overall material handling efficiency. The systematic organisation and clear visibility of products in pallet racking systems will also reduce the time spent searching for items, directly contributing to more efficient material handling processes.

Shuttle Racking being loaded with pallet

Enhance Versatility – Pallet racking is not standardised because each warehouse is unique. These systems differ in terms of selectivity, speed, configuration, and capabilities. With various types available and the option for a customised design, businesses can obtain a pallet racking system that aligns perfectly with their specific needs and the characteristics of their inventory.

Facilitate assisted inventory rotation – When handling perishable or time-critical goods, there’s no need to struggle with manual stock rotation. Not when there are racking systems that operate on a First-in First-out (FIFO) basis. These deep lane storage systems maximise operational space through highly dense configurations only accessible on either side where one is for loading pallets and the other for picking them.

Deliver cost effectiveness in storagePallet racking systems are a cost-effective solution for storing goods in substantial volumes compared to alternative storage methods. They make efficient use of space and help businesses avoid the costs associated with expanding or relocating facilities.

Can pallet racking handle multiple product types concurrently?

Pallet racking is well-suited for storing substantial quantities of identical or similar products. It is particularly well-suited for bulk storage of goods that are palletised and have standardised dimensions, but there is also good news for those handling variable inventory types because certain pallet racking systems can be configured to handle multiple product types concurrently. The adaptability and versatility of these systems make them suitable for storing various products within the same structure. Things to remember when planning a pallet racking solution with changing or varied inventory needs include….

A customised design considers both immediate and future inventory needs – Inventory needs are central to any pallet racking design process. At WSL our designers will meticulously gather information about inventory needs to ensure a design that produces the most ideal solution. They certainly investigate the possibility of different inventory types to ensure a design than meet current and future needs.

You can combine solutions into one structure – This could be a pallet racking system which incorporates a bay of shelving. As an example, WSL incorporated carton-live shelving bays into the racking system to create a multi system solution for our client whose business was undergoing fast growth.

Wide ailse racking with integrated shelving

Can pallet racking be used for none-palletised goods?

Yes, pallet racking can be used for non-palletised goods. While the name suggests a focus on palletised storage, many pallet racking systems are versatile and can accommodate a wide range of products, including those that are not palletised. Utilising various common adaptations or accessories allows for the customisation of pallet racking to accommodate non-palletised goods. This may involve employing decking to establish a sturdy shelf, on which bins or containers can be conveniently placed, positioning them within the pallet rack framework. This flexibility makes pallet racking a versatile solution for various types of inventories, not limited to palletised items.

What are the typical applications and uses of pallet racking?

Pallet racking is used in many industrial and warehouse settings where the storage and organisation of goods is essential. Such settings include:

  • Warehouses: The role of pallet racking in warehouses is to maximize storage space and facilitate organised inventory management.
  • Distribution Centres: In this environment, the distribution of goods benefit from pallet racking as it helps to systemise the handling and retrieval of products.
  • Manufacturing Facilities: Pallet racking supports manufacturing operations through the organised storage of raw materials, goods in process, and finished products.
  • Retail Storage: For retailers, pallet racking is used in backrooms or distribution centres, to organise goods before they are placed on store shelves.
  • Cold Storage: Perishable goods that require temperature controlled storage can be facilitated by pallet racking designed to withstand low temperatures, but also some systems assist stock rotation with minimal effort.
  • E-commerce Fulfillment Centres: Pallet racking is crucial within fulfillment in e-commerce distribution centres, particularly since the recent escalation in demand and high demand levels appearing here to stay.
  • Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Providers: Logistical services rely on pallet racking to facilitate efficient inventory handling and storage to ensure a well organised service as expected by their many clients.
  • Bulk Storage: Pallet racking is a practical solution for industries dealing with high volumes of standardised or similar product types, due to its ability to bulk store..
  • Inventory Management: Pallet racking systems improve the overall flow of items within a facility whilst enabling effective management and easy access.

What are the different types of pallet racking?

The pallet racking system most suited to you operation depends on the business environment, operational requirements, space, size, and inventory needs. With so much to consider whilst taking into account the capabilities of each system, there’s bound to be difficulties when deciding on the right solution for your operation, so it’s always worth speaking to an expert. WSL’s pallet racking design technicians will always take time to understand your business needs whilst considering all influential factors before suggesting a suitable system. To give you an idea, we have outlined different systems below to help you filter through your potential pallet racking options

Wide aisle pallet racking – Also known as standard pallet racking, this is a system in widespread use, and for good reason too! This is a versatile storage solutions suited to most industries and applications. The generously wide aisle space between racks provide room for manoeuvre which allows for easy access whilst facilitating efficient loading and unloading. This racking system offers flexibility in terms of storage configurations and is can also accommodate a wide range of product types, even at the same time. Accommodating changing inventory needs is easy with this system as the beams are designed for easy adaptability, so you can adjust their height level to suite varying loads. Its popularity stems from its compatibility with various material handling equipment, including forklift trucks (FLT) and manual pump lifts for ground level pallets. For the very reasons mentioned, this system is a practical choice for many warehouse and distribution centre environments.

Wide aisle or adjustable pallet racking

Double Deep Racking – The popularity of double deep racking is well-founded. Its a simple racking system design, based on the wide aisle system, however it further maximises warehouse space by allowing pallets to be stored two-deep. This effectively doubles storage capacity compared to the wide aisle configuration. The system is characterised by its much deeper rack bays, which facilitates pallets being stored two deep with one behind the other. Because pallets are two deep, there are fewer aisles in total and there is some restriction to the ones further back. The frontal pallets need to be moved first in order to access the back ones and a FLT with extended reach is often required. However with fewer aisles, storage capacity is increased making it well-suited for environments where limited space is restricting operations, and its particularly suited to operations of a medium speed where direct access to every single pallet is not essential. The double deep racking system can however, maintain selectivity for a significant portion of pallets and this contributes to its widespread use across various industries.

Narrow aisle racking or very narrow isle (VNA) –  A space-efficient storage solution, narrow aisle racking is designed to maximise warehouse capacity through aisle width reduction, which allows for more rows. This system considers the full cubic area, rather than the floor space alone to maximise storage capacity, whilst maintaining direct access to every pallet. Although there is a need to navigate between the closely configured, and particularly tall racks using a specialist FLT, the improved productivity makes the investment worthwhile. Combining greater horizontal storage with increased vertical storage through the narrow aisle configuration presents opportunities to make all areas of the space functional, and warehouses where height space is particularly generous, this narrow aisle racking is an option worth exploring. It can facilitate high-volume storage, fast-moving goods and contributes to enhanced picking efficiency as well as overall warehouse productivity which can be further enhanced with the incorporation of pick and deposit stations (P&Ds) designed to boost operational speed. The widespread adoption of narrow aisle racking reflects its effectiveness in balancing space utilisation and operational efficiency in diverse industrial settings.

Very Narrow Aisle Header

Drive in/drive through racking – Drive-in and drive-through racking are systems tailored to meet high-density storage needs, and is particularly suitable for bulk storage of similar products. In a drive-In system, pallets are loaded and retrieved from a single entry point, which reduces underused space because unnecessary aisles are replaced by more pallet locations. Drive-through systems allows access from both sides, enhancing flexibility and enabling a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory management approach. With two entry points, there may be slightly fewer pallet locations than the drive-in system, however storage capacity is still significantly higher than a standard racking configuration and it promotes huge cost savings through assisted stock rotation.

The efficient use of  space contribute to the appeal of Drive-In and Drive-Through Racking Systems due to the ability to store pallets in multiple depths with the added advantage of compatibility to various FLT types, which in many cases, means there is no need to purchase new handling equipment. When considering ways of maximising storage space and addressing the demands of managing significantly high inventory volumes, its certainly worth contemplating the option of a drive-in/drive-through system.

Pushback racking – This dynamic storage solution is designed to optimise, space utilisation, picking and retrieving. The system operates on a First-In-Last-Out (FILO) principle, allowing pallets to be loaded from the front, while existing pallets are pushed back along inclined rails as the new pallet is loaded. This design enables deep storage of multiple pallets, making it an ideal choice for warehouses with a high volume of product turnover. With push back racking systems warehouses can balance increased storage capacity and accessibility, with a a cost-effective solution suitable for storing bulk quantities of similar products. Loading and unloading is straightforward, and with the ability to incorporate multiple levels of deep storage, the system is popular across industries seeking efficient, high-density storage solutions.

Push Back Pallet Racking

Pallet live racking – Pallet live racking is an innovative storage solution which operates on a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) basis. It uses gravity rollers or wheels to automatically move pallets forward as new pallets are added, ensuring a continuous flow of goods. This dynamic system is particularly beneficial for perishable or time-sensitive products, optimising stock rotation and reducing the risk of inventory obsolescence. Pallet Live Racking not only maximises storage density but also improves picking accuracy and speed. The automated nature of the system minimises the need for a FLT travel within the rack, resulting in streamlined workflows and reduced labour costs. The widespread adoption of pallet live racking reflects its effectiveness in meeting the evolving demands of modern warehouses seeking efficient and dynamic storage solutions.

Mobile racking – A mobile racking system is a dynamic storage solution designed to maximise space utilisation in warehouses and storage facilities. Unlike traditional static racking systems, mobile racking systems are mounted on guided mobile bases that move laterally along tracks on the floor. This mobility allows for more efficient use of available space by eliminating the need for multiple fixed aisles between racks. While mobile racking systems offer numerous advantages, it’s essential to consider inventory turnover as the process of pick and retrieval requires time to open the required aisle, making it better suited to low turnover items. This could be archiving documents or slow-moving high value goods which would benefit from the extra security provided by the enclosed aisles. Overall, the mobile racking system provides an efficient solution for organisations looking to maximise their storage capacity and improve energy efficiency through compact storage which requires a smaller footprint area.

Shuttle Racking – Shuttle racking represents an innovative and automated approach to high-density storage in warehouses and distribution centres. This advanced system employs a motorised shuttle device that runs along rails within the racking structure, transporting pallets to and from the loading and retrieval points. Unlike traditional systems, shuttle racking eliminates the need for FLT’s to enter the rack aisles, contributing to faster and more efficient operations, particularly if multiple shuttles are in operation. The shuttle system can handle pallets of various sizes and weights and is well-suited for environments with a high volume of goods with uniform characteristics. Notably, shuttle racking enhances warehouse efficiency by significantly reducing loading and unloading times, ensuring optimal space utilisation, and facilitating an optional First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory management approach. With its ability to streamline processes and increase storage capacity, shuttle racking has become a sought-after solution for businesses seeking to enhance their warehouse logistics.

Shuttle Racking - view of shuttle waiting to be loaded

Specialist racking systems

Carpet racking – Carpet racking is a specialised storage system designed to efficiently accommodate and organise rolls of carpets, rugs, or other rolled and lengthy goods in warehouse settings. Characterised by its long, horizontal slots, carpet racking allows for the safe and accessible storage of long and heavy items, whilst using space optimally. The horizontal slots run deep; however, they are also shallow which increases the capacity to maximise level quantities. Preservation of product is assisted by the deep, encased lanes in which the rolled goods are stored.  These racks provide a clear advantage for industries involved in carpet manufacturing, distribution, or retail, where the unique dimensions of carpets require specialised storage solutions. The design of carpet racking ensures easy loading and unloading using a FLT fitted with a long boom attachment, specially designed to pick, and place the rolled items as they encircle around the long pole-like attachment. Carpet racking can be designed to accommodate varying carpet sizes and weights, making it an essential solution in the supply chain for industries dealing with these specialised products.

Carpet Racking system

Cantilever racking – Cantilever racking is a versatile storage system designed to efficiently store long, heavy goods like pipes, or objects with non-uniform shapes, such as furniture. Cantilever racks have horizontal arms stretching from vertical columns, offering open and easy-to-reach storage for items that don’t fit neatly on standard pallet racks. The open-front structure with adaptable arms simplifies the process of loading and unloading with a FLT, making it straightforward and efficient. Cantilever racking is particularly beneficial for industries such as construction, manufacturing, and retail, where the need for organised and accessible storage of long and bulky items is crucial. The system’s flexibility in adjusting arm heights and lengths allows for the accommodation of various product dimensions, contributing to efficient space utilisation and improved warehouse functionality. Cantilever racking is a reliable solution for businesses seeking to streamline their storage of oversized or non-uniform items while ensuring easy retrieval and optimal organisation.

Cantilever Racking side view

Garment racking – Garment hanging systems are specialised storage solutions designed to accommodate clothing items, particularly those that need to be hung rather than folded or stacked. These systems typically consist of racks or rails equipped with hooks or hangers, providing a space-efficient and organised way to store garments such as clothing, uniforms, or textiles. They are commonly used in retail stores, distribution centres, and warehouses where apparel items need to be stored, displayed, or sorted efficiently. Garment hanging systems help maximise space utilisation and facilitate easy access to clothing items, making them ideal for environments where frequent inventory turnover or quick retrieval is essential. Additionally, these systems often feature adjustable configurations to accommodate various garment sizes and types, offering versatility and flexibility in storage solutions.

Your racking solution

Besides storage, what beneficial uses will your pallet racking bring to your operation? Find out with WSL! Whether you’re looking for a simple budget cost or want to discuss your pallet racking options in detail, call us on 0113 2045350 and we’ll put you through to a member of our pallet racking design team! Or email us at sales@wslmail.co.uk

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