Determine the Right Types of Pallet Racks for Your Warehouse

31st May 2022

Every day in warehouses and distribution centers across the country, forklifts buzz up and down crowded aisles, trying to fit an ever-expanding inventory into a fixed and finite area. Managers complain about a lack of space, a lack of organization, clutter that adds to the chaos, and employees who lose precious time and productivity searching for products and trying to figure out where the inventory is supposed to go.

A pallet racking system can solve a lot of these problems by reducing clutter, increasing warehouse capacity, and maximizing employee productivity. But not all pallet racks are the same. Let’s take a look at the most common types of pallet racks that are available and how to choose the one that will best serve your warehouse’s needs.

Types of Pallet Racking Systems

Selective Pallet Rack

The selective pallet rack is the most popular type of pallet rack system and is designed to get pallets off the floor and provide more space. It is inexpensive, versatile, and its large selection of sizes and accessories makes it easy to customize to your specific needs.

Selective Pallet racks give you unfettered access to any pallet in your warehouse, allow order picking at lower levels, and are ideal for First-In-First-Out (FIFO) retrieval. It is great if you have standard storage needs that require immediate access to products or pallets and if you have a relatively low number of pallets per SKU.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: general warehousing, food handling operations, manufacturing, and low-turnover retail

Pros:

  • Available in numerous capacities, sizes, and configurations for custom fit
  • Immediate access to all storage
  • Can be made from roll formed, structural steel, or a combination of both materials
  • Easy to adjust shelf heights
  • Inexpensive – lowest cost option per square foot

Cons:

  • Requires large amount of warehouse space to accommodate high volume of inventory
  • Lowest pallet storage capacity of all systems
  • Increased time spent loading and unloading product or stock lines.

Double Deep Racking System

The double deep racking system is a variation on the selective pallet rack, putting one row of selective racking behind another. It’s the least expensive way to create high-density storage.

It gives you clear aisles of 9 to 11 feet and is great for First-In-Last-Out (FILO) retrieval. Pallets at lower levels are on beams, and guide rails are used at the upper levels. It can be serviced by reach as well as counterbalanced forklifts and order picking machines.

This system allows you to add more pallets per SKU, generally placing two pallets of the same SKU in each double deep slot. It is perfect if you have a need for greater storage density, have a small to medium number of SKUs that are distributed in medium or high volumes, or have stock with medium to long shelf-life.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: general warehousing, manufacturing, cold storage, paper, F&B, distribution centers and dry store industries

Pros:

  • Up to 40% more storage capacity than selective pallet racking
  • Eliminates unneeded aisles and frees up storage space
  • Offers immediate accessibility to 50% of SKUs
  • Easily converted between deep and selective
  • Easy to reconfigure and relocate
  • Increase of space utilization makes it cost-effective

Cons:

  • Storage height is limited for safety
  • Limited SKUs can be stored in front storage positions
  • Need special double deep reach trucks and specialized forklifts to access pallets
  • Poor visibility of rear storage pallet especially at upper levels for order pickers and truck drivers.   

Push Back Pallet Rack

The push back pallet rack is a high-density storage solution that provides multiple pick faces while using fewer aisles, opening up more warehouse space. Its stationary rack structures allow pallets to be loaded 2 to 6 deep from the front onto a nested cart system that slides along on inclined rails. Available in multiple configurations, it can be easily adapted to your needs and is great for FILO retrieval.

This type of pallet rack system is most commonly recommended for warehouses that need flexibility of selection as well as high-density storage. It’s also great in circumstances when order picking is not required from pallets within the push back racking system.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: general warehousing, retail, food industries

Pros:

  • Significantly faster to load and unload than a comparable drive-in rack
  • Easy product accessibility – each lane is one SKU
  • High-density storage and more flexibility with multiple SKUs
  • Can be custom-designed and configured for your needs
  • Low maintenance
  • Rack damage is minimized because the forklifts don’t enter the rack structure
  • Can go up against a building wall as an aisle is only required in the front of the bays

Cons:

  • More expensive than a comparable drive-in pallet rack system
  • Higher service costs and maintenance costs
  • FILO retrieval is not ideal when storing perishable items. 

Pallet Flow Pallet Rack

The pallet flow pallet rack is a dynamic storage system that uses gravity rollers to automate storage and retrieval. New pallets are added at the higher “loading” end and are retrieved from the lower “picking” end as they automatically move forward. This efficient flow allows you to double or even triple your warehouse capacity compared to drive-in systems.

Using a FIFO retrieval flow, this high-density storage solution provides excellent volume utilization. Because the flow is created by the loading action and gravity, there is no energy consumption.

The dynamic flow rail and static rack structure can be customized with various accessories – like entry guides, ramp stops, and speed controllers – to maximize a safe and effective distribution. And with a range of 2 to 12+ pallets deep, it produces an almost solid volume of usable storage space. All of this combines to provide a significant cost savings in the amount of space used, employee manpower, and utilities.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: grocery, food, freezer, or other perishable or time-sensitive items

Pros:

  • Once loaded, product rotation is automatic
  • Storage of like items where there is a dedicated lane to one product
  • Great for large number of pallets – anywhere from 8-20
  • Quick and efficient inventory turnover

Cons:

  • High capital investment
  • Requires good pallet quality
  • High maintenance requirements
  • Limited SKU and selectivity
  • Requires aisles in both the front and back of the bay.    

Live Pallet Storage

Live pallet storage also uses gravity to make it work. The inventory (full pallets only) is placed into the loading area, then rolls down tracks along an incline to the opposite side with a separate loading out aisle, allowing for a FIFO retrieval flow. This system gives you clear aisles of 9 to 11 feet and allows for a high use of cube with one lane per SKU.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: warehouses with a high number of pallets per SKU, where stock turnover control and space saving are critical

Pros:

  • High space utilization
  • Forklift has shortest travel in and out
  • Minimize the vacancy of the shelf
  • Ideal for large quantities of input and storage

Cons:

  • Relatively high cost of investment
  • Daily maintenance requirements can also be high.     

Carton Flow Pallet Racks

Carton flow pallet racks are basically the same as pallet flow racks, but they are designed specifically for boxes and smaller products instead of full pallets. They are also loaded from one side and use gravity to roll down an incline to the other side of the racking system for picking. Designed for a high-density FIFO inventory flow, this system can easily be integrated with other systems to create a pick module.

Carton flow pallet racks also come with a wide variety of accessories like tilt trays for easy access into the case for piece-picking, full-bed polycarbonate wheels for varying carton widths, or full-width steel rollers and polycarbonate wheels for consistent carton widths. With these easily customizable accessories as well the FIFO flow, this system is perfect for oddly shaped inventory and faster moving items.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: order fulfillment centers, food and beverage distribution centers, small parts distributors, warehouses that utilize split-carton picking and require high-volume order picking

Pros:

  • Saves space and increases efficiency for order fulfillment
  • Roller or wheel systems can be configured for dedicated product lanes or to accommodate cartons of different sizes and configurations
  • Can be either front or back loaded
  • Uses gravity as free power source
  • Dramatic cost savings and increased efficiency for order fulfillment centers
  • Visibility of products prevents out of stock dilemma

Cons:

  • More expensive than traditional warehouse shelving.  

Cantilever Racks

\When you have large, bulky, and unwieldy items, a cantilever racking system is an ideal solution. Comprised of uprights/towers, bases, arms, and brace sets, this system is designed to store long items like tubing, pipes, bars, and lumber. As a stand-alone system, it doesn’t need to be tied to a building for support and can be made from multiple types of materials, offering versatility and durability.

It is a strong, safe, and economical storage solution with a wide variety of customizable options. It can be roll formed, made from structural steel, or can be galvanized for use in outdoor storage yards or in harsh environments.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: storing long bulky items like piping, lumber, steel sheet, and even boats

Pros:

  • Capacity ranges anywhere from light duty to heavy duty
  • Quicker storing and retrieving of heavy, long, or oddly shaped products
  • Strong and safe storage option for both indoor and outdoor
  • Fast and easy installation
  • Can be designed to meet AISI Requirements

Cons:

  • Higher capital investment to install and design this type of pallet racking system
  • May require additional flooring or foundation reinforcement prior to installation, but in most cases, can be installed on a standard 6” slab
  • Requires aisle space between racks for forklifts or other material handling equipment
  • Inefficient at storing pallets.   

Drive-In Pallet Rack

The drive-in pallet rack is a maximum density storage system that eliminates aisles in your crowded warehouse. Forklifts can drive directly into the racks, which can go up to 12 pallets deep and 6 or 7 pallets high. Different heights and depths can be accommodated, and a variety of components are available so you can design the system to fit your specific needs.

Strong welded frame construction with options for roll-formed or structural steel components mean this storage system is made to last. The design, along with different arm and rail combinations, help to reduce damage to pallets, lower space costs, and allow you to hold more inventory.

This system is often recommended for warehouses with a need for high-density storage, large amounts of similar products, limited warehouse space, and fragile products that can’t be stacked.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: general warehousing, freezer/cooler, high-turnover retail products, high-volume storage of similar products

Pros:

  • Most cost-effective high-density system available
  • Can be constructed from roll formed or structural rack material
  • Reduces square footage imprint up to 35% compared to selective pallet racks

Cons:

  • Not a good fit for a facility with a lot of different products
  • Can be challenging to rotate time-sensitive products
  • Open to forklift damage
  • Requires standardized pallet sizes to fit in lanes, so not flexible to other sizes or designs.    

Narrow Aisle Pallet Rack

If you’re looking for the ultimate space saving option, the narrow aisle pallet rack is a great choice. A side loading forklift is used to load and unload the pallet racks. This allows the racks to be placed closer together, meaning the aisles can be very narrow, between 5 to 7 feet. This type of pallet rack, made from prime steel construction and typically utilizing selective racking, eliminates the need for pick and deposit stations since order picking machines can pick from the pallets.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: warehouses with high SKUs with relatively small quantities per SKU, who want to improve their storage density

Pros:

  • Maximizes storage by reducing aisle space
  • Reduces wasted space by using the vertical height of a building
  • All pallets are accessible to forklifts
  • Less product damage and fewer picking errors
  • 100% accessibility to each individual pallet
  • Good stock rotation
  • Storage height of up to 56 feet can be achieved
  • Can be used customized to fit volume and space needs

Cons:

  • Requires a specific type of forklift which is more expensive
  • Two vehicles cannot pass at the same time
  • Lower flexibility as you usually have to store the same SKU
  • Requires a “hand-off” of inventory from the forklift to a dock working forklift on outbound, and the opposite for inbound.  

Mobile Racking

The mobile pallet rack is simply a selective pallet rack or cantilever rack mounted onto mobile bases with wheels that travel along electronically driven tracks. The mobile racks move to allow access to pallets, opening up one aisle at a time. This type of pallet rack system is perfect for warehouses with high density storage, maximum selectivity, and a modest movement of pallets.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: cool and cold storage facilities

Pros:

  • Storage capacity is much larger than average fixed shelves, saving space
  • Direct access to each item, not limited by the FIFO
  • Simple structure
  • Easy to operate

Cons:

  • Whole system design is more complicated and needs more attention
  • Slightly higher in manufacturing costs
  • More electromechanical devices can lead to maintenance difficulties
  • Although trackless mobile shelves do not need to destroy the ground, the price is much higher than mobile storage systems with tracks.   

Satellite/Shuttle System (or Deep Lane) Racking

In a satellite/shuttle system, also known as deep lane racking, cube utilization is used to maximize slots for inventory in a high-density storage situation. A remotely controlled mobile shuttle moves pallets through the racking system, providing distinct channels for each SKU.

These type of pallet racks can be anywhere from 10 to 40 pallets long per lane and can operate in either a FIFO or FILO flow. The shuttles are placed and retrieved from the racking by forklifts and are often used as an alternative to drive in racking, which can take up a significant amount of space.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: warehouses with a high volume of products of each SKU

Pros:

  • No aisles required, allowing a high density of storage
  • Eliminates crushing and leaning – full clear height can be used with no height restriction from forklift
  • Price per pallet stored is the lowest possible
  • No honeycombing
  • No rack damage because forklift does not enter the rack
  • Shuttles are simple and require little maintenance
  • Pallet transactions are fast and seamless
  • Multiple warehouses can be consolidated into single warehouse
  • Rack and rails are level to the ground, allowing more storage levels
  • Affordability of push back racking but able to store at depths of 60+ pallets each

Cons:

  • Pallets must be of good construction
  • Pallet dimensions and product dimensions must be similar
  • Reduced selectivity – pallets must be same SKU, lot, or shipping destination.  

High Rise Pallet Rack

The high rise pallet rack is a major component of the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS). It uses a computer location system to provide high density storage while still allowing the convenience of individual access to all pallets.

Serviced by automated cranes, this customizable storage system can be single or multiple pallets deep as well as open or closed face. It needs a dedicated building, whether rack clad or free standing, and is ideally used when land space is limited and/or if there is a high volume of products moving in and out of the system.

Pricing: Due to steel pricing volatility, please call or email for current price per pallet position

Ideal for: distribution warehouses handling large quantities

Pros:

  • Greatly increases storage capacity per unit area of the warehouse
  • Warehouse is equipped with complete set of loading and unloading machinery
  • Shelves can be disassembled and adjusted
  • Storage and delivery of materials is automatically memorized by computer
  • It can check inventory in time and arrange purchase plan according to inventory

Cons:

  • Requirements for warehouse are high (floor height, position of load bearing column, etc.)
  • High-level inventory must use stacking machine to enter the cargo system
  • High maintenance costs and strict operation needed to prevent accidents.     

Important Factors to Consider

The types of pallet racks you use will vary, depending on your needs. There are many factors that go into maximizing efficiency and getting the most out of your storage system. Here are a few things to take into account.

  • Number of and Dimensions of SKUs
  • Number, Dimensions, and Weight of Pallets
  • Type of Product
  • Inventory Retrieval Flow (FIFO, LIFO, etc.)
  • Turnover Time
  • Type of Picking (Full Case vs. Split Case)
  • Seismic Activity Near Your Warehouse

If you aren’t sure which types of pallet racks make the most sense for you, here’s a simple overview of the storage systems to maximize your warehouse space.

Whether you need a simple selective pallet rack or an automated large-scale pallet racking system, our experts can help you choose the best solution to meet your needs. Give our team a call, and we’ll be happy to walk you through your options.