If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in learning more about how to meet the increasing demands of storage efficiency. As many know, this project can be a tough nut to crack. The problem starts with the question of how to get the inventory into the warehouse, utilize the existing space, and make it as efficient as possible. It’s no “quick and easy” task, but with time and enough effort you’ll be able to see the results for your warehouse that you set out to achieve.


A great place to start is to gather a handful of important data points relating to your warehouse. For example, how many SKUs does the racking need to hold? What kind of products are going to be stored on the racking?

Always keep in mind that “proper planning prevents poor performance.” If you take the time to plan and lay out what you want your outcomes to look like, you’re likely to be more satisfied with your results. One of the first things we recommend doing is asking yourself a few basic questions that will help you analyze your warehouse space. This process should allow you to have a little better perspective and insight into how you can best store your inventory.

  • What is the total number of SKU’s being stored?
  • What kinds of products and containers are going toe stored on the rack system? (e.g. pallets, cases, finished goods, loose parts)
  • What do you plan on using the warehouse space for? (order filling, long-term storage, etc.)
  • What is the width and depth of the product you’ll be storing?
  • What’s the ceiling height of the building?

Warehouse Pallet Shelving

Before choosing and installing a pallet racking system for your warehouse, there are a few other basic but important things you should know. Getting down to the fundamentals, pallet racking is heavy-duty shelving that’s used to store bulk inventory, most commonly in a warehouse application. Often this inventory is palletized, hence the name “pallet rack,” but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, pallet racking can be used to store all manner of products.

Pallet rack systems have a wide variety of sizes and capacity ratings and are produced by a long list of manufactures both in the U.S. and abroad. In terms of components, selective pallet racking is fairly simple. There are three main components that make up the system, which include the upright frames, cross beams for shelf levels, and wire decks to go atop the cross beams for a larger surface area.

Rows of selective pallet racking go farther and farther back into the warehouse

While the overall design of pallet racking is straightforward, the design and engineering of the components themselves is complex and rigorous, and components are extensively tested for strength, durability, and overall performance. In addition to the racking itself, there’s an array of accessories frequently used with pallet racks. Examples of accessories include products like column guards, safety netting, anchor bolts, and wall ties. Many of these accessories serve the dual purpose of making the rack system safer while enhancing the performance, and sometimes the aesthetics of the racking.

With pallet racking comes a list of safety precautions that must be followed under regulation. One of the simplest things to do to keep your warehouse safe is to conduct routine safety checks. This should include inspecting pallet rack to ensure there’s no damage and monitoring the surface to identify any rust or corrosion.

Once you’ve looked at the SKUs, product types, and other variables listed at the beginning, you’re ready to speak with a Systems Design Specialist. The Systems Design Specialist will listen, ask a few questions, and work with you to design the solution that will best meet the needs of your warehouse and your company. There are five main types of racking systems, each of which serve different purposes and are used in different applications. There’s a good chance your storage system will fall into one of these categories. Take a look at their commonalities and differences in order to get an idea of which might work best for you.

Types of Pallet Rack Systems

Selective Pallet Rack: Selective pallet rack is the most popular type of pallet rack system, in large part due to its versatility, selectivity (access to pallets), and price point. Unlike many of the engineered systems, selective pallet rack can be re-slotted and rearranged when needed, and provides access to every pallet in the rack system. The most common type of selective racking is teardrop pallet rack, which is named for the upside-down, “teardrop-shaped” punch holes that appear on its upright columns.


Push Back: These systems increase storage density, allowing you to fully utilize your available warehouse space. Push back rack also offers the ability to increase pallet count without sacrificing selectivity, making it an increasingly popular storage option. This type of pallet rack system often requires a higher initial investment, but can quickly pay for itself by increasing efficiency.

Drive-In: Drive-in racking tops the list in terms of storage density. This system eliminates aisles, maximizing warehouse cube utilization. Drive-In systems can even increase your warehouse space by up to 60%. Drive-in systems are not designed for every application, however. Because they’re a first-in, last-out system, they’re typically only suited for inventory that moves in large quantities and isn’t time-sensitive. Products may sit idle in a bay of drive-in racking for extended periods, and poor utilization of the racking results in the “honeycombing” effect, wherein only 40-60% of the racking is occupied.

Pallet Flow: Also known as “gravity flow,” this system uses metal rollers and the force of gravity to move pallets through the system. Pallet flow works in a first-in, first-out sequence, and is engineered to meet the individual application’s needs. Pallet flow is most often used as a first-in, first-out rack system.

Carton Flow: Commonly known by the name “Span Track,” carton flow rack is designed to increase productivity and create an overall safer warehouse. This system also uses metal or plastic rollers with gravity to create the pick face. Carton flow is often found for high-volume products that are being picked daily. As its name suggests, carton flow rack is normally used for cartons and cases, as opposed to a palletized product.

Cantilever Rack: Cantilever systems store things like lumber, steel, and items that are too long/awkward to fit on pallets. This system stores these items in long continuous runs, which keeps vertical uprights from interfering with the placement of the product on the shelf.

New vs. Used Pallet Rack

Now that you’re more familiar with the types of racking systems available, it’s time to consider whether to go with new or used pallet racking. There are pros and cons to each, so it’s ultimately up to you to determine which option is a better fit. Used racking can be the perfect option if low price is a top priority and if the look of the system matters less than the overall function. The used rack can be a great way to save money in your warehouse without putting too big of a dent in the company’s bottom line.

One downside of used racking is that it’s typically sold “as is.” This means it comes without a manufacturer warranty or guaranteed capacity. It also means that any dings, scratches, rust, or other signs of use are just part of the package. Buying used also includes not knowing where the racking has been used or who the previous owner was. It’s possible for damages to be easily hidden, so it’s important that you, the buyer, inspect any racking before purchase.

Teardrop pallet rack with an open back design and rib on front of frame

New pallet racking has its own advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious advantages are the guaranteed capacity ratings, manufacturer warranty, and look of the racking. It may sound silly, but having a brand new rack system in place can boost employee morale and communicate a willingness to invest in the company.

Of course, the primary disadvantage to buying a new pallet rack is the price. However, customers often tell us that the increase in price is worth it, as they consider pallet racking to be a long-term investment. They’re willing to pay the extra money for a product that has a warranty, and possibly many more years of life in it than the used rack. For customers looking to make the shift from used racking to new racking, we offer top trade-in value.

Quick Tips for Warehouse Storage

Aside from implementing a new pallet rack system, there are things that every inventory management team can do to make the best possible use of the resources at their disposal. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • Prioritize your fastest moving products by placing them at the front of the warehouse. Over time, this will reduce warehouse traffic and increase labor efficiency.
  • Careful planning and organization are crucial to running a warehouse at full efficiency. When planning a warehouse layout design, it’s essential to identify the most efficient location for all inventory, factoring in the products’ storage characteristics, family, and supply needs (proper planning prevents poor performance).
  • Narrow aisle reach trucks can increase warehouse storage by up to 30%, and in long load applications, multi-directional forklifts can increase storage by up to 40%.
  • The end goal of optimizing your warehouse space is to help your business. When stocking a warehouse, it is vital to maximizing all space possible. From research to installation, AK Material Handling Systems will help you every step of the way.

Ready to take the next step towards a fluid, more efficient warehouse? Give us a call or reach out to us via email. Our passion is providing clients with warehouse storage systems that help their businesses thrive.

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About AK Material Handling Systems

We deliver value to our customers by providing the absolute best combination of quality products, helpful customer service and competitive pricing. We specialize in warehouse layout & design, pallet rack systems, engineered sales, mezzaninesmodular offices and completed turn-key warehouse systems. For more information email us or call (800) 722-5908