Choosing the correct warehouse aisle width is essential when planning and designing a pallet rack system. Pallet rack spacing for forklifts ensures a warehouse is accessible, safe, and navigational. Our warehouse design experts consult with each customer to determine the best aisle width based on their warehouse size, forklift model, storage application, load length, future planning, and more.

Warehouse aisle width

Types of Warehouse Aisles and Forklifts

There are numerous warehouse racking aisle widths to choose from when designing your pallet rack system. The three main warehouse aisle types are wide aisles, narrow aisles, and very narrow aisles. Each aisle size requires a specific forklift style to properly and effectively place and retrieve pallets – read about each aisle type below:

Wide Aisles (WA)

Conventional warehouse aisles, also known as wide Aisles (WA), are generally 11 to 13 feet wide. Wide aisles are most commonly used with a standard sit-down counterbalanced forklift and are suitable for most storage applications with palletized products. 

Wide aisle racking is accessible and offers enough room for multiple workers or forklifts to access inventory.

Narrow Aisles (NA)

Narrow Aisles (NA) are 8 to 10 feet wide on average. Narrow aisle-compatible forklifts include stand-up trucks, reach trucks, and double-deep reach trucks. Narrow aisle stand-up forklifts take up less space, and operators stand rather than sit.

Transitioning from standard wide aisles to narrow aisles can increase storage capacity by 20-25%. Warehouses may choose a narrow aisle configuration to save space and increase storage efficiency.

Very Narrow Aisles (VNA)

Very Narrow Aisles (VNA) are less than 6 feet wide. VNA forklifts are required for this aisle type, and there is often some guidance system (guide rail, wire guidance, or optical guidance) to keep lift trucks centered and to prevent rack damage. Additional lift trucks operating in this type of aisle are man-up order selectors, turret trucks, swing mast trucks, and Bendi-style forklifts. 

Very Narrow Aisles increase storage capacity by 40-50% and are ideal for warehouses storing lots of products in a smaller floor space.

Forklift Styles

There are many different types of forklifts for each warehouse aisle and unique applications. Common forklift styles and terms to describe forklifts include:

  • Side loaders
  • Counterbalance
  • Telehandler
  • Heavy-duty
  • Rough terrain
  • Walkie stacker
  • Order picker
  • VNA forklifts
  • Reach trucks
  • Pallet jack
  • Double-deep reach trucks
  • Stand-up straddle lifts
  • Man-up order selectors
  • Turret trucks
  • Swing mast trucks
  • Bendi-style forklifts
  • Walkies
  • Stackers
  • Stand-ups 

How to Calculate Minimum Aisle Width

To calculate the minimum aisle width for your storage system, you need to know your forklift style, forklift width, and forklift turning radius. Measure your load/pallet width and consider safety clearance for maneuverability and load sway. Finally, consider warehouse floor space and any additional space requirements. Additional considerations include:

  • Product types being stored
  • Type of pallets being stored
  • Pallet sizes 
  • Quantity of pallets
  • Available storage area
  • Clear heights
  • Type of loading docks

Choosing the correct warehouse aisle width and forklift style can be overwhelming. When deciding which forklift aisle width you need, begin by considering the factors listed above, and please note that you may have multiple aisle widths depending on how your product is being retrieved. 

A single warehouse may have multiple types of forklifts, order pickers, turret trucks, etc., which require different aisle widths.

Some forklift styles require longer rack beams or a bottom beam for proper loading, so be sure to speak with a warehouse layout design specialist to ensure appropriate racking and space layout. If you have questions about pallet racking aisle widths and forklift styles, call us at 800-722-5908 or complete a quote form today!

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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