Racking is a term often used when talking about warehouses and their storage systems, as well as the stacking and storing arrangements of commercial and even residential properties, though less frequently. However, we often use the word without pausing to consider what it actually refers to. Are you using the term “racking” accurately? It is a specific type of storage system and in this article we explore what it means, so that you can have a clearer picture in mind.
Both racking and shelving are found in warehouses, but it is racking that truly characterises a bustling industrial operation. Racking and shelving are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are actually quite different structures. Some people argue that racking is a sub-type of shelving, but we deal with shelving in a separate article. Here we focus exclusively on racking.
Very basically, racking refers to a storage structure that makes use of a series of horizontal rows of bays – multiple levels of storage slots. A wide range of complex structures exist, but more often than not racking, especially in a warehouse context, refers to palletised systems. These allow pallets of goods to be stacked and removed easily and quickly.
There are many types of pallet racking systems, including double deep, where one pallet is stacked behind another; drive-in and drive-through systems, which are designed for high-density storage and First In, First Out and First In, Last Out stock access respectively; narrow aisle and very narrow aisle setups, which maximise storage potential while minimising wasted floor space; push-back racking, where up to six pallets are stacked, with each one pushing the previous one more deeply into storage; and gravity flow racking, which makes movement of stock very easy as the pallets can be slid or rolled out, amongst others.
The majority of pallet racking used in warehouses, however, is selective racking, which is one pallet deep and comes in two main configurations – roll formed, or clip-in, and bolt-together. The pallets are supported by horizontal load beams which can be adjusted for different heights and sizes.
Other types of racking include carton flow and case racking, mobile pallets, which may be motorised, and cantilever racking, which tends to be used for irregularly shaped stock items, such as timber, rolls of material and steel rods. Smaller, simplified versions of cantilever racking are often found in residential homes.
Racking is a core component of a warehouse because it plays such a key role in the organisation of stock and workflow. It gets products off the ground and opens up floor space, leveraging what would otherwise be dead vertical space for storage. Racking systems are generally integrated with pallet trucks and forklifts, needed to move the pallets or other stock around, and may also be accessorised with conveyor belts for greater efficiency and ease of stock movement.
Racks can quite literally be the skeletons of warehouses (indeed, sometimes warehouses are actually built around them). They are often taken for granted, but without them, warehouse work would simply collapse.
Because racking is so crucial to the success of warehouse operations, it is important that it be designed and installed by professionals, and inspected and maintained regularly. Racking that is well looked after will reward you with many years of service.