In the diverse and complex industry of wholesale and storage warehousing, many tend to mistake racking and shelving to be the same thing. The truth is they are not and it crucial to know the difference between the two as each has different concepts and purposes.
First, let us look at what is racking? Considered one of the necessary tools in the material handling industry; it is a steel structure composed of two or more upright frames, beams and connectors for supporting material storage. Assembling this type of structure can be a bit complex as it involves bolting, clipping and welding.
According to Wikipedia, a shelf is a flat horizontal plane which is used in a home, business, store, or elsewhere to hold items of value that are being displayed, stored, or offered for sale. It is raised off the ground and usually supported on its shorter length sides by brackets. It can also be held up by columns or pillars. It can be attached to a wall or other vertical surfaces, be suspended from a ceiling, be a part of a free-standing frame unit, or it can be part of a piece of furniture such as a cabinet, bookcase, entertainment centre, etc. Usually, two to six shelves make up a unit, each shelf being attached perpendicularly to the vertical or diagonal supports and positioned parallel to one another.
The comparison between the two
Racking is generally regarded as wider, deeper and higher. Think warehouse, storage where racking is the most preferred method for storing large quantities of stock; this method is built so things such as boxes and large containers can be easily accessed. Due to the large volume and the weight of these boxes/storage crates, they can only be accessed and moved by assisted machinery such as fork lifters. As a result, one can expect racking materials to be more durable due to the amount of access it has to provide and endure the weight through the usage of fork lifters.
Shelving, on the other hand, is used for storage of things that need to be retrieved by hand. Storage shelves are made of solid material that can support small items. A good example can be the shelves that you usually see at the supermarket; they are easily accessible for employees and customers. Unlike with racking, shelving does not need to be assisted by machinery during the stocking process. One can also note that shelving has a more rounded look, based on the fact that it not only serves as a method of storage but also as a way of successfully displaying and promotion.