Considering Pallet Rack Manufactured in China?

John Geddes
April 30, 2019

A rack is a rack is a rack, right? All are made from steel and perform as expected—to hold several pallets filled with products. Well, yes . . . and no. The majority of pallet racks, new or used, do tend to offer exactly what is expected. However, some racking should be avoided at all cost.

It wasn’t that long ago, material handling products coming from Asia, specifically China were guaranteed to offer one thing and if you were fortunate, possibly a few other benefits. The one thing offered for sure was a very low first cost.

Low first cost . . .at what cost?

Chinese manufacturers had a reputation as recently as five years ago, of providing extremely low-cost products made from steel. Unfortunately, most offered little more than that. Much of the steel used in the manufacture of racks and other products using Chinese steel was lower quality than the steel specified for use from domestic and other rack manufacturers. The steel quality on beams often varied. One beam could meet requirements for a rack here in the United States while another would fail.

Quality control in previous generations of this foreign pallet racking was equally spotty. Finishes may have been uneven. Dimensions were likely uneven or inconsistent. Most products sold in the United States often experienced delays in the supply chain. This meant if you planned to have a system installed in six months and the rack was coming from China, your rack system may not arrive when required. The same for replacement parts. What appeared initially as a great saving of money often cost more in the long run.

One more issue many still believe is happening today is the flooding of the market with large quantities of racks in an attempt to drive down price, putting many American rack manufacturers at financial risk. Many domestic manufacturers filed what is known as a petition for the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on imports of steel racks coming from the People’s Republic of China. This petition was filed in June of 2018. No word on findings have been reported as yet.

A group of U.S. steel rack manufacturers, known as the Coalition for Fair Rack Imports, filed petitions with the United States International Trade Commission on June 20, 2018.

Now before continuing, it is important to state that there are good companies in China that see the value and long-term importance of delivering a quality product. Some currently attempt to do business here and compete on a level playing field.

The challenge is finding a rack supplier able to deliver the product you want, within your price range that meets the level of durability you need. Actually, that should be your approach when purchasing anything from any company. As the Latin saying goes, caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware. Here are a few tips to consider when purchasing pallet racking.

Verification

Verify the product you are considering meet acceptable standards. RMI, or the Rack Manufacturer’s Institute is an independent organization that sets the standards for performance for everything rack related. It specifies testing for racking and performs research to ensure racks work as stated.

The organization issues what is called the “R-mark.” The R-mark appears on all rack products since 1997 indicating the rack components and its design are in accordance with the RMI specification for that product. They set the quality standard and the mark is available for member and non-member alike. So, when looking for racking, make sure to look for the R-mark. It’s your assurance the rack will perform as expected.

Because we emphasized concern over Chinese racking, it is important to note that there are three Chinese manufacturers who that for sure comply with RMI standards.

Is Chinese pallet rack worth the savings?

Check it out thoroughly

Always do your due diligence. In other words, don’t take the salesman’s word about the rack you intend to purchase. Inspect it yourself, particularly if purchasing used equipment. Look for obvious signs of wear or abuse. If there is more than you are comfortable with, walk away.

The savings you gain now could become a headache in the future.

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