Finding the Right Warehouse Pallet Racks for Your Business

Warehouse pallet racks, a staple in all kinds of facilities and industrial storage settings, are now seeing broader applications, even doubling as retail shelves in large-scale stores such as Costco. 

However, it’s crucial for businesses to recognize that pallet racks come in various styles, each designed to meet specific environmental and operational requirements. When you’re in the market for new or used pallet racking, whether for storage or transport, being armed with the right information is key to making a well-informed decision.

Let’s explore some pallet racking basics and learn all about the different types of equipment available on the market.

Pallet Rack Basics

Pallet racks for warehouse use come in many different types and configurations. Even with all this diversity, selective pallet racking stands as the benchmark in the industry. The term ‘selective’ describes their adaptable nature, allowing for configurations that can suit a wide range of storage needs and allow access to stored products without the need to move others.

It’s, by and large, the most popular style of racking, with teardrop-style roll-formed pallet racks being the most common within the selective group. While keyhole style, the configuration of the locking mechanism that connects beams and uprights, comes in several varieties, the main differentiator for this type of racking system is material.

There is quite a lot to understand about warehouse pallet racks, so be sure to explore “What is Pallet Racking? An Essential Guide,” for more information. But for now, we’ll learn about the basics of selective racking materials.

Roll-formed Pallet Racks

Roll formed pallet rack

When buying pallet racks for warehouse use, basics like structural vs. roll-formed steel are often the first important consideration.

Roll-formed racks are ideal for warehouses and retail outlets with varying inventory sizes. These racks are made from heavy-duty sheet metal, allowing for easy beam level adjustments to accommodate different pallet sizes:

Advantages of roll-formed pallet racks include:

  • Adjustability: Keyhole style can vary, but each will offer easy configuration and reconfiguration of beam heights to meet shifting storage needs.
  • Cost-Effective: Relative to other materials and styles, roll-formed racking is cost-effective, and standardized parts not only make sourcing replacements easy but often at a lower cost.

Disadvantages of roll-formed racks include: 

  • Durability: While still strong, roll-formed racks are more prone to damage, especially in high-traffic areas with lots of forklift activity.
  • Weight Capacity: Roll-formed pallet racking is best for lighter loads. Understanding the basics of pallet rack capacity is essential to match the right racking to your storage needs.

Structural Pallet Racks

Structural Pallet Rack

Structural pallet racks are known for their exceptional strength and durability. Made by hot-rolling raw iron into thick, low-gauge steel components, these racks are bolted together to create a robust structure capable of handling heavy pallet loads and withstanding tough conditions, including lift truck impacts.

Some advantages of structural steel racking include:

  • Superior Load Capacity: Capable of supporting heavier pallets, structural racks are suitable for warehouses with large or heavy products.
  • Enhanced Durability: Designed to endure harsh conditions and resist damage from lift trucks, reducing the need for frequent repairs or replacements.

Disadvantages include:

  • Higher Initial Cost: Structural racking is typically more expensive than other racking systems like roll-formed racks.
  • Limited Adjustability: Once installed, structural racks are not as easily adjusted as other types of racking systems. Modifying beam levels or reconfiguring the layout can be cumbersome and may require additional labor, tools and expertise.

Other Pallet Rack Options

Beyond selective styles, there are a variety of warehouse pallet rack options, each designed to meet specific needs and operational challenges. These alternative solutions offer unique benefits, from maximizing space utilization to enhancing inventory access and improving overall warehouse efficiency. 

Whether you’re dealing with bulky items, high turnover inventory or need specialized storage solutions, understanding these other pallet rack options can lead to more informed decisions for optimizing your warehouse layout and operations. In this section, we’ll explore some of these more specialized pallet racking styles. 

Drive-In & Drive-Through Pallet Racks

Drive through pallet racks

Drive-in and drive-through pallet racks are designed to allow forklift access between stacked pallets. This can help storage density and accessibility. In fact, drive-in/through racking can increase storage capacity by 75% when utilized correctly. 

What separates drive-in and drive-through racking is the entry point. Drive-in racks have a  single entry point, enabling “Last in, First Out” (LIFO) inventory management. This means pallets stored most recently will be first retrieved. 

Drive-through systems, on the other hand, are equipped with entry points on each end. As such, they operate on a “First In, First Out” (FIFO) basis. Here, pallets enter from one side and exit from the opposite end, which is an ideal choice for products with expiration dates or those requiring strict inventory rotation.

Pallet Flow Racks

pallet flow racks

Pallet flow racks leverage gravity with inclined heavy-duty skatewheel or rollers to move full pallets across the depth of the rack. This system is particularly beneficial for items needing FIFO management, such as perishable goods. Pallets are loaded on the higher end and glide down to the picking side, allowing for quick and easy retrieval. 

There are many ways pallet flow rack can improve your warehouse. These systems can help streamline inventory management, save on labor and offer additional safety features relative to other storage structures.

Racks can be customized to any depth, often featuring braking systems to regulate the flow and speed of pallets. 

Pushback Pallet Racks

pushback pallet racks

Pushback racks utilize a system of inclined carts on rails, accommodating storage depths of 2 to 6 pallets. As a pallet is retrieved, the remaining pallets gently slide forward using the natural force of gravity, simplifying storage and retrieval operations.

While not the perfect choice for every storage environment, with pushback racks LIFO configuration, it’s a great choice for bulk storage and the retrieval of similar products or those with less immediate expiration concerns.

Carton Flow Racks

Carton flow racking

Carton flow racks, like pushback and pallet flow, leverage an inclined system to facilitate automatic stock replenishment. Instead of dealing directly with palletized loads, carton flow deals with cartons for easier picking tasks. 

When the front carton is removed, the next one in line moves into the front position. In many installations, these racks integrate with conveyor systems to create efficiency and rapid retrieval processes. There are many reasons why a warehouse might need carton flow rack. For example, this type of rack system is great for hand-picking.

When installed correctly, carton flow racks can enhance order-picking efficiency, especially in environments with high-volume, small-order picking requirements. They are an excellent solution for streamlining the order fulfillment process in warehouses and distribution centers.

Pallet Racks for Warehouse Use: What Does Your Business Need?

Selecting the right warehouse pallet racks for your needs involves considering various factors, including materials, build quality, dimensions and functionality. 

Navigating these choices can be complex, but East Coast Storage Equipment is here to simplify the process. As experienced and reliable equipment suppliers, we offer consultancy services to guide you toward a new or pre-owned pallet rack system that optimizes efficiency and cost-effectiveness in your warehouse.

Get in touch with the team today to explore your options.


Jim Crumley
October 6, 2017

Folks, I am looking for sets of doors for pallet racks. We operate a small chain of building material warehouses and we need sets of doors to “top” the pallet racks on our sales floor. Ideally these doors could hold displays of product (like flooring) and signage. Do you know of such?

Paul Parisi
October 17, 2017

Hey Jim. Unfortunately, I don’t believe we have anything that would work out of the box for that at the moment. If you’d like I could have someone give you a call to see if we can come up with a solution. Let me know.

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