How to Arrange Warehouse Shelves

Looking for warehouse shelves? You’re in the right place, but you need to know something before you buy: how to arrange warehouse shelves. 

You need to know warehouse shelf arrangement best practices before you buy used shelving because the way you set your warehouse up will affect your equipment needs. Perhaps more importantly, getting your shelving and racking arrangement right can make your warehouse more efficient and more profitable.

The East Coast Storage Equipment team is here to help. We have the shelving and racking inventory and the expertise to make sure everything is arranged perfectly. Read on to learn more.

Warehouse Shelving vs. Pallet Racking

Before we get too deep into how to arrange warehouse shelves, we need to make a quick distinction: warehouse shelves and pallet racking are not the same thing. Shelving is lighter duty and typically involves picking products by hand. Pallet racks are larger and able to handle more weight, and employees typically load and retrieve pallets from them with industrial equipment like forklifts.

Warehouse shelves (left) and pallet racks (right) serve different purposes, but both items are essential in most warehouses.

If you’re looking for information about one and not the other, don’t worry. We’ll talk about both warehouse shelving and pallet racking arrangement in this post.

Key Considerations when Arranging Warehouse Shelves and Racks

To learn the best way to arrange warehouse shelves and pallet racks, you first need to understand which factors actually matter. The three most important factors in warehouse shelving and racking arrangement are as follows:

  1. Efficiency
  2. Cubic height
  3. Safety
  1. Efficiency

When you’re planning the arrangement of warehouse shelves and racks, almost every decision you make can affect the overall efficiency of the warehouse. And efficiency directly affects productivity and profitability.

If you’re considering a particular spot for shelves and pallet racks, picture your employees actually picking from or loading the shelves. How far is the loading dock? Will staff have to pass through high-activity areas to reach the shelving or racking? 

  1. Considering Cubic Height

If you’re looking for more storage space within your warehouse, you may not find the answer in square feet. Try thinking about cubic height instead. This refers to the vertical space in your warehouse. A warehouse with a relatively small footprint can still pack a lot of storage space if the ceilings are high enough.

Why does this matter when you’re arranging warehouse shelving? Because you can make pallet racks go as high as 36 feet, and warehouse shelving can be pretty tall, too. The available cubic height in your warehouse can have a big impact on the number and type of shelves and racks you need.

Pallet racking (pictured) can reach the ceiling of your warehouse and help you take advantage of thousands of cubic feet of vertical storage space.
  1. Safety

Worker safety always has to be a priority. With that in mind, you need to think about how to arrange warehouse shelves safely — not just efficiently. 

Pallet racking is likely to have heavy machinery operating near it. Are your aisles wide enough to prevent collisions that could lead to falling objects or even collapsing racks? For shelving, you probably won’t have to worry about forklift collisions so much, but you’ll have to consider shelf capacity.

Arranging Warehouse Shelves for Aisle Width

Aisle width is a key consideration when you’re arranging shelves and pallet racks in your warehouse. Getting this right promotes both safety and efficiency. Minimizing aisle widths can give you more storage space and make your processes more efficient.

The aisle width requirements for warehouse shelves can vary, but in general, you want to shoot for about three feet. That may sound fairly narrow, but because the items on your shelves are likely to be hand-picked, it’s just about perfect. An employee can comfortably push a cart down a three-foot aisle and pick or place items on both sides.

Pallet racking aisle width is a very different story. You’re going to need to go much wider than three feet. If you need to accommodate a wide-aisle forklift, try 12 to 13 feet. If you want to go narrower to maximize space, you can definitely do that, as long as you know the specifications for maneuvering warehouse machinery or vehicles. A narrow-aisle system can go as narrow as around 68 inches, but keep in mind that you might need specialized equipment like a wire guidance system to prevent collisions and keep things moving quickly.

Warehouse shelves like those pictured usually need to be about three feet apart to create an efficient and safe aisle width.

Where Should Warehouse Shelves Go?

Aisle width is key, but where, exactly, should your shelves and pallet racks go in your warehouse? You have a lot of options here, and your choice will depend heavily on the dimensions and basic layout of your warehouse. However, several factors can help you figure out where to put your shelves and racks.

First, think about the placement of shelves and racks in reference to your loading docks. Keep your shelves and racks close enough to loading areas to promote efficiency. Somewhere around 20 to 24 feet from the loading dock is usually right on for both shelves and racks.

Also, to reduce retrieval times, keep the racks and shelves that will store fast-moving items near your shipping lanes.

The Best Warehouse Shelves, the Best Warehouse Shelving Arrangement

Anyone can set up some shelves or pallet racks in a warehouse. But only an expert can look at a warehouse and know how to arrange it to be a well-oiled machine that lowers risks and raises productivity.

The experts at East Coast Storage Equipment don’t just sell warehouse shelves and pallet racks; we also know how to arrange warehouse shelves and racks. Our team can help you design your facility to maximize efficiency and minimize costs. We’ve been doing this for almost 30 years. That’s more than enough time to learn how to get it exactly right — every time. Whether you need warehouse shelves or could use some help arranging your facility, we’re here for you. Just give us a call at (732) 451-1808 or reach out online.

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