Pallet Rack Basics: Structural vs. Roll-Formed Steel

Two companies invest in pallet racking for their respective warehouses. Company A chooses structural steel pallet rack. Company B opts for the roll formed pallet rack. Why? Is one type of rack better than the other?

Anytime a company requires pallet racks, the conversation often goes to which is better: structural steel pallet racks or rolled steel pallet racks. While many feel strongly about each, the better questions to ask relate to usage, conditions and growth.

There is nothing wrong with either type of pallet rack. Both serve an important purpose and used correctly, are a fantastic investment. The real question is determining which is best for your situation.

Structural Steel Pallet Rack

Structural steel pallet rack is manufactured using a heavier gauge steel with welded connections. This offers added beam and upright frame strength, with capacities up to six tons and 25 tons or more respectively. Therefore, if product being stored on the rack is heavy, the rack is up to the task without giving way or damaging the product.

The heavier structural steel racks also resist damage. A thicker metal, particularly on corners and footplates keeps these pallet racks upright. The occasional bump from an inattentive forklift operator will not affect the structural integrity of the rack.

Suppose your company needs pallet racks for outdoor use. Perhaps the products on the rack require a contaminant-free storage. The structural steel pallet is a better option. These racks have an open, c-channel construction, which does not trap foreign materials easily. This open design makes rack wash down a snap. Because its design is open, all sections of the rack easily receive the galvanized coating to inhibit rust and withstand harsh outdoor environments.

Roll-Formed Steel Pallet Rack

Not to be outdone, roll-formed (also referred to as ‘roll form’) steel pallet racks also makes a compelling case. This type of rack is the product of continuous bending of steel on a coiled roll. It is a thinner material than structural steel, so it naturally does not have the capacity to hold extremely heavy items. Still, this may not be an issue for a company with light to medium weight products.

There are different varieties of roll formed steel pallet racks. The two most common are open back and fully enclosed tubular. Both of these are more susceptible to damage (compared to structural steel racks) because of the design and amount of steel used. However, the fully enclosed tubular design of some pallet racks provides better resistance to impact.

Flexibility, weight and cost are major factors to consider with roll formed steel pallet racks. Set up of roll form racks generally takes less time than structural steel racks. The key difference is the connecting system. The teardrop connections allow installers to snap beams (and setting the safety clips) in place quickly using a rubber mallet. This same flexibility in set up also allows quick changes to accommodate different product sizes. Contrast that connecting system with structural steel racks requiring bolts to connect the frames and beams, resulting in longer set up and dismantle times.

The lighter weight of these racks also allows for increased flexibility in moving from one facility to another. Should a company decide to shutter a warehouse and move to a new location, roll formed racks are easier to dismantle and ship to that new location without high cost for shipping that is associated with the heavier structural steel racks.

Then there is a cost consideration. Roll formed racks cost less than its structural steel counterparts.

It can be a challenging task to determine the rack system best suited for your application. Structural steel and roll formed pallet racks both offer significant value if used properly. Find out which is best for your operation by discussing with a qualified pallet rack professional.

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