What Is Pallet Racking? An Essential Guide

What is pallet racking? While this question might seem obvious to the casual observer, the world of pallet racking is actually quite diverse and complex. 

While you’ll certainly find some industry standards that pop up in warehouses across the Nation, your facility might demand a specific style or components to make the most out of your storage area.

This introductory guide will help you understand your options and the world of pallet racking in general.

Understanding Pallet Racking

To answer the question “what is pallet racking,” we need to start with the basics. As the name suggests, pallet racking is material handling and storage equipment that stores, you guessed it, pallets. Pallet racks store pallets, also known as skids, in horizontal rows across multiple vertical levels.

Manufacturers design pallet racking to last, often using strong and robust materials like roll-formed or structural steel — allowing racks to bear heavy loads and endure the wear and tear of industrial environments.

Pallet racking systems play a significant role in optimizing warehouse operations:

  • They allow businesses to manage and access inventory efficiently.
  • They utilize vertical space, an often underutilized asset in a warehouse setting.
  • They keep products off the floor, safe from potential damage.
  • They help keep your facility organized with effective storage.
Selective pallet racking is a versatile racking style capable of storing all kinds of palletized products.

One thing to keep in mind when trying to understand pallet racks is their relationship to forklifts. Pallet racking systems are designed to work in conjunction with forklift trucks. Operators use forklifts to place palletized goods onto the racks and retrieve them when needed. This synergistic relationship contributes to improved operational efficiency, as forklifts can quickly and safely handle heavy loads, reducing manual labor and increasing productivity.

Safety Considerations for Pallet Racks

As with any piece of industrial storage equipment, pallet racks require proper installation and maintenance — this includes keeping in mind fire and other safety regulations during design and planning.

In the end, though, they can contribute to the overall safety of your warehouse in a few key ways:

  • Accident prevention by securely storing goods
  • Keeps aisles free from obstacles
  • Better visibility of inventory 

What Is a Pallet Racking System? The Different Types of Pallet Racking

In the world of pallet racking, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. The reality is that there are many different types of pallet racking, with even more variances in the way manufacturers design racking systems.

Here are a few of the most common types:

  • Selective Pallet Racking: the most common type of pallet racking, selective racking allows for the selection of the load from the racking system without needing to move other pallets. 
  • Drive-Thru and Drive-In Racking: these systems allow forklifts to drive directly into or through the rack to store or retrieve pallets.
  • Pushback Racking: in these systems, pallets sit on wheeled carts on rails. When an operator adds a new pallet, it pushes back the previous load, hence the name “pushback.”
  • Pallet Flow Racking: also known as gravity flow, these systems use gravity rollers and an inclined rail system to move pallets. This is known as a first-in-first-out, or FIFO, retrieval system.
  • Cantilever Racking: while these systems don’t necessarily store pallets (with modifications, they can), they do store long, bulky items such as lumber, pipes or sheet metal.

Always remember to assess your unique warehouse needs when choosing which type of pallet racking system is right for your business. Consider specific storage needs, the type of goods you’ll be storing and your available warehouse space.

Drive-in pallet racking is a great choice for environments that require high-density storage.

What Is a Pallet Rack? An Exploration of Pallet Racking Components

To really understand what a pallet rack is, you need to understand its fundamental components. A racking system, at its core, is a robust storage system designed to maximize warehouse space and efficiency. 

However, this system isn’t merely a stand-alone, one-piece structure; it’s actually a combination of various crucial elements that each contribute to the overall functionality, safety and efficiency of the racking system.

Let’s dissect the components of your standard selective pallet racking system and explore beams, uprights, decking and other racking accessories.

Beams and Uprights

Beams and uprights serve as the skeletal frame of the pallet racking system. The measurements of these components determine the height, depth and pallet rack load capacity of the whole system.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Beams: these horizontal components connect the uprights together, forming the system levels where pallets rest. Beams come in different lengths and heights to accommodate various weight and size requirements. 
  • Uprights: these are the vertical components of the pallet rack. Think of uprights as the frame of the system. They also come in various heights and widths, supporting diverse weight and capacity requirements.

It’s worth noting that uprights play a critical role in determining the overall size and load-bearing capabilities of your pallet racking system. 

Additionally, when it comes to beams, you’ll find two common types:

  • Step beams
  • Box beams

Each will differ in its weight capacity and, leading to our next section, the types of decking that the system will support.

Uprights and beams create the basic structure of a pallet racking system.


Pallet rack decking acts as the shelf of the system. It spans across the beams to create a platform for pallet storage. 

There are several types of decking:

Each will come with its own benefits and best use cases. The most popular style of decking, though, is wire decking. It’s versatile, lightweight and allows for better light visibility and fire protection. 

To add to the complexity, there are even different types of wire decking — including flushed, waterfall and standard options to match specific beam styles.


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Pallet Rack Accessories

Accessories for pallet racking systems add functionalities to enhance safety, ease of use and versatility. These include:

  • Row spacers
  • Post protectors
  • Safety bars
  • Wall ties
  • Back-to-back ties
  • Anchors

Some of this equipment, like anchors, are essential for keeping pallet racks secure and safe.

Outfitting Your Facility with East Coast Storage Equipment

Hopefully, you now have a solid foundation on the in-and-outs of this essential piece of storage equipment. Whether you’re running a distribution center or managing a warehouse full of automotive parts, pallet racks play a crucial role in keeping your facility organized and safe.

No matter your storage equipment needs, East Coast Storage Equipment is here to help. Not only do we carry one of the largest selections of used pallet racking in the Nation, but we can even help with facility design and equipment installation. For more information about our services or to get started sourcing pallet racking for your facility, be sure to connect with our team of storage experts today.

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