Pallet Flow Rack

Pallet Rack
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Pallet flow rack is the key to speeding up pick times and making the most out of fast-rotating stock or limited shelf life products.

Not only do these racks add extra picking efficiency to the warehouse floor, but they also leverage the power of gravity, meaning no wires, motors, or energy bills in sight.

Pallet Rack
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The Basics of Pallet Flow Racking

Pallet flow racks leverage a “first-in, first-out” (FIFO) storage management system, which is perfect for products with limited shelf life, high-volume items, and environments with high product turnover. Gravity moves pallets across a slightly inclined aisle from the loading location, the higher end, to the discharge location, the lower end.

There are three types of rollers available depending on storage needs and inventory specifics:

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Skate Wheel Rollers

These tend to be very cost-efficient. You often find skate wheel rollers used in racks with shorter lanes. They also work well with wood pallets.

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Poly Wheel Rollers

Pallets with loads greater than 3,000 pounds demand a stronger roller option. Poly wheel rollers hold up under heavy loads and work well in freezer and cold storage applications.

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Full-Width Rollers

Some products arrive on different sizes of pallets. Full-width rollers work well in this situation and can offer enhanced flexibility.

Regardless of roller type, the aisle configuration of the pallet flow rack reduces the number of forklift operators and other employees required to maintain a high level of efficiency when picking and packing palletized products.

They find use in many different types of warehouses, from saving space in cold storage warehouses to keeping fast-flowing inventory moving in e-commerce fulfillment.

When a pallet is loaded in, the rail system will bring it into the next open position in the pallet flow racking system. This doesn’t happen quickly or in any way that could damage the palletized load. Rather, the flow rail system will control the speed of the pallet to ensure it moves slowly into the right position.

When a pallet is removed from the discharge location, the pallet behind then moves to the front position via gravity.

Accessories for a Pallet Flow Rack System

While the basic configuration of a pallet flow system involves common parts like uprights, beams, and the flow rails themselves, that’s not everything you need to know about when installing or planning out your system. Pallet flow lanes can be equipped with additional accessories that can help with everything from safety to efficient operation.

Here are a few options you might consider:

Speed Controllers

Depending on the pallet style, pitch, and load weight, a speed controller can help slow pallets down to a safe operation speed. Typically, these are placed at various spots on the lane, especially for deep-lane systems.

Entry Guides

To help forklift operators, some facilities may install entry guides. These sit on either side of the lane and give operators an extra visual guide to assist with pallet loading.

Rack Separators

Separators hold rear pallets from pushing against front pallets. They’re often used for case-pick applications, deep-land configurations, and in any system where heavy pallet loads cause a safety concern.

Ramp Stops

Ramp stops sit at the end of the pallet flow and assist in bringing pallets to a safe and secure stop after loading. They bolt onto the racking lanes and can be easily replaced when worn or broken.

Pallet Flow Rack Operation

Always follow federal, state, and local safety codes, like OSHA or safety guidelines from the Rack Manufacturers Institute, when operating pallet flow racks, and be sure to install essential safety features like fall protection equipment when working on the elevated heights of the upper racking levels.

It’s also important that workers wear proper PPE, like goggles, hard hats, gloves, and more, when needed.

Forklift Operation - Loading Pallets

Here are some tips to help your team manage the safe and efficient loading of pallets within a pallet flow rack system:

  1. Be sure to square the forklift to face the pallet flow lane.
  2. Lift the pallet just a few inches above the rails, around three to four inches.
  3. Try to avoid raising the pallet too high and coming in contact with the upper racking aisle beam.
  4. Place the pallet in the center of the lane and slowly lower the pallet, tilting down on the rails and keeping the load squared.
  5. Once the load is in the right position, carefully back the forklift away to release the pallet.

Without any extra work from the forklift operator, the pallet should smoothly move down the racking aisle into the next open position.

Forklift Operation - Unloading Pallets

Unloading pallets follows a similar process. Here is what you need to know:

  1. First, square the forklift toward the discharge lane/pick face opening.
  2. Load the pallet onto the forklift tines, being sure to raise the pallet a few inches, three to four inches, off the rails.
  3. Again, don’t lift the pallet too high, and avoid making contact with the upper level’s beam.
  4. Slowly back out of the system.
  5. Keep in mind that the removal of the pallet sets the speed of the following pallet movement. Meaning, take your time and remove the pallet slowly.

In the event the next pallet does not move into the right position, the operator can gently use the forklift tines to push the pallet back a few inches. This should enable the flow.

A Note on Pallet Hang-Up

There are many types of pallet rack safety hazards, and within a pallet flow system, one of them is pallet hang-up. When a pallet stops, it can be a cause for concern. First and foremost, only trained personnel should work with and try to remedy problems in a pallet flow system. If a pallet fails to restart after sitting, there are a few common causes:

  • Broken pallets
  • Debris in the flow rail
  • Settling
  • Temperature changes (such as in cold storage environments)

Never attempt to climb into or enter the racking system to remedy a pallet hang-up. Here are a few ways you can dislodge a stuck pallet safely.

First, attempt to recharge the system. To do this, simply load another pallet into the lane and see if it dislodges the stuck pallet. If the pallet is still stuck in the position, you can try to load more pallets into the lane until it’s full or the pallet releases.

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Master Inventory Management with Pallet Flow Rack

East Coast Storage Equipment is your go-to supplier for pallet flow racking. Whether you need a few lanes to optimize storage or want to outfit your entire facility, we’ve got you covered.

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pallet flow rack

Pallet Flow Rack Maintenance

While a pallet flow rack is a great way to improve warehouse operations, maintenance is key. Maintaining your pallet flow rack is essential not only to keep the system operational but also to keep your team safe. Here are a few maintenance tips to consider:

  • Conduct a visual inspection of the system within a few days of installation.
  • Check for proper connections, debris, and extra hardware on the floor.
  • System review at one month and then quarterly after installation.
  • Check for forklift damage to rack and/or support rails.
  • Test pallet separators and speed controllers.
  • Implement a manual inspection to check fastener connections and pallet conditions.
  • Ensure pallets comply with the design parameters of the original system.
  • Document all system inspections and repairs.

By following this list, you can help ensure that your pallet flow rack system is operating safely and efficiently.

Regarding inspections, always work with a qualified inspector for the initial system review and quarterly inspection. This will ensure your system is not only set up correctly but also that it remains safe and compliant for years to come.

Finding the Right Pallet Flow Racking Solution for Your Business

While a pallet flow rack system is a great choice for FIFO inventory management and inventory-specific needs, like time-sensitive or cold storage items, there are still some considerations in terms of size, rail type, height, and more that you should carefully consider.

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Moreover, designing a system to fit perfectly into your existing space is a challenge in and of itself. Lastly, when it comes to installation, getting it right the first time can be the key to longevity and efficiency for your new pallet flow solution. Luckily, East Coast Storage Equipment is here to help.

Not only do we carry a large selection of used pallet flow racks in our inventory, but we also offer a comprehensive package of services to handle everything from system design to proper installation.

Whether you have questions about pallet flow racks or just need some help finding the right equipment for your business, get in touch with our team of storage experts today.

 Frequently Asked Questions

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