With all the pallet racking types available, you might be a little overwhelmed.
Luckily, you’re in the right place. Because in this article, you’ll learn:
- The main types of pallet racking systems
- The pros, cons, costs, and applications of each
- How to identify a pallet racking system
- Answers to top pallet racking questions
Let's dive in!
Selective pallet racking — or single deep racking — is the most common type of warehouse racking.
It's called "selective racking" because users can access or 'select' pallet loads without having to move other pallets. And it works well with any type of forklift without requiring specialized lift trucks. This makes each pallet in the storage highly visible and easy to access, load, and unload.
Selective pallet racking systems are also inexpensive, based on cost-per-pallet position. But it gives the lowest pallet storage capacity, taking up the most space.
Selective pallet racking is ideal for operations that use a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory system, store a large number of SKUs, have low inventory turnover, and have high product differentiation.
- Most popular and easiest-to-find pallet racking system
- Allows direct access to each pallet in the storage
- Lowest cost per square foot
- Allows simple stock management
- No specialty forklifts or trucks required
- Flexibility to allow any product volume, size, or weight for storing a large range of products
- Low risk of material or product damage
- Lower storage density
- Requires larger aisles for forklifts to maneuver
A selective pallet racking system is the least expensive: The budget price is $50 – $80 per pallet position.
- General warehousing with a low number of pallets per SKU
- Storage that requires free access to any pallet, at any time
- Storage that requires picking from pallets at lower levels
- Specific industries include general manufacturing, retail, fashion and apparel, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals
Double deep racking - also called double reach racking - is a form of selective racking that uses two rows deep for racking storage instead of one row.
It’s an adaptation of a selective pallet racking system, modified to increase storage capacity.
But it's only ideal for Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory systems and applications with multiples of the same stock.
- Higher storage density because of double-deep storage
- Supports storage with multiple units of the same stock
- Reduced pick selectivity
- It may require a specialty double-reach forklift for picking, which may add cost if it isn't part of your current fleet
- Only supports Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory systems
Double-deep pallet racks may cost more than the selective racking system: $80 — $200 per pallet position.
- General warehousing with many pallets per SKU
- When greater storage density is required
- Retail with First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory management
- General manufacturing
- Food and beverage
Drive-in pallet racking is a high-density storage system with a single aisle for the entry and exit of forklifts to load or retrieve materials.
Pallets are loaded and retrieved from the rack's front side, and forklifts drive directly into the racks, place or pick up the material and drive off. This eliminates the need for walking/working aisles.
It works best in Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) operations, where the last pallet loaded becomes the first pallet accessible and out. This creates a more dense load and storage.
- Increases pallet positions for higher-density storage
- Requires less warehouse space
- Provides control over warehouse entry and exit
- Minimizes aisles widths
- Reduced pick selectivity
- High chances of impacts between forklifts and racking (greater damage potential)
- Doesn't support a wide variety of inventory
- Isn't ideal for high inventory turnover
- Works best with uniform load and pallet sizes
Compared to selective pallet rack, drive-in pallet rack is more expensive. Budget $115 — $140 per pallet position, depending on the number of depths (2, 3, or 4).
- General warehousing and retail with low product rotation
- When you don’t want to mix SKUs within each racking bay/lane
- When you want high-density storage (without the honeycombing effect)
- When types of goods require a staging of received or picked goods
- Storage of non-perishable products or those with no early expiry date
- Storage of products whose value isn’t affected by storage times (longer or shorter)
Drive-thru racking systems are like drive-in racking, except they use different sides for loading and unloading.
In drive-thru racking, there's an access aisle for loading pallets and – at the opposite end – access for unloading pallets.
Because of the different loading and unloading positions, drive-through racking works best with First-In, First-Out (FIFO) storage methods.
- Decrease storage and retrieval time
- Increases efficiency and productivity among workers
- High-density storage provides more storage space per dollar
- More uniform load in a confined storage area
- Energy efficient, as forklifts conserve fuel by not driving as far to pick up and place loads
- Forklift operators need to be more skillful drivers
- Isn't ideal for high inventory turnover
- Reduced pick selectivity
- High chances of impacts between forklift and racking (greater damage potential)
Drive-thru pallet racks may cost almost the same as drive-in racking. Budget $115 — $140 per pallet position, depending on the number of depths (2, 3, or 4).
- General warehousing
- Blast freezer/cooler systems such as those storing meat or flowers
- Beverage industry
Push-back racking is a high-density storage system, allowing up to six pallets deep storage on either side of an aisle.
Push-back racking works with at least three nested mobile carts, gliding on sloped rails to hold and carry pallets. The first pallet, loaded from the front, sits on the top cart. When the second pallet is loaded onto the cart, it pushes the top cart with the first pallet back.
It operates like a soft drink cooler in a convenience store, where when you pull a bottle out, a new one slides forward.
The pallet 'push-back' mechanism makes pushback racking ideal for operations using the Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory method.
Push-back racking can achieve higher density storage – up to 75% more than selective racking – while allowing more selectivity with storage. But you can only store the same SKU in a single lane.
- Higher storage density than selective racking
- Requires fewer aisles
- Easy product accessibility and selectivity, reducing picking time
- No specialty equipment is necessary
- Multiple deep locations offer more access points
- More expensive storage system than selective or drive-in racking
- Higher chance of lost pallet positions due to the size of mobile carts
- Inventory can't overhang the front or back of the pallet
- Not ideal for FIFO inventory
- Requires good quality, consistently-sized pallets
Push-back racking is a more expensive storage system than selective or drive-In. Budget $151 to $295 per pallet position, depending on the number of positions (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6).
- General warehousing and retail
- Operations using either First-In, First-Out (FIFO) or Last-In, First-Out (LIFO)
- Storage with more pallets per SKU that requires greater storage density
- When order picking is not required from pallets
Pallet flow racking — or "gravity flow" racking — is another high-density racking system where pallets are placed in the system's rear end on a series of rollers with a centrifugal braking system.
It's an ideal system for FIFO inventory because pallets are loaded on one end and unloaded at the other end of the system.
In a pallet flow racking, when you load a pellet from the aisle, the pallets roll forward by gravity to the front of the system. Similarly, when a pallet is removed from the front, the pallets behind roll to the front of the lane.
Generally, pallet flow racking supports very high-density storage, holding up to 20 pallets deep in one lane. This minimizes the aisles needed to store items while maintaining efficient inventory turnover.
- Superior product/storage density
- Increased product selectivity
- Good for high product turnover
- Fewer aisles are needed, so more space can be utilized
- The most expensive racking type
- Requires high-quality pallets
- Requires more maintenance
- Operates a limited number of SKUs in large volumes
It's the most expensive of all pallet racking types, with costs ranging from $300 to $500 per pallet position.
This storage type is used for pallet loads in an order-picking application, such as:
- Freezer warehouses
- Food distribution centers
A cantilever racking system stores long, heavy, or bulky items that cannot be easily stored on pallets, such as lumber, steel pipes, wood, and textiles.
Cantilever racking consists of multiple adjustable protruding arms to store items horizontally, unlike pallet racks with vertical uprights, which limit the length of stored items.
They're available in double and single-sided units, allowing item storage on one side or both. With no front columns, cantilever racks are easier to access, load, unload, and add space.
- Easier to access, load, and unload due to fewer structural components
- Easier to install
- Easier to add space or adjust to accommodate changing inventory
- Takes more space
- Requires wider aisles
- May require a specialized lift truck, like a Combilift
- Only stores specialized items like lumber, steel pipes, wood, textiles, etc.
Cantilever racking with a single-sided design can cost between $850 and $1,700 per bay.
- Building and construction supplies
- Metal supply and retail shops
- Plumbing suppliers
- Wood and furniture
The following are answers to some common pallet racking questions.
What Is Pallet Racking?
Pallet racking is a system or method of storage that organizes palletized materials and stores them on racks in horizontal rows and on multiple levels to maximize warehouse space.
Pallet racking comprises vertical frames and horizontal beams held together with locking hardware upon which pallets are stored (creates industrial shelving). This supports palletized material handling enabling forklifts to easily access, retrieve, or place them.
Pallet loads are key in almost all logistic stages, handling materials inside the warehouse and transportation.
Other names for pallet racking include warehouse storage racks, warehouse shelving racks, warehouse racking systems, and pallet racking systems.
What Is the Most Common Type of Racking?
Selective racking is the most common and versatile pallet racking type.
It's simpler, works with many types of materials, doesn't require special forklifts or other equipment, and is cheaper than other racking types. It also provides efficient use of space and immediate access to every load stored.
How Many Types of Pallet Stacking Are There?
Floor stacking is the simplest method and involves placing pallets directly on the floor. Block stacking is like floor stacking, except that pallets are stacked on top of one another.
Warehouses can also use pallet racking as an alternative to floor and block stacking.
How Many Types of Racking Systems Are There?
There are 6 main types of pallet racking:
- Selective racking
- Drive-in racking
- Drive-thru racking
- Pallet flow racking
- Push-back racking
- Cantilever racking
What Are the Parts of a Rack Called?
There are different warehouse racking parts depending on the racking type.
The main pallet racking components:
- Upright frames or posts. These are metal frames that form the racking system's vertical frame structure.
- Footplate (baseplate). Each upright beam has a footplate to affix or stabilize the structure to the warehouse floor.
- Beams or cross beams. What are pallet rack beams? These are horizontal metal profiles directly attached to upright frames to give the horizontal structure that will hold pallets or support the shelving panels. There can be different pallet rack beam types depending on the type of pallet rack.
- Metal frames. These are structures that provide vertical support to the rack. They comprise two smaller upright frames (posts), diagonal struts, footplates, and corresponding accessories.
- Crossbars. These are metal profiles placed perpendicular to the beam to reinforce load stability. This helps prevent pallets from accidentally falling (or potentially breaking). Usually, each pallet load is supported by two crossbars.
- Diagonal struts. Diagonal strut profiles are fitted to the upright frames diagonally to create and support the frames' structure. These are not in all pallet racking systems.
- Shelf panels. These are the components supported by beams to hold the load. Depending on the type of merchandise stored, shelves can be wooden, grated, or galvanized metal.
- Shims. These are metal components placed under profiles standing on uneven flooring to ensure the pallet rack's structure maintains its center of gravity.
- Fastening elements. These include bolts, clips, fasteners, locking devices, and row spacers. Depending on the warehouse shelving brand, these may be required to assemble the pallet rack.
What Are Storage Racks Used For?
Storage racks are essential for storing materials and industrial purposes in warehouses, holding bays, and transportation. The pallets are stored in horizontal rows and multiple vertical levels, increasing storage capacity and inventory management.
Common industries that use storage racking include:
- General warehousing
- Distribution centers
- Grocery, food, and beverages
- Marine and automotive
- Building and construction
How Is Racking Measured?
To accurately measure pallet racks, you must measure three components: Cross beams, uprights, and wire decking.
How to Measure Cross Beams
To measure beams, you measure 2 things: The beam length and the beam face.
- Beam length. The correct method to measure a crossbeam is to start at the inside of one upright frame and measure its length to the inside of the opposite upright frame. A typical standard beam length ranges between 4′ and 9′.
- Beam face. Next, you measure the crossbeam face by measuring the front of the beam from its top to its bottom. The face measurement indicates how much weight the rack/beam can support. A large beam face supports heavier loads, while a small beam face supports fewer loads.
Typically a beam measurement looks like this: 96" x 5" step beam, 5,500 lb capacity/pair
How to Measure Uprights Frames
There are 4 measurements you must take when measuring uprights:
- Frame depth. This measures the distance from the outside of one upright post face to the outside face of the other post. This dimension affects the wire mesh size as well as any other pallet supports used. The standard dimension of a rack upright frame should be between 36″ and 48″.
- Frame height. This dimension measures the distance from the bottom of the footplate to the top of the upright frame. Start measuring right above the baseplate to the top. Uprights come in various heights, with common heights ranging from 8' to 24'.
- Frame width. This dimension measures the width across the outside face of the upright post.
- Post depth. This is the dimension from the outside face of the post to the inside edge of that same post.
How Do You Measure the Depth of a Pallet Rack?
The depth of the pallet rack is the same as the frame depth. The most common frame depth (front-to-back) is 42," with other common dimensions being 36" and 48".
How to Measure Wire Decking
The depth of the post (upright frame) is the depth of the wire decking.
To confirm, measure the width of the wire decking by measuring from one outside edge of the post to the other outside edge. They should have the same dimension.
Wired decking sizes may vary depending on the decking materials.
Who Are the Top Warehouse Rack Manufacturers?
How Do You Identify Pallet Racking?
Identifying pallet racking types can be difficult. But it can also be easy if you know what you're looking for.
Some pallet racking systems are easily identified by their logo, manufacturer name, or product part number on the rack. But they can be difficult to identify when they don't have labels.
You can refer to this pallet rack identification chart to help you identify your pallet.
That's it: Everything you need to know about pallet racking types.
Now, we'd like to hear from you.
Which type of pallet racking is right for your warehouse?
Do you still have questions on pallet racking types?
Please let us know in the comments section below.