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A Beginner’s Guide to Pallet Racking

Barry McLaughlin – Storage Products Sales Manager

A Beginner’s Guide to Pallet Racking


As your business grows and you need to store more inventory in your warehouse, things can get complicated if you do not have a system in place. This is where pallet racking comes in. Pallet racking is a system for storing and retrieving materials on large multilevel shelves. These shelves are made of steel and can handle large amounts of inventory.

Using a pallet racking system allows you to maximize your warehouse’s floor space because you can stack materials above each other. The type of pallet racking system you should choose for your warehouse depends on your business’s needs. Here are some basic things you need to understand to make the right choice:

What is a Pallet?

A pallet is a flat, wooden base used to transport materials. Materials are often secured to pallets with straps or wrapping so they don’t slide while they are transported. Pallets have hollow centers so lift trucks can pass their prongs (Forks) through and lift them. This allows a business to store and retrieve them from a pallet rack with ease.

Ways to Store Pallets

There are several different configurations of pallet racking systems. Each configuration varies in how many pallets it can store and how it stores them. These points are important to consider when choosing a system for your warehouse. Here is a general overview of the common types of pallet racking systems and their capabilities and limitations:

First In, Last out Systems

Pallet racking solutions that load and unload from the front of a rack are called FILO systems ( first in, last out). These systems can store multiple pallets behind each other on the same rack. They are called FILO systems because as you store new pallets on the rack, older pallets move back in order and the most recent pallet stays at the front. This means that you must remove the first pallet to reach the others behind it. This type of system is useful when you need to store a large number of like materials, and the order in which they are sold is not critical.

Here are some examples of FILO pallet racking solutions:

  • Drive-in Pallet Systems – This method uses tunnel structures placed side by side to store pallets. These tunnels, called bays, are at least two pallet-lengths deep. Each bay has a system of tiered rails that run the length of the bay to support pallets. This systems allows lift trucks to drive down each bay and place and retrieve pallets.
  • Push-back Pallet Systems – This method of pallet racking stores pallets on wheeled carts situated on a rail system. The rail system is angled toward the front of the rack to take advantage of gravity. As you remove the front pallet from the rack, the stack rolls forward and queues up the next pallet. When a lift truck places a new pallet on a cart, it causes the stack to move backward to accommodate the new pallet.

First in, First out Systems

FIFO systems (First in, first out) allow you to access the first pallet that you placed in a row. These systems load and unload at opposite ends. FIFO systems are useful when you have inventory that expires or has a limited shelf life.

Here are some examples of FIFO pallet racking solutions:

  • Drive-through Pallet Racking – This method is similar to the drive-in rack as it also uses tunnel structures to store pallets. It differs because the racks feature both a load and unload side. It is called a drive-through pallet racking because you could drive a lift truck straight through an empty bay and exit on the other side. As you stack new pallets and older ones shift to the back, you can drive around and unload the older ones first.
  • Pallet Flow Systems – This method stores pallets in single-width aisles up to 20 pallets deep. This system uses a sloped conveyor or wheel track to cause pallets to roll from the load side to the unload side. As you remove inventory from the rack, the whole stack of pallets shifts toward the unload side.

Types of Racking

Another thing to consider is what type of racking you should use in your storage system. There are two main types of racking: Roll formed racking and structural racking. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Roll Formed Racking – Roll formed is a bolt-less solution that is easy to assemble. Because of its clip-in design you can adjust the shelves to fit different sizes of materials. It is lightweight and less expensive to install than structural racking. Roll formed racking is strong because of its shape but loses strength if the shape is compromised. It requires more maintenance than structural racking.

Structural Racking – Structural racking is stronger and heavier than roll formed racking. It is also more expensive to install and is not easy to adjust once you install it. It features strong bolt connections so it is less likely to suffer damage if a lift truck bumps it.

Make a Plan

Make a list of the features above that best match your business’s needs and budget so you can take control of your inventory today. Contact your local pallet racking specialists if you have more questions.

Barry McLaughlin – Storage Products Sales Manager – Arpac B.C.