Racks & Shelving 101

To make better use of existing warehouse and distribution center (DC) space and to accommodate the speed and velocity of omni-channel fulfillment (which relies on a seamless consumer experience), many companies look to rack, shelving and storage equipment manufacturers for assistance. Efficient storage systems can help improve efficiencies; keep workers safe; and comply with codes.

OSHA’s general requirements on storage, according to 1926.250(a), dictate that “all materials stored in tiers shall be stacked, racked, blocked, interlocked, or otherwise secured to prevent sliding, falling or collapse.” Part (a),(2-4) further states that maximum safe load limits of floors within buildings in structures (in lbs/sq ft) must be “conspicuously posted in all storage areas, except for floor or slab on grade;” “Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear to provide for the free and safe movement of material handling equipment or employees. Such areas shall be kept in good repair;” and that ramps, blocking or grading must be used when a difference in road or working levels exist.

There is also a “Housekeeping” storage regulation (1926.250(c)), which dictates that storage areas must be kept free of materials that could be tripping, fire, explosion or pest harboring hazards.

This sector of materials handling might have a sort of “tortoise-like” reputation, in that it is known for its slow, steady (and somewhat predictable) pace/rate of change. But there are new innovations that can help operators be more efficient and operate smarter, faster warehousing techniques.

On the Level(s)

One of the more interesting trends is the multi-level storage structure. As companies incorporate these multi-level storage structures into their warehouses, many also want to go even higher—this can be achieved, mainly due to the evolution of wire-guided, man-aboard (or man-up) orderpickers. The surge in e-commerce and omni-channel fulfillment is also driving the need for warehouses and DCs to have access to better space-utilization techniques. Thankfully, much of the new construction throughout the country accommodates these multi-level systems. This makes vertical storage even more attainable.

Seismic Shift

In addition to OSHA standards, seismic codes, or earthquake codes, are building codes designed to protect property and life in buildings in case of earthquakes. As a result, the storage manufacturing industry has had to change to meet these codes. Companies must do due diligence and analysis, especially when erecting tall, multi-level shelving. Due to changes in slab specifications, for example, companies must now look specifically at depth ratios, loads and other factors relating to their existing building slabs.

Can’t Touch This

One of the strategies employed frequently for companies wanting to use vertical space and gain efficiencies is to reduce the number of product “touches” that occur in any given warehouse. This depends a great deal upon an efficient warehouse management system (WMS), but it can also be positively affected by the right rack and storage strategies.

The distance an item travels per order and the total number of touches it receives can be improved. Structural speed-racking or using platforms and mezzanines—or a combination of them, along with pick- and flow-type modules and warehouse automation, can greatly improve any warehouse or DC operation’s rack, shelving and storage goals. These can, in turn, play a role in helping companies utilize space efficiently and contain costs, while increasing efficiency.  WMHS

Keeping Flue Spaces Open

It’s extremely important to maintain open flue space (the space between racks and the items on the racks) in your warehouse. While the exact specifications of flue-space maintenance vary, depending on the height of your racks, the idea is the same: flue spaces allow vertical fire-spread to reach ceiling sprinklers and set them off, and also allow the sprinklers to reach all parts of the warehouse racking. Many insurance companies are requiring that a safety system be put into place to satisfy the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code 230.

In addition to pressure from insurance companies regarding fire codes, safety officers want to prevent pallet push-through, so that adjacent pallets or cartons are not pushed onto workers in a separate aisle. In either scenario, warehouses have faced purchasing expensive rack-protection systems which are difficult to install and can cost the facility extensive downtime.

Rack safety equipment does not have to be complicated or expensive to work effectively. Adrian’s pallet rack safety product line offers effective, simple and affordable solutions for work area protection. These products do not require any tools or retrofitting; install in seconds; and are more affordable than many other rack safety solutions.

Specific Product Information:

Rack Safety Strap
The Rack Safety Strap offers pallet push-through prevention and longitudinal flue-space compliance for your warehouse or distribution center. This can help increase the level of safety to pallet racking by keeping pallets or large, shrink-wrapped items from pushing through into the flue space or falling into a work area.

Fixed Rack Safety Net
The Fixed Rack Safety Net is great for protecting loose or palletized inventory. The safety net adds a strong yellow mesh to the Rack Safety Strap to provide extra protection. It can be attached to the back of the rack to prevent pallet push-through or to the front of the rack to keep product from falling into the work area or walkway.

Testimonials from facility users:

Mike Gloskey, Exova Group

“Adrian’s products are superior. It’s a great product and provides clean sight lines. My main concern is that people are not always aware and Adrian’s safety straps help ease that concern for me as a safety coordinator on safety and protection. After the implementation of these products, my company scored the highest in our North American safety audit, and the safety products impressed the auditor.”

Scott Welch, Dri-Eaz Legend Brands

“Years ago, we invested in metal cages to prevent inventory from falling in the facility,” said Scott Welch, Materials Supervisor. “The problem was that it took our team nine hours to install these safety cages on three racking systems.”

Alex Garza, Steelcase

“I work at a warehouse. We handle about 5,000 wooden and plastic pallets on the warehouse. We are moving at a pace of 500 to 1,000, depending on the consumer demand. These fixed safety nets are just great—they are reasonably on par with other companies pricing, believe me, we have tried several, even made our own internally, but yet their advantage is the ease-of-use and installation. The strongly built, the robustness feels just wonderful. I’m a Process & Materials Engineer, and we modify racks pretty much twice a year due to NPI and Obsolete products going in and out, we are currently saving 90% of manpower due to the speed of installing and removing them. They even sent a free sample, not all companies embrace their products like this!” WMHS