Drive-in pallet racking systems are typically used in warehouses to optimize space and improve inventory turnover. However, to fully harness the benefits, you need to understand the intricate aspects of drive-in pallet racking systems. In this blog, we’ll explore the nature, working principles, and benefits of these systems, breaking down crucial elements to consider before implementing them. Additionally, we’ll touch on necessary safety considerations, supplier selection, and the overall cost implications associated with drive-in pallet racking. Ultimately, this guide aims to provide useful insights to individuals and businesses looking to find their ideal warehouse storage solution.
Drive-in pallet racking is a high-density storage system that holds large quantities of homogeneous products or SKUs. In drive-in racking, pallet loads are placed on wheeled trolleys that can be “driven into” storage lanes on guide rails. Multiple pallet loads can be stored in each lane, allowing products to be stacked behind each other. This enables efficient utilization of warehouse cube space. Forklifts can selectively retrieve pallets as needed by accessing them from one end of the storage lane.
In contrast to selective racking, where each pallet has a dedicated location, drive-in racking relies on the depth storage of pallets in lanes. The last pallet loaded into a lane is the first one out (LIFO). This is an important consideration for inventory management and turnover.
Drive-in pallet racking consists of upright steel frames with cantilevered arms that support the cross beams and rails which guide the wheeled trolleys. The trolleys allow individual pallet loads to roll smoothly in and out of the storage lanes.
Forklifts place pallet loads on the trolleys at the open end of each lane. Using the forklift to push against the pallet load, the trolley rolls back into the lane, allowing additional pallets to be loaded behind. When a pallet needs to be retrieved, the forklift reaches into the lane, hooks the pallet, and extracts it by pulling it forward on the trolley.
Compared to selective racking, drive-in racking can significantly increase storage density. By removing dedicated pallet locations and stacking pallets behind each other in lanes, drive-in racks can hold two to three times more pallets in the same warehouse footprint.
Drive-in racking can also be less expensive than selective racking since guide rails are simpler and use fewer materials than selective racks. Installation costs are lower as well. These factors make drive-in racking ideal for high-volume, space-constrained warehouses.
When designing a drive-in pallet racking system, available warehouse space, required pallet positions, and pallet dimensions determine the number of lanes, lane depth, and rack height. Consider future growth needs as well. Pallet weights, turnover requirements, and desired selectivity also impact drive-in design.
Drive-in pallet racking can utilize unused vertical warehouse space. However, sufficient aisle width is needed for forklift maneuvering. Aisle width depends on factors like building columns, sprinkler placement, and whether the entry will be single-sided or double-sided. Proper layout ensures efficient material flow and safety.
While drive-in racks maximize density, selectivity is limited since pallets are stacked behind each other. If order picking is required, consider hybrid systems with pick modules. Drive-in lanes are ideal for reserve storage when combined with selective racking for active picking locations.
Drive-in racks must be designed to safely support dynamic pallet loading and forklift impacts during operation. Uprights, beams, bracings, and connections must withstand forces. Safety railings prevent accidental entry into racks. Proper lane width enables safe forklift maneuvering.
Forklift operators need training on drive-in pallet racking procedures, like properly placing pallets on trolleys, controlling entry and exit speeds, and handling partially loaded lanes. Pre-operation equipment inspection ensures vehicles are functioning properly to avoid damage.
Routine visual inspections check for damaged components or unsafe conditions. Periodic bolt tightening, rail realignment, and other maintenance preserve the integrity and prevent safety issues. A proactive maintenance program extends life and improves safety.
Selecting the right supplier is crucial when implementing a new drive-in pallet rack system in your warehouse. The supplier you choose will have a major impact on the quality, safety, and efficiency of your storage solution. Here are some key factors to consider when evaluating suppliers:
Look for an experienced supplier that has been providing pallet racking systems for many years. They should have extensive expertise in designing, manufacturing, and installing these systems. Consider asking for references from past clients and inspecting their project portfolio.
Reputation is also important. Comb through online reviews and talk to industry contacts to gauge feedback on their service quality, responsiveness, and professionalism. An established supplier with a strong reputation provides confidence they can deliver on their promises.
Be sure to assess the quality and durability of your supplier’s pallet rack components. Key items to evaluate include:
- Beam construction: Prefer formed steel beams over lower-quality roll-formed beams.
- Upright frames: Look for sturdy steel columns with diagonal bracing for stability.
- Connector hooks and clips: High-quality galvanized steel hardware will last longer.
- Safety accessories: Consider built-in railings, column protectors, and end-of-aisle guards.
Higher quality components lead to stronger, longer-lasting rack systems that promote warehouse safety. Don’t cut corners here.
Pallet racking is a significant investment, so you’ll want to understand the pricing model and all associated costs. A few key factors that affect price include:
- Material types, such as steel, wire mesh, plastic, or particle board
- System size and capacity
- Beam levels and accessories
- Customizations and additions
Beyond just the rack components, installation is also a key cost factor. Some suppliers offer full-service installation, while others require you to arrange your own contractor. Consider:
- Labor rates for installation and any prevailing wage requirements
- Accessibility impacts on installation time/complexity
- Material handling equipment needed for installation
- Costs if existing racks must be disassembled
The upfront purchase price isn’t the only cost you need to consider. To maximize long-term value:
- Prioritize durable materials and quality components to minimize repairs and replacements.
- Consider expandability to adapt your system as operations evolve.
- Analyze labor impacts—a more efficient system design can improve productivity.
- Evaluate safety—preventing injuries reduces costs associated with lost time.
A bit more upfront investment in the optimal racking system will pay dividends over many years of daily operation.
Southwest Warehouse Solutions has over 30 years of experience designing, supplying, and installing high-quality pallet racking systems. Our experts can conduct a detailed analysis of your operations and provide a fully customized material handling solution to meet your unique needs. We offer complete project management services, from initial layout design through professional installation and beyond. Our commitment to top-tier customer service ensures you receive the ideal storage system to maximize productivity in your warehouse environment.
Contact us today to find your comprehensive storage solution.