Ordering Pallet Rack: I’m going to ask these questions, so be ready!

Ring, ring.
Hello, Acme Material Handling, how may I help you?
Yes, I need to order some pallet rack.
Ok, what size do you need?
Well, um, I guess I need something about 16-17  feet tall by 8′ wide. I’m not really sure.
Ok, let me see if I can help you. Do you know your ceiling height?
Hmmm, I don’t really know, let me get my tape measure, hang on a minute…
Ok, my ceilings are 16 feet high so I need my rack to be 16′ tall.
Well, if your ceilings are 16′ feet high, you will need your rack to be shorter. Let me ask you some more questions so I can better help you.
What size are your pallets?
Oh, they are just standard size, probably 4 x 4.
If they really are 48 inches wide, you will need at least a nine foot beam to allow for flue spaces. But if they are only 40 inches wide or less, then an 8 foot beam will work fine.
Well, like I said, they are just standard size.
Standard is a loose term when referring to pallets, but a lot of pallets (though not all) are 40 wide by 48 deep which is why 8 foot beams are so common in racking systems. But of course pallets can be many sizes, which is why 9 or 10 foot beams aren’t uncommon. Maybe you could measure them?
Ok, hand on a minute, let me get the tape measure…
Hey, measure the height of the load while you’re it!
Ok, the pallets are 48  inches wide so I guess I need the 9 foot beams.
Good, now how much do your pallets weigh?
They’re pretty heavy.
Ok, you can see where this is going. It happens all the time. Though most people are grateful to be helped along, and many apologize for not having their ducks in a row, I have had actually had some customers get quite agitated with the questions. Once a potential customer said (almost yelling), “Just forget it, I just wanted to order some rack!” The truth is, I just want your racking system to be right. I don’t want you to put 6000 pounds on a beam level meant for 4000 pounds, I want you to have enough space for your pallets and I want your system to do its job and, above all, be safe. Lacking all the information is not just something newbies are guilty of- sometimes dealers don’t have their ducks in a row either. So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Handy Selective Pallet Rack Ordering Guide

You need to know (get out the measuring tape!):
1. Your ceiling height-and note any obstructions such as fans, sprinkler heads or light fixtures.
2. The size (depth, width and height of the load) and the weight of your pallets.
3. The number of beam levels and your vertical beam spacing, meaning how much space between the beam levels, especially the height from the floor to the first beam (this spacing affects the weight capacity of the upright frames).
4. The  length and number of runs (rows) and if they are single  rows or back-to-back rows.
5. Lift truck reach. If you already own a forklift and don’t plan on purchasing a new one, then the height of your rack will be in part determined by how high your lift can reach.
6. If you are in a seismic zone.
This is the basic information you will need to place an order for selective pallet rack. It’s really not a lot to know, but its very important to ensure your rack is safe and will perform the way its supposed to.
P.S. True story: Just minutes before posting this, I took a call.  I asked the caller for the dimensions of his pallets.  The answer? “Just the size you would need for a small warehouse.”