The Quonset Hut of WWII was the forerunner of the PEBs we know today.
It took decades for people to accept pre-engineered metal buildings as being as good or better than the the old conventional metal buildings. But we’ve finally arrived, and the thinking has changed – most people today now recognize the value of pre-engineered metal buildings. But with pallet rack, unfortunately, the bolted pallet rack versus welded pallet rack debate is still on-going, with many people still believing that bolted pallet rack is inferior to conventional welded rack. The stories are so similar; it ‘s worth taking a look at both of them.

Pre-engineered vs Conventional Metal Buildings

If you are of a certain age, you may remember a time in the design-build industry when most everyone believed in the superiority of conventional metal buildings over pre-engineered metal buildings (PEBs). While the pre-engineered metal building was introduced during World War II with the Quonset Hut, they were still perceived (as late as the 1960s and even 1970s) as a cheap, less durable, inferior alternative. But times have changed.

The reality is that pre-engineered buildings are a higher-quality product, produced in less time, and at a lower price. The old thinking has finally pretty much gone by the wayside as people have begun to understand the advantages of PEBs over conventional metal building construction. Here are a few reasons PEBs are superior:

1. Quality Control

PEBs are designed, engineered, and fabricated in-house, with strict levels of quality control at each stage of the game. Conventional metal buildings, on the other hand, are mostly fabricated on-site, from scratch for each project, and where more than one source is at work and quality control is less easily monitored and enforced.

Because each design is created for a single project, no two buildings are constructed alike, and any changes or additions to the design require customized work.

2. Lighter Building Weight/Cost-Efficiency

An efficiently designed pre-engineered building can be lighter than the conventional steel buildings by up to 30%. Lighter weight equates to less steel and a potential price savings, as well as positively impacting the foundation and soils below.

3. Seismic Advantages

The more a structure can move flexibly during a seismic event, the less damage it typically incurs.The lighter and more flexible qualities of the materials used in a PEB result in a higher resistance to seismic tremors. Conventional options, with their heavier and rigid forms, do not perform as well in seismic zones.

4. Delivery Speed

Metal buildings can arrive at the job site in about six to eight weeks. Conventional buildings must be ordered piecemeal and can take as long as 20-26 weeks, causing delayed building time.

5. Future Expansion

This is very easy to do with steel buildings since they’re built with future expansion in mind. Expansion for conventional structures is often more costly and cumbersome – it means going back to the drawing board.

These are just a few of the many advantages that PEBs have over conventional metal buildings, but the point is that it often takes time for people to discard their old ways of thinking, even when faced with the facts. The idea that pre-engineered metals are inferior has slowly dissolved and most people have accepted that they are superior in many ways. 

Bolted vs Welded Pallet Rack

We have a similar story line playing out in the material handling world. Many people still perceive bolted pallet rack to be a cheap, less durable, inferior alternative to bolted rack – even if the real facts show otherwise. Here are a few reasons bolted rack is superior.

1. Structural Superiority of Bolted Pallet Rack

Bolted connections allow a structure to flex and give. This is how large buildings can withstand the forces of nature-from seismic activity to high winds. A solid rigid structure, such as welded pallet rack, is more likely to snap if it can ‘t “go with the flow.

2. Cost-efficiency

One advantage of bolted rack is the material cost – it is cheaper to manufacture bolted rack and even if you ship the rack assembled, it is still less expensive because the labor costs associated with welding are much higher.

3. Delivery Speed

Bolted rack components can be made in advance and if you opt to ship KD, your product is out the door. Even if you choose pre-assembly, the time it takes to bolt your rack together is insignificant compared to the welding process.

4. Quality Control

There is definitely such a thing as a faulty weld – if the weld is bad, or has been damaged, you probably won ‘t know it until it ‘s too late. On the other hand, bolted connections can be visually examined easily. While welded joints may appear acceptable, the connection may not be adequate, and its reliability can only be confirmed with further testing.

5. Repairs

Bolted pallet rack is easier (and less costly) to repair. One of the biggest advantages is that you can easily unbolt and replace bent or damaged bracing. With welded rack, you must cut off or torch off the damaged piece.

Ask an Engineer!

While Europeans have widely accepted bolted rack for decades, North Americans have been slow to catch on. The advantages of bolted rack are many, but the most important one, in our opinion, is the structural superiority – a fact that you will never hear about from the welded rack manufacturers. But don ‘t just take our word for it – ask any pallet rack engineer. In fact, you can click here now to read what an engineering delegate to the RMI (Rack Manufacturer ‘s Institute) has to say about the subject.

Unlike the pre-engineered versus conventional metal building scenario, the old ways of thinking regarding bolted vs welded pallet rack have still not gone by the wayside – though the tide is definitely starting to turn. If you are still not convinced, we strongly advise: Ask an engineer!

Next Level manufactures FlexRack™, a teardrop pallet rack with 100% bolted connections. All Next Level pallet racks meet or exceed RMI/ANSI MH16.3-2016: Specification For The Design, Testing And Utilization Of Industrial Steel Cantilevered Storage Racks. Learn more about FlexRack™ here.