Warehouse Layout & Design: What You Need to Know Before You Order Pallet Rack

Pallet Rack

When it comes to your warehouse layout and design, the ability to store more in less space is the key to creating efficiency. The challenge of providing the best available rack layout solution is to maximize the number of usable storage locations. When planning your layout for optimal efficiency, there are a number of parameters that come into play. Here’s what you need to know before you order pallet rack.

  • Physical dimensions. You’ll need to know the dimensions of the space allocated to pallet storage, as well as the location of any doors and windows, obstructions, equipment, etc.
  • Height restrictions. Know the clear height of your building, and note if the ceiling is level or tapered. This includes building structures and obstacles such as sprinkler heads, lighting, HVAC systems, etc.
  • Flooring. Know the land bearing capacity of the floor and sub-soil and note if the floor is level.
  • Pallet/product specifics. Know the dimensions of the pallets (including any product overhang) being stored and know the number products per SKU. Know the minimum, maximum, and average weights of the pallets. Do any of the product have expiration issues that require them to be handled on a first in first out (FIFO) basis? Note the velocity of each SKU and if the velocities are seasonal. Can you provide a product slotting analysis?
  • Vertical dimensions. Beam level positioning should account for more than just pallet‐load heights and an industry‐standard lift‐off space of 4 inches. Additional lift‐off space is sometimes needed depending on the type of forklift.
  • Lift equipment. Know the required minimum forklift aisle widths for your particular forklift. Know the capacity of the lift trucks in weight and how high they can reach. You might need to consider if the cost of buying different types of lift trucks is justifiable?
  • Roof‐support column locations and patterns.These columns are not necessarily an obstruction, as they can be used as borders in many rack system designs. The main goal is to optimize storage locations without having roof‐support columns in forklift aisles that maintain minimal widths.
  • Physical obstructions. Be aware of all obstructions that can affect your layout such as  overhead lighting and piping, sprinklers, bracing, floor gratings, HVAC, offices, etc.
  • Building/fire code regulations/safety requirements Be familiar with your local building codes regarding warehouse product storage. For example, what is the least clearance needed from the top of the pallet load to the sprinkler heads? Is your warehouse in a seismic area that requires special design considerations? be aware of any safety considerations such as egress paths, forklift aisles versus foot traffic, etc.
And that’s just the beginning. Finding the ideal rack layout is truly a creative process. Because SKUs move at different rates, most well designed storage systems call for a mixture of pallet rack storage types. Types of storage to be considered include:
  • Selective Pallet Rack
  • Drive-In / Drive-Through Rack
  • Very Narrow Aisle Rack
  • Double Deep Rack
  • Pushback Rack
  • Pallet Flow Rack

Selecting the most effective rack system is almost never simple. You need to plan your design to accommodate the different types of products you have now (or might have in the future). Here are some questions to ask when evaluating which storage systems might best fit your needs:

  • Is the product First In, First Out (FIFO) or Last In, First Out (LIFO)?

  • How much storage density (items stored in a given area) do you need?

  • Are there specific product flow requirements?

  • How much forklift access do you require?

  • What is the capacity of your loads?

  • Do you normally pick pallets, cases or pieces?

And just when you think you have all your ducks in a row, there are still other things to think about when it comes to your pallet rack design. Some other considerations for rack layout are:

  • Directional signage
  • Storage location labeling/bar code identification
  • Rack protection devices
  • In‐floor wire/rail guidance systems
  • Designing your system with future storage expansion in mind

Space planning isn’t easy; it involves business decisions and careful analysis of current operations, as well as planning for future growth. Professional facility design expertise can make all the difference in creating a storage system that offers the best solutions for your operational challenges. The design experts at Next Level are here to help you avoid costly errors while optimizing your warehouse for the highest efficiency. We offer facility design layout services nationwide for new construction planning stages or the reconfiguration of an existing operation. Contact us here, or call 800-230-8846 to set up a consultation with our warehouse space planning experts.

Photo Credit: By Cjp24 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons. Click on image to view source.

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