Pallet Racking: A Beginner's Guide

For most companies, space is a volatile resource. Seasonality and growth are the culprits that cause most managers to constantly evaluate their space restrictions. In this article, I hope to familiarize an aspiring owner or manager looking to optimize vertical space in their warehouse with pallet racking.

Storing pallet on the floor? Double/triple stacking damaging product?

Delivering most products require palletizing, putting a product on a pallet, for ease of mobility. Once palletized, new companies typically store their pallets on the floor and if possible stack palletized product on top of each other. But stacking pallets on top of each other is not always feasible. Some product is asymmetrical and it would be dangerous to stack pallets and have them balance. Also, if the palletized product is too heavy it could cause damage by crushing the product or pallet near the bottom of the stack. Pallet racking can solve both problems with ease and simultaneously organize your facility.

There are various options when it comes to pallet racking. In fact, there are companies that specialize in creating complete custom racking solutions that perfectly fit your needs. Unfortunately, most small to mid-sized companies can’t afford these solutions and are left with more standardized options. To use these standard options, you’ll likely have to use a standard pallet.

Rack for the pallet, or pallet for the rack?

The most commonly used pallet is 48x40 inch pallet. Read GMA Pallets: What are they? For more information on this standard pallet. Since the 48x40 pallet is widely used, it also is sold at an affordable price. Most bulk pallet racking is built for this size and thus has a cheaper price than other custom solutions. If your product allows it, try to engineer the palletization process to fit a 48x40 inch footprint. Consult with your pallet provider to make sure the pallet’s weight capacity fits your application.

Again, racking can be tailored to any size pallet. If you have a very specialized product or have significant space restrictions, it might be more beneficial to buy custom racking. If custom racking is already purchased, consult with your pallet provider to purchase custom pallets that will match your product and your processes more efficiently.

In some cases, not all products can be stored in a racking system due to being hazardous for insurance purposes or fire code regulations.

Here are four common racking solutions that satisfy most customer needs:

  1. Selective Pallet Racking
  2. Drive-In Pallet Racking
  3. Pallet Flow Rack System
  4. Push Back Pallet Rack

Selective Pallet Racking

Selective pallet racking is the most common pallet racking available. Selective racking employs upright structures and two cross beams that create a shelf to store the pallet. You can get additional cross beams to create as many shelves needed (depending on the height of your ceiling and the weight of your product). Here’s a link for more information. A structure that has a 42-inch depth is perfect for a 48x40 inch pallet.

Drive-In Pallet Racking

Drive-in pallet racking allows forklifts to drive directly into the racking to store and retrieve product behind one another. The racking has ridges on the sides that hold the pallets while still allowing a forklift to drive through. This system can be set up in many ways to utilize FIFO (First In, First Out) or LIFO (Last In, First Out) inventory management strategies. This solution optimizes space by permitting dense storage.

It’s important to have thick deck boards on your pallet for this application. As opposed to Selective racking, the deck boards carry the most stress from the weight of the product. Also, certain size forklifts may be required to fit between the aisles.

Click here for more information and pictures.

Pallet Flow Rack System

Pallet flow racking is similar to drive-in racking in regard to storage density. Instead of driving into the storage, the pallets are loaded from the back onto gravity rollers that are pitched slightly towards the front where they are unloaded. This system utilizes the FIFO inventory management. It’s easy for the operators because moving material doesn’t require driving deep into racking aisles.

Click here for more information and pictures.

Push Back Pallet Rack

A push back pallet rack operates exactly like the pallet flow rack system except it does not get loaded from the back. Pallets are loaded and unloaded from the front of the racking. Gravity rollers are still pitched downwards, and the product is moved further into storage as items are added. This system utilizes the LIFO inventory management.

Click here for more information and pictures (and a good video).


There are many different pallet racking options for you to choose from. Evaluate your current storage situation, determine the flexibility of your pallet requirements, decide on your rack solution, and you’ll be ready to start optimizing space and storage!