Warehouse Racking System FAQ
Be sure to check out this story in August's issue of Supply Chain Digital. Trust us, it's way cooler!
What is a warehouse racking system?
Pallet racking is the most common form of warehouse racking systems, and they’re basically a storage system designed to stack materials in horizontal rows with multiple levels. The benefits are simple enough: why spend more money to add square feet to a warehouse when you could be utilizing wasted vertical space?
These racks are usually topped with pallets, which are one of the most primitive (but effective) means of storage. Forklifts allow for simple movement between the racking systems to transportation vehicles, which add efficiency to most types of warehouses.
Why should I use a warehouse racking system?
For one, it’s much cheaper to employ a racking system than double the square footage of an existing warehouse. Adding a racking system can double and sometimes even triple the amount of materials you’re able to handle in your warehouse, and adding forklifts to a basic warehousing operation usually results in a leap in efficiency.
Businesses these days need to look at the bottom line more than ever, and a warehouse without even the most basic racking system is almost always not as efficient as it could be. Warehouses that deal in heavy materials usually already have forklifts in place, so a transition to a racking system is already that much easier.
What are some of the challenges to employing a warehouse racking system?
Pricing can be cost-prohibitive depending on the size of your operation. The cheapest racking systems start at about $50 per pallet position but can cost up to $400, which can make a complete racking system cost tens of thousands of dollars. Throw in the cost of powering a quality forklift fleet, and medium and large warehouses could top $100,000 without breaking a sweat.
Employing a team capable of handling a warehouse racking system can also pose a challenge to those new to the warehouse racking system. Countries like Australia, Japan and Germany have very low unemployment rates, so finding staff capable of handling the racking systems could prove difficult.
What types of warehouse racking systems are out there?
Selective pallet racking is the most commonly seen system today, and comes in two configurations: roll formed, or clip-in configuration, and a structural bolt-together configuration. Pallets rest on horizontal load beams that are held in place with mounting clips, and can be moved quickly and easily adjusted to accommodate differing load sizes. This is an especially convenient racking system configuration for warehouses that carry a vast array of products and require different storage requirements.
Other commonly seen types of warehouse racking systems include drive-in or drive-through storage rack configurations that allow forklifts to drive directly into a lane of stacked rows, called bays. This system is helpful when shelf life can be a major concern, as materials aren’t going to be held for too long.
Push-back pallet racks are often used to maximize storage space at a cost of reducing aisle space. Each bay is displayed up to six pallets deep and stored on wheeled carts fitted onto rails. A forklift can set the pallet onto the cart, drive forward and bump into the next pallet, rolling the entire group backwards to maximize storage space.
A motorized mobile pallet rack is another system designed to maximize storage space. These systems convert static access aisles into productive storage space, and have helped companies eliminate new building costs by maximizing usable storage space.
What safety concerns am I looking at?
Because your raw materials are going to be stored dozens of feet above the warehouse floor, you’re going to need to take extra special precautions to avoid injury. Pay close attention to any loose components of the racking system, especially after installation, because the slightest mistake could cause materials to fall.
Also, make sure to follow the strict load guidelines set by each manufacturer. While your racking system may look like it can handle more, it’s not safe and could result in damaged goods or worker injury. Rack audits should be performed on a regular basis to ensure the integrity of the product.
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.