Warehouse Layout and Design

Have you been charged with developing your facility's pallet racking system and don't know where to start? Are you moving into a new building and need help designing a storage solution for your warehouse?

In our extensive experience working with customers from all industries, we find that customers sometimes will spend time trying to design their pallet racking device before meeting with us. While it never hurts to come into a meeting with additional information, we find that using a team of experts from the start can help save valuable time for you and your business while ensuring that you get the best solution to suit your warehouse.

Not only can we provide a pallet racking design for your facility quickly, we also have the requisite resources to ensure that our design is correctly engineered and complies with industry standards and regulations. Understanding how each of these aspects apply to your facility will help you get primed, trained and comfortable to go into your first consultation on the design of your pallet racking system.

9 Things to Consider When Designing a Warehouse Pallet Racking System

Continue reading for 9 things you need to learn about the operation, strengths and drawbacks of your warehouse when designing a new pallet racking system.

1. Pallet Size and Type

The weight and measurements of the pallets (length, height, width) are important measurements to be aware of when designing a pallet racking system . For most applications the industry standard pallet size (40 "x 48") is a perfect fit. The size of the pallet will help determine system dimensions such as the depth and height of the uprights.  

The type of palletized items will influence the type of pallet racking system required if the items:

  • Need specific environmental conditions
  • Are fragile and cannot be stacked
  • Are date-sensitive / have expiration dates

2. Order of Inventory Retrieval: LIFO vs FIFO

Whether your system requires inventory retrieval by LIFO (last-in-first out) or FIFO (first-in-first-out) is crucial in deciding the type of storage and pallet rack solutions needed. If your goods are date-sensitive, you'll probably need a system that enables the longest in stock products to be delivered first-FIFO. If your product's shelf life isn't date-sensitive, a LIFO program can be used to maximize warehouse space.

3. SKU / Pallet Count

The number of SKUs in a facility and the number of pallets per SKU play a major role in deciding the type of pallet racking system you may need. In applications where there is only one pallet per SKU, selective pallet racking can be used as it enables flexibility for SKUs thus making them readily available. 

Facilities with multiple pallets per SKU may want to use a higher density storage system, such as drive-in or push back pallet racking. Facilities with a high number of pallets per SKU that also involve FIFO retrieval of inventories may consider investing in a pallet flow racking system

4. Warehouse Environment

The cost of your racking system will fluctuate according to the type of environment your products require. Things can be stored in a variety of different situations, including:

  • Cold temperature (freezer or cooler) 
  • Controlled temperature
  • Ambient temperature (material does not need a particular temperature) 

Ambient environments are where temperature in the factory is not a critical factor in maintaining product integrity. Cold warehouse environments typically store food or other perishable items at low temperatures, whereas temperature-controlled warehouses often store items such as drugs, tobacco, etc. where temperatures are kept within an acceptable range to maintain the integrity of products. 

Predictably, conditions where temperature isn't critical will cost less. Typically, pallet racking systems are most costly in a cold environment since they require: 

  • Long installation-installers cannot spend long periods in a freezer 
  • Strategic set-up-since refrigerator / freezer storage space costs more, strategic planning is needed to ensure storage space is maximize 
  • Food grade conditions-since cold warehousing environments usually store food items, certain FDA compliance criteria are required. Pallets holding food items, for example, must be kept at least 12 inches off the ground

5. Building Structure

Whether a pallet racking system is constructed as an improvement to an existing building or installed in a newly built building may impact the budget of the project, schedule, available warehouse space and more. Certain important considerations relating to the building structure include:

  • Column spacing – you need to be conscious of where the support columns are and how they are separated from each other in order to "bury" them in the gap between back-to-back rows of racking 
  • Internal ceiling height – this will tell us how tall the uprights and beam levels can be 
  • Location and measurements of dock doors 
  • Usable warehouse space

6. Product Flow / Accessibility Requirements

Slow-moving products as well as fast-moving products occur in every warehouse. It's important to know which of the products have a faster turnaround period and need to be more frequently accessed. Knowing how this can impact the design of your system will help maximize the retrieval time, particularly for products with a quick turnaround time. 

Data on product flow and accessibility can also help to decide which SKUs to store closer to the shipping and receiving areas, and whether you may need high-density storage for some SKUs and more flexible storage for others. 

If your facility often has large orders with an almost immediate turnaround time, setting up a staging area near the shipping doors for temporary storage of those products is a good idea.

7. Material Handling Equipment in Your Facility

The type of material handling equipment (forklift, lift truck, or man-up order picker) used to collect pallets in your warehouse and its size is critical for determining the width of the aisle and the number of racking rows that will fit into a facility. 

For example, an industry standard 12-foot aisle would be required if you’re using a standard counterbalance forklift, whereas man-up order pickers can maneuver through much narrower aisles. It is desirable to construct a warehouse with the aisles as narrow as possible, as this enables maximum storage space.

Wide Aisle (WA) i.e. Standard sit-down forklift: Typical aisle widths are 11’ to 13’ or larger

Narrow Aisle (NA) i.e. Stand up trucks, reach trucks, double deep reach trucks. Typical aisle widths are 8’ to 10’

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) refers to forklifts that can operate in aisles of less than 6’. There is often some sort of guidance systems (guide rail, wire guidance) i.e. Man-up order pickers, turret trucks, swing mast trucks, and Bendi style.

8. Seismic Activity

Whether your facility is in an area with frequent / severe seismic activity or not can impact the type of material and support that a system will need. If your facility is in an area with high seismic activity, higher gauge steel (sometimes structural steel is needed, as roll-formed steel is weaker), wider / larger footplates and additional anchor reinforcements may be required for the pallet racking system. Basically, the more seismic activity in your area, the more structural integrity your system will need for seismic movement to handle, which will increase the cost of your racking system.

9. Understanding Your Budget and Acceptable ROI

New vs. Used Pallet Rack Systems

"What about used pallet racking?" This is a question we get asked frequently. While used systems can save you some upfront costs, in the long run they usually end up costing more, because:

  • Their structural integrity is uncertain 
  • A third-party structural engineer is needed to review and approve existing structures which are an expensive service 
  • They are not customized to match the products, workflows or needs of your facility.

In short, going with a used pallet racking system is a riskier option. By making the investment for a new system up front you will receive a system with the following advantages:

  • Uncompromised structural integrity 
  • Guaranteed to pass permit inspection 
  • Tailored to the needs of your facility

The Type of Pallet Racking System

Some types of pallet racking systems have more features and capabilities than others, and therefore, are more expensive. Selective pallet racking is the most cost-effective option, with the shortest lead time. So, if your facility doesn't actually require high-density storage, selective pallet racking may be the best option for you.

However, if higher density storage is needed, depending on your circumstances you may need to use drive-in pallet racks, push back pallet racks or even pallet flow racking. 

Utilizing a Team of Professionals

As mentioned above, utilizing a team of professionals to design your pallet racking system is the best way to ensure that your system is:

  • Designed quickly and efficiently
  • Engineered according to industry standards and regulations
  • The best solution for your facility


We hope this article has helped you understand the pallet racking needs of your facility and become more comfortable having an informed talk with a specialist. In conclusion, the 9 things to consider when designing a warehouse pallet rack system are:

  1. Pallet size and type
  2. Order of inventory retrieval
  3. SKU / pallet count
  4. Warehouse environment
  5. Building structure considerations
  6. Product flow / accessibility requirements
  7. Material handling equipment in your facility
  8. Seismic activity
  9. Understanding your budget and acceptable ROI

Our team of Warehouse Design Specialists are dedicated to providing complete, custom designed pallet racking systems and other industrial systems. Our experts will meet with whomever supervises your facility to ensure we get every detail needed to design your pallet racking system effectively. 

If you are  ready to take the next steps towards a more efficient and flexible warehouse, please book a call with one of our Warehouse Design Specialists or email us the details of your project at  sales@warehouseequipmentsite.com. Our passion is to provide warehouse storage systems for our customer to help their businesses thrive. 


Which Pallet Rack System is the best for your operation?

Maximizing your warehouse space is essential to every aspect of your business. To figure out which racking system is best for optimizing your space needs, check out the pros and cons for each system and how we help our clients determine which system is best for them. 

Selective Pallet Rack

Selective pallet rack is the most universal system for direct and individual access to each pallet.


 · Selectivity: With single-deep selective racking, any pallet in the warehouse can be accessed at any time without having to move anything else to get to it. When time is of the essence and a warehouse team is aiming to eliminate unnecessary “touches,” it makes sense to have as many     pallets as possible be accessible without the need to move anything else. 

· Cost-effectiveness: In terms of what an end user pays in relation to the additional storage space obtained by implementing racking, selective pallet rack is generally the least expensive type of racking available. 



 · Lower storage density: The most common fault found with selective pallet rack is the     number of aisles necessary in a selective system. In a true selective rack setup, there’s one aisle for every row of pallet rack. 

· Limited to 1-2 pallets deep


Pushback Pallet Rack

Pushback rack systems are ideal for warehouses that store a high volume of product, multiple pallets per SKU, and a high volume of turnover. The biggest advantage of push back racking is its ability to offer both selectivity (access to different pallets/SKU's) and storage density by storing multiple pallets per position. 


 · High-density storage

· Allows for storage of more SKU's

· Can range from two to six pallets deep 

· Can accommodate a wide range of pallet sizes and styles

· Because each lane operates independently, push back pallet storage offers a more flexible pallet storage option than Drive-In racking, which is best for storing many pallets of only a few SKU's.

· Higher productivity can be achieved as forklifts can store and retrieve pallets quicker than drive-in rack 



 · LIFO (Last in First Out) storage system 

· Standard GMA pallets are typically required unless you choose full deck carts that are much more expensive


Drive-In Pallet Rack

Drive-In Rack is ideal for stocking large quantities of relatively few items. It can reduce overall square footage requirements by at least 35% compared to a standard selective rack configuration.  


· High-density storage

· Cost-effective- Drive-in systems are typically significantly cheaper than pushback and pallet flow systems

· Customizable for your pallets and forklifts

· Can range from 2 to 10 pallets deep 



· Because all of the product in a given bay must be unloaded to reach the last pallet, it's not the best option in terms of selectivity or accommodating the need to rotate inventory.

· Load size and uniformity is a critical requirement.

· High maintenance from damage of lift truck driving in and out. 


Pallet Flow Rack

In this first-in/first-out (FIFO) system, pallets are loaded at the top end of a gently sloped rail and glide safely and effortlessly at a controlled pace to the other side.  



· High density, space-saving storage

· Each lane can hold up to 20 pallets deep in one lane

· Customized, tailor-made design

· Fast and immediate access to every pallet

· Versatile - Well-suited for refrigeration or freezer storage applications

· Tested for your unique application

· Minimal maintenance



· High capital investment compared to other racking systems

· Limited selectivity and limited number of SKU's 


Now that you know the pros and cons of each system, here is a helpful tool we use to help our clients identify the correct system for their applications:

All our design, layout services, and application consulting is FREE! Contact one of our Design Specialists for a pallet racking shelving quote at (888) 850-RACK (7225) or email us at  sales@warehouseequipmentsite.com.  

Contact Us

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Warehouse Equipment & Supplies Co.

P.O. Box 157040, Cincinnati, OH 45215

(888) 850-7225 ~ sales@warehouseequipmentsite.com