Broken Racks Can Break the Bank

July 1, 2007
Lift truck damage accounts for 90% of rack failures. Reinforced pallet storage racks provide long-term rugged protection against such damage.

by Bruce Boyers

With the costs of warehouse storage space on the rise, including both the actual floor square footage and the pallet rack inside the facility, a company certainly doesn't need any additional unplanned costs to maintain their warehouse.

One such cost is for replacing lift truck-damaged pallet racks, especially with open column, bolt-together storage racks.

"Wherever there is a lot of damage to uprights," says Kurt Larson, central regional sales manager, Steel King, Inc. (Stevens Point, Wis.,, "it's usually occurring because the lift truck drivers are using the uprights as guides. "They're bumping the uprights on the front or the sides, coming around corners, and bumping into the lower portion of the frame."

Larson has encountered installations in which they have tried to make open-column, bolt-together pallet racks more rigid and damage resistant by placing two open columns back-to-back, with a three inch column in the front and a 1 5/8 inch column welded behind it. The problem is, the hollow area inside the columns that can still allow the upright to bend inward if hit with forks. Needless to say, this is a dangerous situation and can result in a pallet storage rack collapse.

A far more rigid installation is tubular boltless pallet rack, reinforced with a C-shaped column insert called the column core. Steel King's version is fully welded; not bolted together. With the column core reinforcement added it becomes more impact resistant at the front corners and sides where the uprights are most vulnerable.

"The problem with the open-column, bolt-together pallet rack is that in the short term you save money, but in the long term you'll have to keep replacing parts of it or the whole rack." says Larson.

Larson knows of what he speaks. In visiting a client a short time ago, he found that the client had installed open-column, bolt-together racks and was paying $4,000 to $8,000 per month in pallet rack repair. "The guy that came in to run the warehouse took one look and said, ‘we're done with this,'" Larson relates. "He ended up installing pallet racking with column core in the front uprights, and has had no more problems."

Because most fork truck damage is in the lower 48 inches of pallet rack uprights, that is where the column core is usually installed and where it will provide the most benefit.

With column core installed, companies retain full adjustability of their pallet rack beams, reduce puncturing, buckling and torsional twisting of their pallet rack uprights, and increased protection without any additional installation costs.

Safety first
In a warehouse or other storage facility, safety of both personnel and material must be the paramount concern. Every year, lift truck accidents account for thousands of serious injuries and dozens of deaths in industrial facilities. Additionally, tens of thousands to millions of dollars are lost in material damage from fork truck collisions with other equipment, pallet racks, and merchandise.

For the protection of personnel, equipment and stored goods, installation of heavy-duty steel guardrails in facilities is essential. "Any company with any sort of industrial traffic greatly benefits from protection of personnel against lift truck or other motorized traffic," says Jay Anderson, president of Steel King. "This would include a broad spectrum of operations, including warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities."

Strength is the prime concern in the choosing and implementation of such rails, and Steel King's Steel Guard meets and exceeds requirements for most installations. The rugged specs include a 14inches high, three-ribbed design in 11 gauge corrugated steel, using three bolts at each end for mounting on four-inch square 1/4-inch thick heavy-duty structural steel columns which are then bolted to the floor.

The rails are customizable to needed lengths and can be single-rail or double-rail in height. In addition to the standard bolted-to-post system, an optional lift-out/dropin rail system is available which maintains accessibility to material or equipment while providing uninterrupted protection.

Combined, the column core-reinforced pallet rack and guardrails provide durable, long-lasting protection and mean substantial reduction or elimination of damage to pallet racks, stored goods, equipment, and most important of all, personnel.

Boyers is a freelance writer based in Glendale, California