Pallet flow racking systems are designed so that when the pallet in front is removed by a forklift, the pallets behind gently "flow" forward to replace it. ( Photo courtesy Steel King Industries )

Companies that face a lack of space in distribution centers and warehouses but are unable to expand are finding efficiencies in high-density pallet flow racking systems.

Racks are designed so that when a pallet is moved from the front of a rack, inclined tracks and rollers, using gravity, move the next pallet to the front position.

With planning, the system can cut down on storage space in a first-in, first out process, placing multiple pallets in line on several levels, according to Steel King Industries, Stevens Point, Wis.

If managed properly, forklifts are needed only for loading and unloading the racks, eliminating the need to rearrange inventory to access pallets for orders.

“Compared to traditional fixed racking, a high-density pallet flow system can essentially cut the required square footage for a warehouse in half,” Ryan Wachsmuth, dynamic storage sales manager for Steel King, said in a news release. The company designs and manufactures warehouse material handling and storage products.

The equipment, however, is only part of the equation, Wachsmuth said. It’s necessary to plan for efficient flow storage, loading/unloading, and transport. The depth of the racks should be designed for optimal product rotation, according to the release.

“Many people think you can take pallet flow rack off the shelf and ship it out the door,” he said in the release. “But it must be designed to accommodate your specific requirements: pallet types, pallet weights, forklift capacity, facility layout and any other restrictions.”

Oversight on the planning process can eliminate the need for an expanding company to get bogged down in the details, Wachsmuth said. A vendor who act as the one point of contact for planning, coordination and troubleshooting can eliminate unforeseen problems post-construction.

“Given sufficient planning and coordination, pallet flow rack can be one of the most space efficient and cost-effective forms of material handling for warehouses and distributors,” Wachsmuth said in the release.