The Ultimate Guide to Warehouse Racking: What You Need to Know

Warehouse racking plays a critical role in the efficient storage management of businesses. These systems are designed to maximize space utilization, enhance inventory management, and improve overall logistics. By providing structured storage, industrial racking helps in organizing products systematically, allowing for easy access and retrieval.

In this article, we will explore different types of industrial racking systems that are commonly used in warehouses. Understanding their unique characteristics, advantages, and suitable applications will help you make informed decisions for your storage needs.

Here are some of the most commonly used industrial racking systems:

  • Selective Racking: Direct access, adaptable, customizable.
  • Double Deep Racking: Increased storage density.
  • Drive-in/Drive-through Racking: Ideal for high-density storage.
  • Pallet Flow Racking: Gravity-driven, FIFO inventory rotation.
  • Push Back Racking: LIFO method, suitable for medium turnover.
  • Cantilever Racking: Specialized for long or bulky items.

Whether you're looking to optimize space or streamline your inventory processes, this guide provides valuable insights into various racking solutions tailored to different business requirements.

1. Selective Racking

Selective Racking is the most common type of industrial racking system used in warehouses. It provides direct access to each pallet, making it highly adaptable and customizable for various storage needs.

Selective Racking consists of upright frames, horizontal beams, and connectors. Pallets are stored on horizontal beams, which are adjustable to accommodate different pallet sizes and weights.


  • Versatility: Easily adjustable to store a wide range of products.
  • Accessibility: Direct access to each pallet enables quick retrieval.
  • Cost-Effective: Lower initial investment compared to more complex systems.


  • Space Utilization: Less efficient in terms of space usage compared to other racking types like Double Deep or Drive-in Racking.
  • Aisle Space: Requires ample aisle space for forklifts, reducing overall storage density.

Key Industries

Industries such as retail, distribution centers, and manufacturing benefit from Selective Racking due to its flexibility and ease of access. For example:

  • Retail warehouses use it for storing various SKUs.
  • Distribution centers rely on it for quick order fulfillment.
  • Manufacturing facilities use it for storing raw materials and finished goods.

Suitability Guidelines

Consider Selective Racking if your warehouse requires:

  • High accessibility and flexibility.
  • Storage of diverse product types.
  • Quick inventory turnover with fewer pallets per SKU.

Evaluating these factors helps determine if Selective Racking aligns with your operational needs.

2. Double Deep Racking

Double Deep Racking is a storage solution that offers higher storage density without compromising selectivity. It allows for pallets to be stored two rows deep, effectively doubling the storage capacity within the same space compared to Selective Racking.

Double Deep Racking involves placing one pallet behind another in a single slot, requiring specialized handling equipment like double-deep reach trucks for access. Unlike Selective Racking, where each pallet is immediately accessible, Double Deep Racking prioritizes higher storage density.


  • Improved Space Utilization: Maximizes warehouse space by doubling pallet storage in each slot.
  • Cost-Effective: Reduces the need for additional racking infrastructure.


  • Specialized Handling Equipment: Requires double-deep reach trucks, which can increase initial investment costs.
  • Inventory Management: Slightly reduced selectivity compared to single-deep systems.

Appropriate Industries

Industries such as food and beverage, retail, and manufacturing often utilize Double Deep Racking for its balance of accessibility and increased storage density. For example, a beverage distribution center may benefit from this system to store large quantities of similar products efficiently.

Suitability Evaluation

Assessing if Double Deep Racking fits your business needs involves considering factors like:

  • Inventory turnover rates.
  • The type of products stored (e.g., similar or uniform items).
  • Budget for specialized equipment.

By evaluating these aspects, you can determine if Double Deep Racking aligns with your warehouse operations and storage requirements.

3. Drive-in/Drive-through Racking

Drive-in/drive-through racking is an innovative solution for high-density storage, utilizing either Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) or First-In-First-Out (FIFO) inventory management systems.

  • Drive-in Racking: Operates on a LIFO basis, where forklifts drive into the rack to access pallets.
  • Drive-through Racking: Utilizes a FIFO method, allowing forklifts to enter from one side and exit from the other.

Key Design Features

  • Deep Stacking: Enables multiple pallets to be stored in depth, maximizing storage space.
  • Internal Accessibility: Forklifts can navigate within the racking system to retrieve or store pallets.


  • Efficient Space Utilization: Minimizes aisle space, making it ideal for warehouses with limited floor area.
  • Stock Rotation: Supports effective stock rotation in both LIFO and FIFO methods depending on the racking type.


  • Limited Selectivity: Accessing specific pallets can be challenging due to the deep stacking nature.
  • Handling Damage: Increased potential for mishandling as forklifts operate within the racks.

Industry Examples

  • Food and Beverage: Often use drive-through racking for perishable goods requiring FIFO rotation.
  • Manufacturing: Frequently implement drive-in racking for raw materials and finished products with longer shelf life.

Suitability Considerations

To determine if this system aligns with your warehouse operations:

  • Evaluate your inventory turnover rate.
  • Assess available warehouse space.
  • Consider potential handling damage vs. storage density benefits.

Using these guidelines will help determine if drive-in/drive-through racking meets your specific business needs.

4. Pallet Flow Racking

Pallet flow racking is a dynamic storage solution that uses inclined roller beds or wheels to move pallets from the loading end to the picking face using gravity. This system ensures efficient First-In-First-Out (FIFO) inventory control by automatically rotating stock.

Understanding the Flow Mechanism

The core components of pallet flow racking are:

  • Inclined Roller Beds: Pallets are placed on inclined roller beds or wheels that guide them smoothly to the pick face.
  • Braking Systems: These systems manage the speed of pallet movement, preventing damage and maintaining order.
  • Entry Guides and Stops: Ensure proper alignment and secure positioning of pallets within the system.

Efficiencies Gained

Implementing pallet flow racking can lead to significant efficiencies:

  • Enhanced Picking Productivity: Continuous stock rotation ensures older inventory is picked first, reducing obsolescence.
  • Optimized Space Utilization: High-density storage minimizes aisle space, maximizing available floor area.

Limitations to Consider

Despite its advantages, there are certain limitations:

  • Specialized Pallets Required: Standard pallets might not work efficiently; you may need specialized ones designed for flow operations.

Suitable Applications

This racking system finds its niche in specific environments:

  • Temperature-Controlled Environments: Ideal for perishable goods in cold storage.
  • High Throughput Distribution Centers: Suited for facilities with rapid turnover and high inventory throughput.

Feasibility Assessment

To determine if pallet flow racking suits your facility, consider:

  • Inventory Type: FIFO is crucial for perishable or time-sensitive products.
  • Operational Speed: High turnover rates benefit most from this system.
  • Available Budget: Initial investment can be substantial due to specialized components.

By understanding these elements, you can better gauge whether pallet flow racking aligns with your operational needs and warehouse conditions.

5. Push Back Racking

Push Back Racking uses sloping rails and nested carts to create compact storage that is still easy to reach for multiple pallets with different products. Unlike other types of racking, this design allows for the Last-In-First-Out (LIFO) method of inventory management, which is perfect for businesses with moderate product turnover.

How Push Back Racking Works

  • Load Rails: These angled rails enable pallets to roll backwards as new ones are loaded in.
  • Nested Carts: Each lane has several carts that fit inside one another, moving in reverse as more pallets are added.
  • Braking Mechanisms: These mechanisms ensure that pallet movement is smooth and controlled.

Benefits of Push Back Racking

  • Increased Picking Face Capacity: By storing pallets deep within the system, you can have more products available at the picking face.
  • Reduced Forklift Travel Distance: Since fewer aisles are needed with this type of racking, forklifts have to travel shorter distances.

Considerations for Push Back Racking

  • Homogeneous Pallet Weights and Sizes: It's important to have similar weights and sizes for the pallets in each lane so that the system can perform optimally.

Applications of Push Back Racking

This type of racking is commonly used in:

  • Bulk Storage: Where large quantities of the same product are stored together.
  • Order Consolidation Scenarios: When multiple orders need to be picked and packed efficiently.

When deciding whether Push Back Racking is suitable for your warehouse, take into account factors such as how quickly your inventory turns over and your need for space optimization. This system works best in situations where you require dense storage and fast access to various products.

6. Cantilever Racking

Cantilever racking is a specialized solution designed for the storage of long, bulky items such as lumber, pipes, or furniture. This system is characterized by its unique arm-based design, which offers several advantages:

  • Easy Accessibility: The open-front design allows for easy loading and unloading without the interference of vertical supports.
  • Adaptability: Suitable for irregular load shapes and sizes.

Cantilever racking comes in two main configurations:

  • Single-sided Cantilever Racking: Ideal for placement against walls, maximizing space utilization.
  • Double-sided Cantilever Racking: Provides storage on both sides of the central support structure for greater capacity.


  • Versatility: Can store items of varying lengths and weights.
  • Customizability: Adjustable arms to accommodate different load requirements.


  • Space Utilization: Less efficient in terms of vertical space compared to traditional pallet racking systems.

Appropriate Industries

  • Construction: Ideal for storing long building materials like beams and planks.
  • Retail: Used in home improvement stores for items like metal rods and wooden panels.
  • Manufacturing: Suitable for storing raw materials such as metal pipes and plastic tubing.

Suitability Criteria

To determine if cantilever racking fits your warehouse needs, consider:

  • Load Characteristics: Evaluate if your inventory includes long or bulky items.
  • Space Availability: Assess if there is sufficient horizontal space for installation.
  • Accessibility Requirements: Determine if your operations necessitate easy access to irregularly shaped loads.

Other Types of Industrial Racking Systems

Exploring additional specialized racking systems enhances your understanding of warehouse optimization. These systems cater to unique storage requirements and operational efficiencies:

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) Racking

Designed for maximum space utilization, VNA racking narrows the aisle width to accommodate specialized forklifts. This system is ideal for high-density storage environments where maximizing floor space is crucial.

Compact Racking

Also known as mobile racking, compact racking involves a series of racks mounted on mobile bases that can be moved along rails. This system eliminates the need for multiple aisles, significantly increasing storage capacity.

Live Pallet Racking

Utilizing gravity-driven mechanisms, live pallet racking systems enable automatic stock rotation. Ideal for FIFO inventory management, these are often used in temperature-controlled environments like cold storage or distribution centers with high turnover rates.

Mobile Racking

Mobile racking allows entire rows of shelving to move along floor tracks, creating a flexible and dynamic storage solution. This system is particularly effective in warehouses with variable storage needs and limited space.

Understanding these specialized systems helps you tailor your warehouse strategy to specific operational demands, enhancing both efficiency and productivity.


Choosing the right industrial racking system is crucial for optimizing your warehouse storage and ensuring smooth operations. Carefully evaluate your specific needs, such as load capacity, inventory turnover, and available space, to make an informed decision.

While the types of racking systems discussed in this article are widely used, consulting with a professional can provide personalized advice tailored to your warehouse layout and design. This ensures that you maximize efficiency and safety.

Explore our range of industrial racking solutions to find the perfect fit for your warehouse needs. Make a choice that aligns with your operational goals and sets you up for long-term success.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Selective Racking?

Selective Racking is the most common type of industrial racking system, consisting of upright frames and horizontal beams to store a wide range of products.

2. What are the advantages of Selective Racking?

Selective Racking offers versatility and easy adjustability to store various products, making it suitable for industries such as retail, distribution centers, and manufacturing.

3. What is Double Deep Racking?

Double Deep Racking involves placing one pallet behind another to maximize warehouse space by doubling the storage capacity.

4. What are the key design features of Drive-in/Drive-through Racking?

Drive-in/Drive-through Racking enables deep stacking and efficient space utilization while minimizing aisle space, making it suitable for industries like food and beverage.

5. How does Push Back Racking work?

Push Back Racking uses sloping rails and nested carts to create a dynamic storage solution, increasing picking face capacity by storing pallets deep within the racks.

6. What are the advantages of Cantilever Racking?

The cantilever rack offers versatility in storing items of varying lengths and weights, making it ideal for industries like construction

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