Options for Bar Stock, Tubing & Pipe Storage Racks
Compare storage racks on cost, floor space, ease of access & safety
Especially in heavy manufacturing, machine shops, petroleum or chemical operations, large bundles of pipe, tubing, bar stock or other long, heavy loads must be stored and picked during the day. Multiple ways are available to store these loads. They can be picked by forklifts, by hand, by hoist or by crane. The choices you make will determine how you access the product (and how easily), how much space it takes and its safety. Here are the options:
Storing it on the floor
In some operations, this is the default method. Sometimes these loads are floor-stored between bollards and a wall, or other obstructions that prevent them from rolling or falling outside the defined storage area. This method is the baseline, and it’s not pretty.
- Cost: Floor storage has no direct cost. There is not much if any equipment to purchase. Some installations require bollards or posts, or floor striping for organization.
- Space Consumption: The floor is going to host exactly one bundle in a given area. It’s not going to stack well, and if it does, that’s a potentially dangerous stack.
- Ease of access: Ever try to pick up a 12′ bar of steel from the floor, or even off a stack? Typically you can use a hoist, but not a forklift. Most of the time, floor loads are hand picked.
- Safety: An unsecured bundle isn’t safe. But one that sits on the floor isn’t going to fall on anyone, although it might slide out onto legs or feet.
For any significant operation, this is going to slow you down, endanger people and cause inventory damage. It’s acceptable for a very low moving stock that is near to its processing machinery or otherwise in a niche somewhere that isn’t expected to grow.
Stacking racks are the most versatile option, but also have severe limitations.
- Cost: These racks are inexpensive, but you have to buy multiple ones to accommodate greater lengths of stock or tubing.
- Space Consumption: Stacking racks can provide a fairly dense product storage method. They can be stacked (depending on type) four to six layers high. They will require aisles for loaders or forklift access. They do not have the vertical utilization a cantilever system does.
- Ease of access: You must unload the top layers to get at the load in the middle or on the bottom layers, no matter the method you’re using for loading or unloading. This results in what amounts to extra picks every time you access anything but the top layer. For a product that is all the same in a given rack, that’s not a problem – pick a layer off and go to the next. For mixed stock, it’s a disaster.
- Safety: Stacking racks are stable if specified and stacked correctly. Don’t overfill them or add layers over what the specifications tell you.
Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.