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How Flow Rail Helps Reclaim Storage Space In Push-Back Rack

Add pallet depth and extra levels with retrofit and reconfiguration

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PushBack Rack

Push back rack operates through a system of carts that ride on rails in the pallet rack. Each set of rails has an incline through which gravity “pushes” all pallets toward the front of the rack. The carts fit atop one another when the bay is empty, and as pallets are placed on carts, previously loaded carts are “pushed back” by each added pallet, hence the name for this rack system. Push back rack is a last-in first-out system that reduces pick time because all pick faces are at the front of the pallet rack. While there are many benefits in using Push back rack, there are also some limitations.

Pushback rack overview

Benefits inherent in push back rack:

Pushback Rack Drawing

  • Offers higher storage density than selective rack
  • Forklifts don’t have to enter the rack structure to pick pallets
  • Far better selectivity than drive-in or drive-through racks
  • You can store a wider range of SKU’s than in drive-in rack
  • Each level of rack access is independent of those above and below

Limitations that reduce storage capability:

  • It relies on storage carts to move pallets in and out
  • Gravity feed requires vertical incline, eating into vertical space
  • Maximum pallet depth is 4 to 6 pallets (depending on rack maker)

Storing more in the cube is the goal

So, how do you retain the benefits of pushback, but reduce its limitations? A new innovation in pallet handling helps you reduce limitations – it reclaims lost vertical space and allows deeper storage in the lane. It also removes the need for special flow carts, and retrofitting existing rack is quick and relatively easy.

Flow rail lets your push back rack do more

skatewheel flow railsFlow Rail is a non-powered pallet flow system. The benefit of flow rail is that it requires no incline, thereby recapturing that vertical space used by push back and gravity flow rack. Additionally, there are no carts to contend with – just position the pallet at the front end of the rack and push backward. All pallets in the lane will move backward as well. To unload, engage the pallet with the forklift forks, tipping them down somewhat so that only the front end of the pallet is lifted and drag the pallet out of the rack. As the pallet moves out, it engages the chain cleats, initiating forward movement of the chain, and causes all the other pallets in the lane to move forward as well.

When more storage space is needed

As your company grows and more SKU’s are added or more inventory must be kept on hand, your existing pushback rack may not offer the capacity you need. A classic example: Storage facility with two sections of pushback rack storing 4 pallets deep x 12 rows = 96 pallets stored. In the same square footage, flow rail gives you 10 pallets deep x 12 rows which = 120 pallets stored. You gain 24 more pallet slots for every level of storage in your facility. That adds up to significant space savings quickly. It’s that extra pallet depth that allows flow rail to offer extra capacity in the same square footage.

Pushback rack comparison 1
Flow Rail comparison 1

Now, consider the vertical space you can recoup by eliminating that incline. It is possible to regain an additional level, depending on how high your current pushback rack is and how much clear ceiling height you have available.

More options for improved space usage in the end

Deeper lane capacity, more efficient use of vertical space and retrofit options rather than completely scrapping your existing rack and starting over.  Consider flow rail when storage space gets tight rather than looking at building or moving to new storage space.

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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.

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