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High Density Pallet Storage Racks: Comparing Pushback, Drive-In, and Flow Rail

The system you need depends on your load and your particular application

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pallet flow rack system in a storage area

When comparing different methods of storing and accessing pallet loads on rack, the choices can be a little mind boggling. Do I go with Push-Back Rack using gravity feed to deliver loads to the front edge? What about the loss of vertical space? What if something gets hung up? How about Drive-In Rack? Do I trust my forklift drivers to maneuver carefully enough? What would a rack collapse cost me? Does horizontal flow rail work for me? Can I deliver goods fast enough?

How can I know which rack style to choose?

So many features to choose from and factors to consider as you look at how to most effectively move pallets into and out of storage and what kind of storage best serves the volume you must move.

In the table below, you’ll find listed major factors and features that best serve moving pallets in and out of storage. It should help make your choice easier when you must decide on a rack style for your facility.

25 Features Flow-Rail Score Drive-In Score Push-Back Score
Picking / replenish speed Fast 3 Slow 1 Fast 3
Automatic replenishment in front Yes 3 No 1 Yes 3
Deep Lane Storage Capability 10+ 3 10+ 3 6 2
Optimizes vertical storage space Good 3 Good 3 Average 2
 Restricted by pallet length  None 3  None 3  Medium 2
 Restricted by pallet width  None 3  Medium 2  Yes 1
 Restricted by length + width combined  None 3  Yes 1  Yes 1
 Restricted by pallet weight  Low 3  Medium 2  Medium 2
 Product damage potential  Low 3  Medium 2  Medium 2
 Horizontal storage of pallets  Yes 3  Yes 3  No 1
 Pallet jams within the system  Low 3  Low 3  Medium 2
 System derails  Low 3  Low 3  Medium 2
 Run-away pallets fears  None 3  None 3  Medium 2
 Food-grade standard components  Standard 3  Optional 2  Optional 2
 Rust-proof  Standard 3  Optional 2  Optional 2
 Cooler / freezer compatibility  Standard 3  Optional 2  Optional 2
 Used rack compatibility  High 3  Medium 2  Low 1
 Retrofits onto existing racks  Yes 3  No 1  No 1
 Damaged rack part replacement  Easy 3  Easy 3  Hard 1
 Relocation of storage levels  Easy 3  Medium 2  Hard 1
 Lift circulates inside rack structure  No 3  Yes 1  No 3
 Fork-lift rack abuse probability  Low 3  High 1  Low 3
 Reach truck compatibility  Yes 3  No 1  Yes 3
 Accident frequency  Low 3  High 1  Medium 2
 Resale value $$  High 3  Medium 2  Medium 2
 Scorecard Flow-Rail 75 Drive-In 50 Push-Back 48

The correct choice means long term savings year-in and year-out

As you can see by the scores, each rack style has significantly different features and benefits. Keep those in mind as you consider new rack storage or re-doing existing storage areas. Giving it careful thought now will save money, time, and labor over the long term.

Pallet Rack Pages

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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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