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Options for Pallet Rack Floor-Level Storage Versatility

Floor pallet positions: more than simple storage

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Change is inevitable, particularly in warehousing, manufacturing and distribution. Many warehouses will shift storage area missions over time. New SKUs, more inventory, and different business and operational missions can create the need for newer storage concepts. The problem? There isn’t always a place for new demands. When this occurs, one thing to consider is using the floor or lower levels of your rack system.

Option #1: Ground-level bulk and pallet storage

The most common use for floor and lower level rack bays is the same application as the rest of the rack: pallet storage. Most rack bays are used exactly this way, but there are some options that you should consider.

Above: sliding pallet helps reduce ergonomic issues with carton or piece picking in rack bays

If you’re picking cases from floor-level pallets, remember that this is inherently so un-ergonomic that OSHA has released specific guidelines for the process. The process can involve bending, stooping, poor angles, reaching and squatting that encourage injuries & musculoskeletal injuries. It’s also easy for pickers to bump their heads. To alleviate these concerns, as well as speeding the process, consider ways to reduce these motions.

When to use a floor-level beam: Although this is still a pallet storage function, some rack systems store their lower-level pallets on a beam rather than the floor. Some lift trucks require a beam at the floor level for efficient use (narrow aisle lifts, for instance). Food and pharmaceutical facilities often use floor-level beams to comply with regulations.

Ideas for reducing ergonomic floor access issues

  • Roll-out pallets let pickers pull the pallet from beneath the beam to access its contents.
  • Pallet dollies can sit beneath the lower rack level and are also good for moving and maneuvering loaded pallets.
  • Pallet jacks can also be used for this process. You’ll usually need to take it to the pallet, move the pallet and then pick. This is a cumbersome process but can be used situationally.
  • A variety of beam bumpers can be used to cushion the bottom of the first beam level to reduce these injuries.

Read more: How to Solve the Ergonomic Problems of Floor-Level Carton Picking

Option #2: carton flow installed on the lower bays for each or carton picks

flow racks installed on the floor level of a pallet rack system

Above: a common way to use flow storage in rack systems is to offer multiple flow levels for picking.

Carton flow is one of the most versatile and common ways to take advantage of the floor level. It lets you transform the zone in front of those bays into first-in, first-out case or piece picking without requiring special rack structures or floor space outside the rack system footprint. When you need picking space, carton flow is an ideal way to add density in the same footprint, particularly on floor-level bays.

Flow level takes up full height of floor level bays in a pallet rack system.

Above: this configuration places a single flow layer at the floor, which allows stacks of containers to move forward in a first-in, first-out rack picking application. 

Concepts for flow storage in pallet rack

  • Flow storage can be added for full-height picks, which may take up to 8 feet of vertical space.
  • A single flow layer can be added on a second beam level, above a ground-stored pallet.
  • Flow storage can be added as a very low-profile storage option to tilt pallets or bulk containers on the floor toward a picking aisle.

Single working height layer on a pallet rack bay.

Above: this concept places a layer of carton flow at working height, but leaves the floor level for either flow or bulk pallet storage.

These configurations are only a small sample of what’s available. These picking bays let you choose flow rack style, lane width, shelf spacing and more. It’s low cost to add carton flow to existing racks or to new installations and without much installation work. When you do add this type of storage, be aware of potential safety issues involving people and forklifts potentially operating in the same area.

Read more: How to Add Carton Flow to Pallet Racks

Option #3: SpeedCell for high-density storage within a rack bay

Speedcell dynamic picking compartments

The SpeedCell picking system is used extensively in floor-level rack storage applications. Since most shelves are single-depth in long rows, you need a long run of them to store a significant amount of inventory. Product is spread over that distance, which forces pickers to walk the length of it to access every item. That won’t fly for a floor-level rack bay.

SpeedCell uses the depth of the bay for concentrated storage density. These pick locations are accessed by sliding columns of pick faces to access the ones behind them.

Why does it work for rack bays?

  • Many picks in a bay-wide space.
  • You can store bulk pallets and unit loads on overhead beams.
  • Each cell has a unique location, which you can label.
  • You can build systems up to three rows deep and up to 12 columns wide, depending on rack bay width.
  • Pickers can easily access the storage columns by sliding other columns out of the way.
  • Very strong for tight space, but slower moving each-pick items.

Above: video displaying FlowCell utilization

Option #4: decked shelves for carton picking

Rack system with hand picked levels in the lower bay

Above: decked over rack beams for hand picks on the lower levels of a rack system. This allows bulk storage or mezzanine support above with picking areas on the floor. 

Typically used for case picking, this method allows you to store cartons, bins, parts or totes for hand access in the lower bays of your rack system using the same upright supports. You can add palletized storage on higher bay levels or support a work platform. This is a sort of “shelving” supported by rack beams.

Since beams have taller profiles, it’s not the most efficient use of vertical space, but can be ideal for the right application. Plus, it’s using the space beneath your bulk bays, and not other floor space. Also, reaching into the depth of a pallet rack upright, which is often 48″ or more, limits access. These limitations mean that you must be storing the right loads for the space and work flow.

Decking types can include metal, wire or wood.

Other options

The space beneath your racks is valuable, especially if used in ways that match your storage strategy, SKU profile, processes and safety protocols. Other methods for using this area include:

  • Secure storage: use wire cages or rack enclosures to lock away valuable inventory. You can also roll away security cabinets and lock them into the rack bay.
  • Carts storage. If you need a place to park picking or other carts, and have available space, a floor-level bay can be a good solution.
  • Pallet stacking. If you aren’t storing loaded pallets, you can stack pallets in that area.
  • Flow storage. Add tilted floor-level flow rails to the floor to allow pallets to flow forward to the front of a two-deep selective bay.

There are always alternatives that can help you squeeze valuable space that performs better. While this article covers many of those options, there are always other concepts that utilize the space for maximum efficiency and safety.

More resources

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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