Among those who are unfamiliar with the operational requirements of retail and warehousing facilities, it seems common to assume that racking and shelving are essentially one and the same thing, whether made from steel or from another material. In fact, the two products are quite different, both in terms of their design, and with regard to the various uses for which they are intended.
Let us take a closer look at their relative structures. By definition, a rack is a structure that is composed of wires, bars, or pegs. It is free-standing, and may be used to hold or carry a particular type of object or load. By contrast, a shelf is a thin structure, made either of metal, wood, or both. It is attached horizontally, either to a wall, with the aid of brackets, or to some form of vertical support framework.
A shelf is intended primarily as a means to support a variety of objects. Whereas steel racking is free-standing, and requires three or more tiers to provide stability, shelving is able to fulfil its function, even as a single-tier unit, because it has support, provided by a wall or a frame.
Their design differences, of course, are what adapt these structures to the task and locations for which they are best suited. In addition to their obvious uses in the home, shelves are typically found in the retail environment, where their primary function is to display goods on sale. While occasionally found in the home, they are frequently used in warehouses and storerooms. In such situations, its main advantage lies in the fact that steel racking, unlike shelving, is self-supporting, and may thus be positioned far from a supporting wall. They can be stacked to a considerable height, therefore making the best possible use of the available floor space.
That said, while the benefit of a wall-mounted shelf is that it has a minimal footprint, and is ideal to use where floor space is limited, shelves can also be used as free-standing structures, when mounted on a moveable base. The ease with which they can then be repositioned means that they can also be of value in a commercial role.
It is clear that the difference between steel shelving and racking is not purely one of semantics yet, at the same time, there is a degree of overlap in terms of their use. One thing that is equally true of both, is that their quality determines just how effectively they will perform in their allocated roles. In South Africa, the name Krost Shelving is synonymous with that quality.