Few things have done more to transform the storage industry than the forklift truck. While the height limit for stored items would have once been determined solely by their weight and the capacity of human operators to lift them, the forklift, in combination with palletized loads, has put an end to such limitations, enabling heavy items to be stored on suitable warehouse racking at heights that were simply not practical prior to the introduction of these innovative vehicles.
While, in many cases, pallets may have served to simplify and speed up the handling process, they are not the answer in every situation. Consequently, alternative storage systems will be necessary in some cases. Depending upon the size and the shape of the goods to be stored and the method that will be employed to handle them, there is quite a wide range of alternative warehouse racking systems from which to choose. In practice, to ensure a safe and efficient solution, it is important for a storage facility to select the most appropriate of these.
For example, where the goods to be stored are contained in boxes that are light enough to be easily handled by employees without the aid of a forklift truck, a catwalk system could be the answer. Its design serves to maximise the available span and storage capacity while requiring fewer components than standard industrial shelving to provide one of the more economical warehouse racking options.
Often, however, it is the awkwardly shaped items that present problems with storage and retrieval. Items, such as timber, metal, or plastic piping and rods are often very lengthy, and thus the storage racks used to accommodate them must have no columns that might otherwise obstruct access to these items from the side. In such cases, a system consisting of long arms spaced at intervals and protruding from a supporting metal framework provides the type of warehouse storage solution, known as cantilever racking.
In cases where the palletized goods may be of many different sizes and it is most convenient to access the pallets from an aisle, the need will be for a storage system that can be easily configured to accept loads of different sizes while still allowing them to be accessed individually. In this type of situation, the most popular choice and also the most easily installed option for a warehouse will be the type known as selective racking.
Other options, such as push-back racks whose sloping design utilises gravity to allow newly added items to push back those previously loaded, in last-in-first-out systems and semi-automated shuttles that ferry stored pallets to and fro for either FIFO or LIFO rotation.