What complexities does a steel storage racks manufacturer need to consider?

Storage racks systems may appear to be simple technology items built to store various goods, but for storage racks to function safely and cope with heavy loads, there are some complex factors that influence their design.

Puzzling equations

To calculate the forces on storage racks requires complex calculations. An extract from paper presented to the International Speciality Conference on Cold Formed Steel Structures provides an example of this:

“M over θ = bd²Ec over 12 where b is the width of the column parallel to the flexural axis, d is the depth of the column perpendicular to the flexural axis, and Ec is the modulus of elasticity of the floor assumed to be concrete.”

If this seems difficult to get your head around, the paper has even more complex equations than this that describe the forces that need to be accounted for when designing storage racks.

This academic study of the forces acting on storage beams highlights that designing industrial storage racks is not a simple process.

Two main design principles

There are two overriding principles for designing storage rack systems – they must be capable of carrying the load they are designed for, and they have to be safe.

When ordering racks, users must specify the maximum load the racks will carry, and the storage racks manufacturer has to supply racks that exceed this load specification in case they are overloaded. Tubular steel is used to make racks that are both strong and lightweight.

Manufactured standard racks will have specified load limits and will have been tested for safety.

Bespoke storage racks

Often, a business requires non-standard racks. These can be custom sizes or designed for particular items such as sofas which are difficult to store on standard racks.

To make sure that bespoke racks are fit for purpose, designers may need to use equations to calculate the size and strength of the components needed.

The designer of bespoke racks will need to also consider the type and dimensions of bracing to make the racks stable.

Multiple storage racks

Most storage areas need more than one storage rack. To maximise storage space, racks can reach ceiling height. They have to be strong enough to hold the weight of all levels. Often, the weight reaching the ground will be considerable.

Thought also needs to be put into how high stacked items can be placed and removed safely, and this may require specialist equipment. Ideally, your storage racks manufacturer will also supply handling equipment. With their help, you can design a system that includes the racks and the equipment needed to organise and use the racks efficiently.

There also needs to be a system for which rack locations goods are stored. It may make sense to store similar items together, or goods in high demand could be placed near despatch stations. Whatever system is used, items need to be located quickly and easily without pickers having to travel too far.

Storage rack safety

Though storage racks are static stable equipment, they are often used in areas where manual handling or mechanised equipment moves, and this presents safety issues. There needs to be enough space between rack aisles to allow the safe movement of manual handling equipment or forklift trucks.

Protectors can be fixed to floors to prevent collisions with handling equipment. If possible, separate mechanised vehicles from workers with manual handling equipment. Clearly mark the areas with signs, white lines and protective barriers.

For storage rack safety, it is not just a matter of installing racks that are strong and stable. The floors on which the racks stand must be strong enough. This may not be an issue on ground level concrete floors, but upper floors may need to be strengthened to cope with the weight of the racks and their loads.

Lighting is also important. There needs to be sufficient illumination for workers to see clearly. There should be an emergency lighting system in case of power cuts.

Before installing a new racking system, the management of a company is responsible for knowing about and following relevant regulations and legal requirements. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has a lot of useful resources and guidelines about safety in the workplace on their website and in their booklets.

It is the responsibility of the business to make sure that all staff are trained in warehouse safety. It is recommended that an employee is appointed as a person responsible for storage equipment safety who will make sure that racks are periodically inspected.

Racking types

Most storage areas use pallet racks suitable for forklift trucks to load and unload pelleted goods. If your operations do not use pelleted items, you may need a different type of storage rack.

For unusually shaped items such as sofas and chairs, specialist racks are available. Glass, plastic or metal sheets require A-frame racks that safely store sheets in an inclined, near vertical position.

Sometimes, a workplace will need storage equipment that can easily be moved. This will mean ordering a few trolleys that can be used for both storing and moving items.

Maintenance

A storage rack manufacturer that has skilled metalworkers will supply racks designed to last many years. However, racks will not last an indefinite amount of time – they need to be inspected regularly, and repaired or replaced when necessary.

If moving equipment accidentally collides with racks, there could be structural damage, so it is especially important to inspect racks after a collision.

It is advisable to purchase top quality racks that are made to last. Although regular inspections are still required, good quality racks need little maintenance.

Help is available

Designing the perfect industrial racking system to store goods is far from simple. Fortunately, your storage racks manufacturer, which has the experience of designing and building industrial racking systems, can offer professional opinion and guidance.

It’s a good idea to invite a designer to visit your warehouse to assess what type of racking system is best for your particular workplace storage needs.

Posted by Mark
1st February 2019
Manufacturing

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