Blog June 20, 2024

Racking 101: Choosing Between Roll Formed and Structural Racking

By Marc Menard
June 20, 2024 | 4 min read

Warehouse Mechanics - tips & tricks from an supply chain expertThe Nuts and Bolts of Racking

If you’re in charge of warehouse operations, you know that the right racking system can make a huge difference in the workflow and daily operation of your facility. That being said, purchasing racking requires decisions on a ton of different options – some of which could have minimal or imperceptible effects on your operation. In some cases, the decisions might not need much thought at all, as certain details can be dictated by what your go-to supplier prefers or what you have the most experience with.

For the next few editions of Marc’s Mechanics, we’re going to break down these options by diving into the “nuts and bolts” of warehouse racking – with the goal of helping you make better, more informed purchasing decisions. So, let’s break it down, starting with the two main types of materials used for racking: roll-formed and structural. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, and knowing these can help you make the best choice for your needs.

Getting Into the Nitty-Gritty

Roll-Formed Racking

  • Composition: Made from cold-rolled steel, which is lighter and more cost-effective.
  • Advantages: Quick to install, easy to reconfigure, and affordable. Ideal for most warehousing needs.
  • Disadvantages: Less impact-resistant, typically used indoors, and may require more frequent maintenance.

Structural Racking

  • Composition: Made from hot-rolled steel, offering thicker and stronger components.
  • Advantages: Superior strength and durability, better for heavy loads and high-impact environments. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
  • Disadvantages: Higher cost and longer installation time. Less flexibility for quick reconfiguration.

Why the Material Type of Racking Matters

I’ve laid out the composition of each type of racking, and the advantages and disadvantages that come along with each. But why does it matter, and how much does it really effect the performance of your facility? Let’s take a look.

Strength & Impact Resistance

When evaluating the two types of racking based on their strength and impact resistance, there are clear differences. Roll formed racking is sturdy with moderate impact resistance making it adequate for most warehousing applications. This option is strong enough for the vast majority of warehousing applications, but I would generally recommend the addition of shock deflectors to reinforce the sturdiness of the uprights.

Structural racking, however, is much stronger and can support heavier loads, making it more suitable for heavy-duty applications. Additionally, structural racking with its thicker and heavier build offers more impact resistance and is a preferred choice for environments with heavy forklift and rack interaction. For this option, the addition of shock deflectors can be helpful to increase the racking’s longevity, but it is not a necessity given its already strong composition.

Costs & Installation

Roll formed racking is generally less expensive to both install and ship due to its lighter weight and more seamless installation process with teardrop connections. Structural racking, on the other hand, is more expensive due to its weight and requires longer installation time because of its bolted connections.

Final Thoughts

When selecting racking the material composition of your racking, you’re probably going to be ok regardless of what you select. Nowadays, most warehouses you see will be using roll-formed racking because its cheaper, easier to install, and fine for most applications. However, if you need a heavy-duty racking system that can withstand harsh environments and heavy loads, structural racking may be a better choice. Ultimately, the decision of which type of racking to choose should be based on a careful evaluation of your warehouse’s requirements and a comparison of the features and benefits of each type.

Need help selecting the best racking setup for your warehouse? Reach out to the LIDD team for an assessment.

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