Pallet Rack Design – Is Your Aisle Width Working FOR or Against You?

Ok, so we’re poking a little fun here, but in all seriousness, it’s critically important to properly define aisle width in your pallet rack design layout. Basically, it’s a financial boon if you do it right and a bust if you do it wrong. Depending on the forklift type or types you are using, there will be a direct effect on the number of pallet positions you can effectively build out and access in your operation. A miscalculation here is expensive and unnecessary if you carefully plan ahead… Apex is here to help.

Your forklift, rack width and pallet length are the key components needed to properly define aisle width.  Let’s look at probably the most variable component – the forklift, a little closer.

Clark VNA Order Selector
Clark VNA Order Selector

Forklift equipment is identified by several features but for our purposes, they mostly fall into these categories:

  • Counter balanced (electric and internal combustion):
    • Sit down
    • Stand up
  • Reach trucks:
    • Narrow aisle
    • Deep reach
  • VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) trucks:
    • Swing-mast/turret
    • Order picker

The following table shows you the aisle width differential required in your pallet rack design by these types of vehicles… it’s broad as you can see:

Typical Forklift Aisle Requirements: (Calculated on 40” w x 48” d pallet, 8” clearance)

Now, if we narrow this down just a bit, we are basically looking at 3 major aisle width categories:

  • Wide aisles > 10′
  • Narrow aisles = 9’
  • VNA < 9’

If we were constructing your pallet rack design, we would take all of this information into consideration to determine if you require wide, narrow or VNA aisles… or perhaps a combination of widths to most effectively and safely access your pallet rack.

Determining aisle configuration in pallet rack design:

  • Start with forklift “head” length (from back of truck to front of load back rest)
  • Add Load length – length of pallet
  • Add at least 6” for pallet overhang (could be more with oversized pallets)
  • Add 12” for maneuverability

Loaded forklift Apex Warehouse SystemsA 12’ measurement is commonly the default for warehouse managers when installing standard selective rack. However, if your forklift equipment is single reach or stand-up you would be wasting a significant amount of very expensive real estate with those overly wide aisles… in some cases, 3’ to 6’ of wasted space!  Moreover, if you have IC (internal combustion) machines… well let’s just say you’d likely end up like our friend Austin above.  IC lifts are wider than standard lifts and therefore require a greater turning and operation radius.

And don’t forget to account for extra depth required in deep-reach pallet rack if that’s your rack of choice. Deep-reach can require 12” to 18” of additional aisle space.

As you can see from the diagrams below, there is a significant space differential when comparing a standard aisle vs. narrow aisle configuration. The narrow aisle configuration allows an additional single rack row in the same square footage. If you are looking at growing inventory demands, your needs could be met with a rack configuration and equipment replacement vs a whole warehouse move… food for thought.

Selective Pallet Rack Design Aisle Configuration Apex Warehouse SystemsVNA Pallet Rack Design Apex Warehouse Systems

Good planning can take advantage of what your space, inventory and equipment has to offer to make the most of your budget and your inventory goals. Each forklift company provides specs and calculations specific to their vehicles, so it’s always recommended that you consult the documentation that accompanies your forklift.

Thanks for checking out our blog and let us know if we can help you design or reconfigure your storage operations or if you need help finding the right equipment to handle your inventory.  The Apex Warehouse Systems team is experienced and knowledgeable and we only recommend products and materials from trusted material handling manufacturing suppliers.

Lastly, for those of you that were hoping the Austin Powers picture at the top of the page was a video link… here you go, enjoy!

We look forward to working with you on your next project. Call today to get started.