Pallet Rack Storage Options for Inventory Optimization

Pallet Rack Storage - Apex Warehouse Systems

It may seem less disruptive or even less expensive to simply choose selective pallet rack for your storage or order fulfillment operation rather than rock the boat with a high-density, dynamic or automated system. We get it, and yes simple selective pallet rack is a dependable warehousing solution. However, with labor shortages, increasing demand, faster inventory turns and higher warehousing costs… it may no longer be an option to simply “stick with” what’s worked “well enough” in the past.

To truly optimize your storage space and productivity, start with your inventory rotation method. First-In/First-Out (FIFO) or Last-In/First-Out (LIFO) stock rotation are the two most frequently used tracking methods. FIFO is typically used for perishable, dated items, or items that could be quickly considered obsolete. This method assumes that it’s best to sell the oldest items first. LIFO is used most often for homogenous items (think retail & home goods) and in manufacturing. Different pallet rack systems can actually benefit FIFO or LIFO inventory rotations and provide at least one important part of the optimization puzzle.

Let’s take a high-level look at the most common pallet rack systems with regard to selectivity and compatibility with either FIFO or LIFO rotation.

To FIFO or LIFO That is the Pallet Rack Question Systems:

Selective Rack – 100% selectivity for low-volume, high SKU inventory because it stores a single pallet deep. Selective supports FIFO inventory selection.

Deep Reach – If you require reserve storage, consider deep reach which is basically a two-deep selective rack. Deep reach rack will require specialized forklift equipment and will support a LIFO inventory rotation.

Drive-In Systems – Ideal for high-volume, low-SKU applications drive-in is designed for high-density, often deep-lane storage. The system supports LIFO stock rotation as the first pallet is loaded into the last or furthest available pallet position within the lane leaving the most recently stored to be the first picked.

Drive-Thru Systems – Another high-density system, drive-thru rack has pallet access from both aisles, allowing either LIFO and FIFO inventory handling. There is a downside to drive-thru FIFO rotation however since there’s no way to advance the pallets forward in the bay. As result, you must fill the system, then empty it before loading additional pallets This can result in a decreased ability for the warehouse to operate at a high capacity percentage. It’s important to consider the balance between storage capacity and facility operational targets before moving ahead with this design.

Push-Back Rack – Ideal for high-volume, low-SKU applications, push-back rack relies on an enveloping railed cart system. A pallet is placed on the top cart to start loading the lane. To add another pallet, the top pallet is pushed back into the lane to reveal the subsequent cart. The 2nd pallet is loaded on that cart and so on.  Push-back is most often used for LIFO inventory rotation, but can be used for FIFO, depending on how the product comes in and out of the warehouse, as well as the depth of the system. For ex – some produce facilities with fast inventory turns use 2-4 deep push-back with FIFO rotation – all pallets are loaded to fill a push-back lane at the same time, then subsequently picked for shipment together as well.

Pallet flow Rack – High-density, condensed storage rack system most suitable for a limited number of high-volume SKUs. It uses slightly inclined wheeled tracks (no carts as in push-back) to store anywhere for 2 to over 10 pallets deep pallets. It is a FIFO storage application that relies on opposite load and pick aisles for storing and picking operations.

After a high-level look at these systems you may still be wondering which system or combination of rack options are best for your inventory needs. That’s where the Apex team can help! We will do an evaluation of your inventory specs, turn rates, facility, equipment, budget and more to identify the best customized storage solution to fit your current needs and any plans for future growth. Our project managers can plan out installation and testing to be as minimally as disruptive as possible while still getting you the efficiency and ultimately the cost-savings you’re looking for. Apex is a one-stop shop for your warehousing needs. Just give us a call today to get started.