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Pallet Flow Racking: High-Density Storage for Time-Sensitive Products

Pallet flow racks are the perfect storage solution for facilities that quickly turn over perishable inventory. It’s simple, scalable, high-density storage for high-volume, low-variety SKUs.


What is pallet flow racking?

A pallet flow rack is a high-density First In/First Out (FIFO) storage system powered by gravity. Pallets are loaded from one side of the rack and picked from the other.

On the loading side, a forklift deposits the pallet on wheels or rollers set in an angled shelf. The rollers turn under the pallet’s weight, carrying it down the incline to the picking aisle.

The forklift can continue adding pallets to the lane – anywhere from 2 to 20. When the front pallet is removed, the one behind slides neatly into its place.

The purpose of pallet flow racking in warehousing

Pallet flow racks help warehouses carrying high volumes of only a few SKUs maximize their space. A flow rack can hold twice as much inventory in the same size footprint as a static racking system.

The racks don’t allow access to rear pallets in the lane, so they’re not ideal for facilities with a wide range of SKUs. If you need easy access to every pallet on a rack, consider selective pallet racking.

Pallet flow racking supports FIFO inventory management, making it an ideal solution for time-sensitive or perishable inventory that must be picked before its expiration date.

Pallet flow racking


Advantages of pallet flow racks

When they’re well-suited to their environment, pallet flow racks create space, labor, and energy efficiencies.

Space savings

Flow rack systems create high-density storage, holding about twice as much inventory in the same size footprint as selective pallet racks. A flow rack can hold anywhere from 2 to 20 pallets in a single lane, with lanes packed tightly together side by side.

Since loading and picking happen in dedicated lanes on opposite sides of the rack, a facility can reduce the number and width of its aisles, freeing up more space for storage.

Labor savings

Dedicated loading and picking aisles also optimize efficient workflow. Workers can increase their throughput when pickers and loaders aren’t getting in one another’s way.

As a pallet is removed, the rest of the lane automatically slides forward. This automatic inventory rotation reduces handling, which saves on labor costs and lowers the risk of worker injury.

In many high-density storage systems, picking accessibility is the biggest weakness. Pallet flow racking provides easier picking access than other types of high-density solutions.

Energy savings

Pallet flow racking has the advantage of being automatic without being electrically powered. Gravity does all the work of pallet movement, resulting in zero energy consumption for the rack.

High-density storage reduces the required footprint of the storage area. This can mean putting off expansion or relocation to larger facilities and the larger utility bills that come with them.

Scalable and configurable

Flow racks are a flexible solution to meet a variety of business needs.

  • Affordable high-density option
  • Customizable to standard or nonstandard pallet sizes
  • Depth, height, and width can be adjusted to fit the environment
  • Dedicated SKU lanes aid in enhanced inventory tracking

How pallet flow racks work

On the rear side of the rack, forklifts in a dedicated loading aisle place pallets on inclined shelves in single-SKU lanes.

The lanes are lined with rollers or skate wheels that turn under the pallet’s weight, causing it to slide forward. A mechanical braking system keeps the pallet from sliding too fast, and a pallet stop keeps it from sliding off the rack.

The angle of the incline is another key component in keeping pallets from moving too fast. A material handling expert can analyze your unique environment and inventory to recommend the appropriate degree of incline.

On the front side of the rack, pickers work from a dedicated pick aisle. As the front pallet is picked and removed, the rollers turn again and the rest of the lane slides forward to fill the gap.


Components of a pallet flow rack

Besides the uprights and cross beams of the rack itself, a pallet flow rack has four basic components:

  • A static rack with inclined shelves. A material handling expert can calculate the correct angle of incline your rack should have so pallets move at a safe and efficient pace.
  • Smooth-rolling skate wheels on sturdy rails. Wheels are equipped with anti-backup technology to keep pallets from sliding backward.
  • Braking system to control the speed of pallets as they move down the incline.
  • Pallet stops that prevent pallets from sliding out of the rack.

Graphic describing parts of a flow rack


Types of pallet flow racking

Variations in pallet flow racks essentially come down to the rollers. The best rollers for your application depend on the inventory you plan to store.

Steel skate wheels

Affordable skate wheel rollers are typically used in storing standard wooden pallets. They can handle loads up to 2,000 pounds.

Magnum wheel rollers

Magnum wheels are wider than traditional pallet flow rollers. These sturdy wheels are made of reinforced resin, and resist cracking and splitting under harsh conditions like cold storage. They can handle loads up to 3,000 pounds.

Full width rollers

Full width rollers are the solution for storing heavy, extra-wide, or irregularly shaped loads. They can support everything from standard pallets to steel containers to plastic totes.

Pallet flow rack applications

Pallet flow racks are best suited to facilities handling a limited number of high-volume SKUs using a FIFO inventory management system.

Common applications

  • Pallet storage
  • Case picking
  • Pallet intake
  • Dock staging
  • Manufacturing assembly
  • Parts supply
  • Perishable inventory management

Common industries

  • Warehousing
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution Centers
  • Aerospace
  • Food and beverage
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy equipment


Finding your perfect pallet racking system

Choosing the right pallet racking system for your unique needs can be a headache. Our material handling experts can help.

We’ll consider the environment and workflow inside your facility. We’ll also analyze your inventory specifications – such as inventory management system, pallet size, container style, and typical pallet weight.

If pallet flow racking is right for you, we’ll recommend the best roller style for your needs, calculate the ideal angle of incline for your shelves, and provide custom assembly and installation.

And if pallet flow racking is not the best choice for your facility, we’ll tell you that, too, and help you find the storage system that meets all your needs.

Contact ISS Material Handling for a Free Consultation 

Do you think a flow racking system could benefit your operations? Contact us and we can merge our experience and expertise to come up with a solution together. Tell us about your potential project and submit the form below or give us a call at 833-754-2164.