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Push Back Racking: Super-Efficient High-Density Storage

Optimizing every square foot in a warehouse is key to profitability. Push back racking is a high-density storage system that maximizes space efficiency while minimizing costly warehouse labor.

What is Push Back Racking?

Push back racking is a super-efficient last-in-first-out pallet storage system. Nested carts or trays ride on rails within the rack frame. Each time a pallet is loaded onto one of these carts, it pushes back the one previously loaded.

The rails on a push back rack are inclined toward the aisle. As the front pallet is picked and removed, the one behind slides forward to take its place. This system is especially well suited to a warehouse carrying a large number of SKUs, as every pallet facing on every level can have a different SKU.


Types of Push Back Racking

Push back racking typically comes in two styles. In a cart-based rack, pallets are loaded on nesting carts, trays, or shuttles that ride on rails within the rack. Roller-based racks replace these carts with roller beds. In a roller-based rack, pallets are placed directly on the rollers.

Cart-based Rack

Pros and Cons of Push Back Racking

Like any type of warehouse equipment, push back racking has its advantages and disadvantages.


  • High-density system holds up to 90% more stock than standard selective racks
  • Offers up to five times more selectivity than drive-in racks
  • Faster to load and unload than drive-in or drive-thru racking
  • Each level and lane is independently accessible
  • A single lane can accommodate a variety of SKUs
  • Customizable and compatible with other types of pallet racks
  • Low maintenance
  • Forklifts don’t enter the structure, reducing risk of impact damage
  • Needs only a single accessibility lane, allowing it to go up against a building wall


  • Not suitable for all types of inventory; loaded pallets must be heavy enough and stable enough to push back the other pallets in the lane
  • Limited to six pallets deep
  • More expensive than a comparable drive-in system
  • Last-in-first-out system is not ideal for perishable inventory that will expire if stored too long


Push Back vs. Drive-In Racking

Push back racking and drive-in racking both offer high-density storage for last-in-first-out stock rotation. The two systems look similar, but there are several key differences.

  • Drive-in racks use horizontal rails. A forklift has to drive into the rack structure to retrieve the pallets at the back of the lane. The rails of a push back rack are inclined toward the aisle, so gravity pulls each pallet forward as the one before it is removed.
  • Drive-in racks are susceptible to damage caused by forklifts bumping into them. Because forklifts never enter a push back rack, the damage risk is greatly reduced.
  • Push back racking is better suited to multiple SKUs. It offers three to five times the selectivity of a drive-in rack.


How Push Back Racking Works

To load a push back rack, a forklift places a pallet on the top cart of each lane. The forklift then gently pushes that cart back to expose the one underneath. The process continues until all the carts are used, then the last pallet is placed directly on the rails.

Who Should Use Push Back Racking?

Push back racking is ideal for facilities with:

  • Little to no order picking
  • Nonperishable inventory suited to last-in-first-out stock rotation
  • High pallet counts with a limited number of pallets per SKU
  • High turnover volume


Industries that enjoy great success with these racking systems include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Third-party logistics
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Consumer goods


Structure and Dimensions

Most push back systems are made of structural pallet racks, though roll-form racking is also an option. The frame consists of uprights, diagonals, baseplates, and floor anchors.

Beams fit into punched holes in the uprights to provide lateral support. Rails are fixed to the beams with a slight incline toward the aisle – just enough grade for pallets to slide forward as the front pallet is removed. The rails extend the full depth of the storage lane and are equipped with either nested carts or rollers.

Backstops may be installed on the rails at the back of the lane so pallets aren’t accidentally pushed off the back of the rack. On the front of the lane, pallet guidance can be added to help forklift operators put down the pallet in the right spot.


  • Push back racks can store pallets of varying sizes – they can even be customized to accommodate extra-long or extra-wide pallets.
  • A rack can hold pallets up to six deep and four high.
  • Standard cart capacity is 3,000 pounds. Heavy-duty carts are available to accommodate heavier loads.
  • Standard rack dimensions follow conventional pallet sizes: 8 feet to 28 feet deep, with a 96-inch double-wide bay. Custom racks are available for non-standard pallet sizes.
  • A standard push back rack is 16 to 20 feet tall. The appropriate height for a given location depends on the height of the ceilings, the strength of the uprights, and the reach of the facility’s forklifts.

Design Your Ideal Racking System

Think push back racking might be a good fit for your facility? Before investing in any racking system, consult the experts.

Our warehouse design consultants are efficiency experts with deep knowledge of all the available storage options. They will examine your space, your stock, and your needs, then create a custom warehouse layout designed to work for you.

Once you know which industrial racking systems make the most sense for your facility, and the most efficient way to lay them out, ISS Material Handling will help you purchase and install them. With the experts on your side, you’ll know your warehouse is set up for peak efficiency, safety, and profitability.

Contact ISS Material Handling for a Free Consultation 

Do you think a push back 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.