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When Should I Use Carton Flow Rollers vs. Wheel Beds?

When designing a carton flow solution for your facility, choosing between roller lanes or wheel beds meansunex-space-wizard understanding what your inventory looks like and how it changes throughout the year. A carton flow track that meets your needs today may not be the most efficient solution four months from now - especially at a time when supply chains are rapidly adapting to changes in both consumer demand and production.

Knowing which carton flow solution to choose - roller lanes or universal wheel beds - doesn’t have to be rocket science! There are a variety of reasons why you might choose one over the other, or perhaps require a mix of both. But if you can answer these two simple questions, you should be well on your way to determining whether roller lane or wheel bed carton flow systems are the best fit for your operation:

Two questions you need to ask yourself when determining whether carton flow rollers or wheel beds are right for your operation:

1: Do you have a varied or seasonal inventory mix?

To choose the best carton flow solution, you first need to analyze your inventory - more specifically, the physical dimensions, throughput, and seasonality of your SKUs. Do you have a high degree of variation in the size of your SKUs, or are most of your items similar in size? As the seasons change, is your product mix changing as well? 


If the dimensions of your product mix stay static throughout the year, full-width roller lanes are a great fit for your storage system. They allow you to create dedicated lanes of carton flow that are optimized to keep your inventory efficiently flowing to the point of pick. Lanes can be designed in varying widths to match your product mix and increase your overall storage density. This carton flow solution can help operations with a consistently-sized product mix realize significant space and time savings.

If you need to accommodate a wide variety of product sizes, wheel bed carton flow solutions are an ideal fit. Wheel bed carton flow floods a level or bay of a storage rack with independently rotating wheels. This allows you to slot varying sizes of products on the same level while maintaining maximum flow and storage capacity. Wheel beds are a flexible solution that can be re-slotted and re-configured for seasonal variation in your product mix.


2: Does your inventory have rounded or uneven bottoms or rims?

The effectiveness of a carton flow solution largely depends on how it contacts the surface of the product it is flowing. Therefore, the actual shape of your product mix plays an important role in choosing the best type of carton flow track for your application.

If the bottom of your product is rounded or features a rim or chime, roller lanes are ideally equipped to efficiently flow it to the point of pick. Roller lanes maximize contact between the individual rollers and the bottom of the product across the entire width of the lane, allowing for effortless flow and restart. If you’re flowing low-quality cardboard cartons (or operating in a humid environment), roller lanes can also reduce the chance of inventory hanging up in your carton flow rack.


Wheel bed carton flow tracks, on the other hand, perform their best with cartons, totes, and other inventory items with flat, sturdy bottoms. Spacing between wheels can be increased or decreased to accommodate the size of your inventory, increasing surface contact between your products and the wheel bed and reducing the chance of imprints or hangups.

UNEX can customize roller lanes and wheel beds even further to provide optimal flow for your product mix. For example, beer distributors who need to store and pick bulky kegs in various sizes can take advantage of UNEX’s Keg Flow, which takes roller lane carton flow to the next level with heavy-duty rollers, closer roller centers, and special hangers. If you have older-style carton flow rack systems in your facility such as plastic wheel rails, you can take advantage of UNEX’s Shelf Track. Shelf Track replaces plastic wheel rails to improve overall performance by providing uninterrupted flow in both roller lane and wheel bed styles.

Still not sure which style of carton flow best fits your operation?

UNEX’s space optimization specialists can walk you through an analysis of your product mix and help you determine the ideal carton flow solution for you. Contact them with your questions and get started on building a smart space-saving solution.

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