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Choosing Between Carton Flow Rollers and Wheel Beds


Material handling and SKU storage are central components of any warehouse operation. Efficiency is built on smart decisions around how inventory will be stored and moved through the order fulfillment process. With that in mind, warehouse operators must carefully consider the layout they create and the tools their teams will use to keep materials moving. 

Dynamic storage solutions like carton flow are fantastic for efficiently storing SKUs. Carton flow keeps products flowing to the point of pick and increases storage capacity so you can store more SKUs in less space. 

To ensure the smoothest and most efficient flow possible, you must choose whether to use carton flow rollers or wheel beds — or a blend of both — in your warehouse. Let’s look at the key differences between these options to see how you can use them to build the most efficient order fulfillment operation.

Understanding Carton Flow Systems

Carton flow racking is a dynamic storage solution designed to optimize inventory storage and promote optimal space utilization in a warehouse. Carton flow racks rely on angled shelves and roller-based conveyors to move inventory seamlessly from the stocking side of the shelf to the pick face.

This conveyor-based setup simplifies first-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory management and streamlines picking and fulfillment processes. Inventory can be condensed into a smaller footprint, thus minimizing worker movement when picking stock for orders. Having products readily available at the pick face also improves visibility, picking efficiency, and worker safety. 

If you’re considering carton flow, you may be wondering whether you need carton flow rollers or carton flow beds. Which option is right for your product mix? What are the key differences? Choosing between rollers or wheel beds is an important decision that will help ensure you are maximizing space utilization within your facility. Picking the right option for your particular needs can significantly enhance the efficiency of your inventory flow. Let us help you get a better understanding of your carton flow options so you can feel confident you are choosing the right type of tracks for the specific needs of your operation.

Get The Definitive Guide to Carton Flow Storage and The Ultimate Order Picking Checklist. Download the guide today!


Carton Flow Rollers vs. Wheel Beds

Carton flow wheel beds and rollers each have their distinct benefits, and both can improve stocking and picking efficiency in your warehouse. Let’s unpack the unique features and advantages of each option.


Carton Flow Rollers: Features and Benefits

Carton flow rollers are ideal for facilities that manage products of consistent sizes. They’re designed to facilitate efficient inventory flow in dedicated lanes. In warehouses with uniform SKU sizes, rollers offer expanded flow capacity and greater durability.

Carton flow rollers are also beneficial for inventory with uneven or irregularly shaped bottoms or flimsy packaging. They offer maximum surface area to avoid any hangups, which are especially common on older wheel beds made of flimsy plastic. This accelerates inventory movement, no matter the inventory shape and packaging type.

Rollers are also ideal for humid climates, where packaging may be more easily deformed or there’s a risk of imprinting on the carton as it moves along the shelf. While wheel beds are best for items with flat bottoms, rollers can handle changing carton or tote conditions by evenly distributing pressure over more surface area, preventing costly damage to inventory.


Wheel Beds: Features and Benefits

Carton flow beds are designed to serve facilities with more inventory variety — or an inventory mix that changes throughout the year. They can accommodate a wide variety of SKU sizes, allowing for easy re-slotting and reconfiguration.

With wheel beds, you can easily store a variety of cartons on the same shelf. Infeed guides allow for quick reslotting when inventory changes, making them a smart choice for optimizing shelf space.

Carton flow wheel beds offer less surface area than roller lanes, so they’re better for products with flat, even bottoms. However, their adaptability makes them a perfect choice for warehouses that need the flexibility to adjust for seasonal demands or a constantly changing inventory mix. Because you can quickly change lane sizes, reslot inventory, and adapt to the flow of various types of SKUs in your warehouse, wheel beds help you make the most of shelf space and keep products moving. 

Key Considerations for Choosing a Carton Flow Type

So, how do you decide between carton flow beds or rollers when choosing a carton flow storage system for your warehouse? Here are a few key factors to consider:

  • Uniformity of SKU Sizes: If you have a lot of similarly sized SKUs, full-width roller lanes will help you move inventory more efficiently. For varied SKU sizes, opt for flexible carton flow beds.
  • Physical Bottom Shape of Products: If many of your products have uneven or oddly shaped bottoms, carton flow rollers will provide a much smoother inventory flow. Carton flow beds are ideal for products with flat bottoms that are less likely to catch on the wheels.
  • Inventory Variety and Turnover Rates: Carton flow rollers are best suited for warehouses whose inventory stays consistent throughout the year. For fluctuating inventory needs, as in a 3PL warehouse or one with frequent seasonal changes, flexible carton flow beds are the better choice.

UNEX Carton Flow Solutions

For many warehouse operations, the right carton flow setup may include a mix of carton flow rollers and carton flow beds. Choosing the right carton flow setup is crucial for optimizing warehouse operations. UNEX offers dynamic storage solutions designed to adapt to diverse inventory needs and changing demand.

Both SpanTrack Lane and SpanTrack Wheel Bed share several advantages. Both products feature a unique drop-in design, which allows you to place them right into existing pallet racking to transform static shelving into dynamic storage. Built with durability in mind, both products are designed to withstand the demanding environment of busy warehouses and help reduce maintenance costs.

To better understand how each product caters to specific operational needs, let's explore the distinct features and benefits that set SpanTrack Lane and SpanTrack Wheel Bed apart from each other and from other products on the market:

SpanTrack LaneUNEX-Spantrack-Lane-Carton-Flow-1

  • Full-Width Roller Design: Provides a smooth, consistent surface for cartons to flow, reducing hang-ups and ensuring steady movement, especially beneficial for items with uneven bases.
  • Integrated Label Holder System: Enhances organization by allowing for easy identification and labeling of products, which streamlines inventory management and picking processes.
  • Optimized for Product Stacking: Specifically designed to support stable stacking of products, maximizing vertical space and minimizing the risk of product damage.
  • High Product Contact: Offers 300% more product contact area compared to plastic wheel rails, which significantly improves flow and reduces the chance of cartons tipping or getting stuck.

SpanTrack Wheel BedUNEX-Spantrack-Carton-Flow-Bed.jpg

  • Hex Hub Wheel Design: Features a hex hub wheel design that reduces friction for a smoother flow, making it easier to handle a diverse range of product sizes and weights.
  • Maximum Flexibility: The design allows for left-to-right adjustments in the slotting of lanes, which accommodates a variety of box sizes and can be quickly changed to meet shifting inventory needs without tools.
  • Shark Fin Infeed Guides: Aids in easy loading and replenishment of products, ensuring efficient restocking processes and minimizing downtime.
  • Adaptable for Various Inventory Sizes: Ideal for environments with frequent changes in the type or size of inventory, providing the agility needed to respond to market demands.

All UNEX solutions are fully tailored to your specifications and can be built to handle even the heaviest inventory or busiest order flow. You can build your SpanTrack Lanes or Wheel Beds with customized end treatments and other accessories to fit your operation. 

Whether you need to set up shelves for uniform carton sizes or an ever-changing inventory mix, SpanTrack solutions will help you streamline order fulfillment. With durable wheel beds or rollers, your warehouse team can say goodbye to hangups, poor shelving layout, and picking inefficiencies.

Making the Right Choice for Your Operation

Carton flow streamlines order fulfillment, maximizes operational efficiency, and improves working conditions in almost any warehouse, making it a go-to solution for facility managers. Yet, choosing the right type or mix of carton flow shelves is also a critical part of planning the design and layout of your warehouse. 

As you assess the needs of your operation, consider your current and future mix of SKUs, the shape of your products, and SKU throughput to determine the best solution for your needs. Look beyond your immediate situation, too, and consider your long-term plans and how those might shape the ideal inventory flow for your facility.

Ready to start planning the perfect carton flow system for your operation? Contact UNEX today, and a product expert will help you choose the right combination of carton flow tracks to increase efficiency and maximize your space.

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