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Choosing the Right Industrial Shelving for Your Warehouse


Today’s warehouses store more inventory than ever, but only 20% of current warehouse space is used to its full potential. Industrial shelving can help you maximize the space in your warehouse and keep inventory organized while boosting overall employee productivity. 

Whether you are looking to optimize unused space or upgrade deteriorated shelving in your warehouse, industrial shelving is a critical component of efficient storage. Sometimes, it's possible to reduce your warehouse’s square footage by consolidating unused shelving or optimizing your inventory. When choosing the best industrial shelving for your warehouse, consider these key factors:

  • Warehouse layout and space utilization
  • Type and characteristics of inventory
  • Safety and compliance regulations
  • Environmental factors

While there are seemingly endless shelving and racking options, our guidance will help you select industrial shelving to maximize space, efficiency, and safety. 

Understanding Industrial Shelving Systems

The primary way inventory is stored and organized across industries is with industrial shelving systems. Industrial shelving holds large volumes of warehouse inventory, ranging from small bins or boxes to bulky items such as pallets or furniture. Some industrial shelving systems are made of steel and can be outfitted with various systems to maximize space and organization. 

In many warehouses, industrial shelving is stacked high, utilizing all vertical storage space in a warehouse. Depending on the size and type of inventory, a warehouse may use a combination of storage systems to maximize space and organize SKUs. The most common types of industrial shelving are:

  • Selective Pallet Racking
  • Cantilever Racking
  • Wire Shelving
  • Dynamic Industrial Shelving

Download The Guide To Optimizing Warehouse Space Utilization

UNEX Guide to Optimizing Warehouse Space

Comparing Common Types of Industrial Shelving

Before choosing industrial shelving for your warehouse, you need to understand the differences between the four popular types of industrial shelving. Below, we cover ideal applications, benefits, considerations, and limitations for each.

Selective Pallet Racking

Designed for pallet storage, selective pallet racking is made of steel and stores pallets in rows up multiple vertical levels. Every pallet position is accessible and visible from the aisle, so employees can easily select pallets without moving other inventory.

  • Ideal Application: This versatile industrial shelving is typically static and provides easy access to a low number of SKUs. Selective pallet racking can be incorporated with other storage systems, like dynamic high-density storage and wire shelving.
  • Benefits: Selective pallet racking is popular and easy to find. It doesn’t require special equipment and can create wide aisles for easy forklift maneuvering. 
  • Considerations & Limitations: This system requires more aisle area than storage area, taking up additional space.


Cantilever Racking

Made for heavy-duty storage, steel cantilever racking stores awkwardly shaped or bulky materials. Unlike other racking and shelving systems, it doesn’t have vertical posts on the front, making it ideal for large, long items. 

  • Ideal Application: Cantilever racking is often used in warehouses that store furniture, lumber, PVC pipes, and other large items. 
  • Benefits: This type of industrial shelving has a high weight capacity and increases vertical storage capacity, freeing up valuable floor space. Without a front support column, forklifts and dollies can easily access inventory. 
  • Considerations & Limitations: While cantilever racking optimizes vertical space, it does require lots of horizontal floor space. It also can’t adequately store traditional pallets.

Wire Shelving

Also known as wire rack, wire shelving is a lighter alternative to rivet shelving. This type of static industrial shelving is easy to assemble. Its open design provides high visibility on shelving units while allowing air to circulate between the shelves and inventory.

  • Ideal Application: Wire shelving is versatile and compatible with pallet racking. It can be used as shelves, and it can be installed directly into existing structures. Wire shelving is often used in warehouses where cleanliness is necessary.
  • Benefits: Wire shelving allows for better ventilation and safety. It’s rust-resistant and highly durable. If fire sprinklers are activated, water can run through the shelving’s open design.
  • Considerations & Limitations: Wire shelving may have a lower weight-bearing capacity than solid shelves.


Dynamic Industrial Shelving

A brilliant alternative to static industrial shelving, dynamic shelving is unique because it’s movable within the rack. Lightweight and durable, most dynamic shelving is made of movable columns that can be pushed from side to side, optimizing space and efficiency.

  • Ideal Application: Dynamic industrial shelving is compatible with pallet racks. It’s ideal for high-density storage applications with slower-moving products. Like wire shelving, it’s also used in applications where fire safety and cleanliness are a priority. 
  • Benefits: Dynamic shelving is lightweight, yet strong and durable. Because of its compatibility with pallet racks, dynamic shelving can be installed into existing structures, making it a cost-effective option. It dramatically increases storage by condensing standard pallet racks or shelving. 
  • Considerations & Limitations: While dynamic industrial shelving is versatile, it’s not designed to hold bulky or extremely heavy inventory.


5 Key Considerations for Choosing Industrial Shelving

Now that you know more about the most popular types of industrial shelving, here is what you should consider before choosing industrial shelving for your warehouse

  1. Warehouse Layout and Space Utilization: Whether your warehouse is large or small, industrial shelving should make your space work most efficiently, whether that’s adding pallet storage above shelving or dynamic shelving to existing pallet racking. Shelving should be configured to use every inch of your warehouse layout, minimizing travel and maximizing productivity.

  2. Inventory Characteristics: Consider what type of inventory you store in the warehouse. Is it small, large, or bulky? Is it light or heavy? Do you have low, medium, or high throughout SKUs — or a mixture of all? You may need to mix and match industrial shelving to meet your operational needs.

  3. Accessibility and Retrieval Speed: While closed shelving keeps smaller items from falling, open shelving allows employees to easily see and pick inventory. Are employees picking small items from boxes or moving entire pallets?

  4. Environmental Factors: Consider whether your warehouse has climate-controlled areas and needs industrial shelving systems that can handle low temperatures.

  5. Safety and Compliance Regulations: Always consider safety and compliance regulations when choosing shelving. Warehouses need to ensure there’s enough clearance from ventilation, sprinklers, and other obstructions.


Best Practices for Selecting and Implementing Industrial Shelving 

With industrial shelving types and key considerations in mind, we recommend following these best practices to help you select and implement new industrial shelving in your warehouse. 

  1. Conduct a Warehouse Assessment: First, conduct a warehouse assessment to determine the best way to optimize your space with industrial shelving. An efficient warehouse layout will minimize wasted space while reducing the time it takes employees to fill orders.

  2. Consult with Experts and Suppliers: Next, schedule a consult with industrial shelving experts and suppliers. They can recommend products, find solutions for unused space, and ensure the industrial shelving is suitable for your inventory.

  3. Consider Installation and Maintenance: After you’ve chosen your shelving storage system, ensure it’s properly installed by qualified experts. Plan for ongoing maintenance, annually at a minimum, to ensure your industrial shelving is safe and compliant.

  4. Take Training and Safety Protocols Into Account: Once installed, it’s necessary to train employees on how to use your new shelving system, including proper shelf loading and safety procedures. 

Discover Dynamic Industrial Shelving Solutions from UNEX

While static industrial shelving is often the default approach to warehouse storage, dynamic industrial shelving solutions offer better ways to maximize throughput across fulfillment operations. UNEX dynamic storage solutions help warehouses accelerate operations and unlock their full potential by maximizing space utilization. 

SpanTrack: Carton Flow Storage Systems

Designed to drop into existing pallet racks with very little effort, SpanTrack is a carton flow storage system that effectively stores products with a wide variation in size and weight. Carton flow systems replenish cartons from the back of the shelving while picking happens at the front. 

Compared to picking from pallets, SpanTrack increases throughput by up to 150%. UNEX offers numerous SpanTrack configurations and track styles — this versatile solution can be customized to your warehouse’s unique needs. Choose from various end styles, flow options, and accessories. No matter how SpanTrack is customized, it eliminates hang-ups with 300% more product contact than plastic wheel rails. 

SpeedCell: Dynamic High-Density Shelving

Want to dramatically increase storage density by 40-60% and improve the efficiency of organizing and picking inventory? You should consider SpeedCell. SpeedCell is a dynamic industrial shelving solution that maximizes space utilization within standard pallet racking. It can compress 200’ of rack or shelving into 40’ of highly organized space. 

Speedcell is made of high-strength storage cells within columns. These columns are suspended in industrial pallet racks and hung on a steel track system. To reach inventory, workers can easily slide each column back and forth, making every SKU more accessible. Here are a few of Speedcell’s many features:

  • Offered in 6 standard column sizes ranging from XS to XXL
  • Can be purchased with or without racking
  • Flame- and mold- resistant
  • Cells can hold up to 35 lbs; Columns can hold up to 240 lbs
  • Operates at temperatures of -20° to 180°F (-29° to 82°C)
SpanTrack Lane Carton Flow Rollers

Efficient, durable, and dependable, SpanTrack Lane carton flow rollers drop into existing structures to create the ultimate carton flow rack system for manufacturing facilities and order picking operations.

SpanTrack Carton Flow Beds

SpanTrack wheel beds are flexible carton flow beds that drop into existing structures to create the ultimate flow rack system for order picking operations, manufacturing facilities, and more.

SpeedCell Dynamic High-Density Shelving

SpeedCell is a dynamic high-density shelving solution that maximizes space utilization within standard pallet racking, helping warehouse and backroom operations improve pick speed and accuracy for valuable time and cost savings.


UNEX Product Specialists Can Help You Choose the Best Industrial Shelving for Your Warehouse

Every warehouse has unique storage needs, especially when it comes to industrial shelving. Whether you want to retrofit existing storage systems or invest in a completely new system, it’s essential to choose shelving that will improve your warehouse’s efficiency and organization. 

Now that you have a solid understanding of the various types of industrial shelving, you may have follow-up questions or want expert advice on our dynamic industrial shelving solutions. At UNEX, our team is here to assess your industrial shelving needs, helping you choose the most suitable industrial shelving system for your operations. Connect with a UNEX product expert today to optimize your warehouse’s storage capacity and efficiency.

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