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Seismic Considerations for Warehousing and Order Fulfillment

UNEX Seismic Considerations for Warehousing and Order Fulfillment

When you’re planning your warehouse design, specifically in regions where seismic activity is elevated, there are many considerations you need to make in order to ensure the safety and well-being of your building, equipment, and - above all - your employees. Most warehousing and fulfillment operations utilize pallet racking somewhere in their facilities. Pallet rack is tall and designed to maximize vertical space for SKU storage. Pallet rack structures can support thousands of pounds of inventory - way up in the air - ensuring your pallet rack meets the minimum safety standards is critical, especially in areas with stringent seismic requirements.

In this article, we will explore pallet rack and warehouse storage equipment basics and how seismic requirements can impact the choices you make when designing or re-configuring your warehouse.

Who Should Care About Seismic Activity?

When you think of earthquakes, you probably think of Southern California, but according to the USGS, the United States’ science arm of the Department of the Interior, everyone should be concerned with seismic activity. Earthquakes can and have happened all over the country. In fact, “damaging earthquakes have occurred historically in nearly every eastern state,” which is a place you don’t often associate with earthquakes. So while there are areas across the U.S. that are more prone to elevated seismic activity, there are zero areas where seismic considerations should be ignored.

Pallet Racking and Seismic Requirements: What You Need to Know

When installing pallet racking in a new warehouse layout or updating an existing one, you should always have an experienced, licensed engineer review and take the correct calculations to determine the appropriate rack components that will be suitable for your space. Things like beam elevation and spacing, the weight of your pallets, and seismic location will all be taken into consideration. The seismic factors considered while designing a rack system today are very specific, right down to the address of your building. Even which side of the street you’re on can impact the seismic forces that are factored into the calculations!


An engineer will determine both the lateral and longitudinal forces based on your loads to determine your proper rack specifications. Pallet rack frames and beams may all look the same to most, but the gauge of the steel, the number of struts, the height of the beams, and the number of their connections can vary. The spacing between beam levels and the height of the first beam level impacts the strength of pallet rack frames. The height of your first beam level will determine the capacity of each subsequent level. If that first beam level is especially high, your allowed capacity for each level below it will be significantly reduced.

So, if you weren’t sure before, you can be certain now that it is critical to have your equipment reviewed by an engineer whenever you make changes to the elevation of a new or existing pallet rack system.

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UNEX Guide to Optimizing Warehouse Space

Can Your Warehouse Storage Equipment Stand Up to

UNEX Western Regional Sales Manager, Chris Rutkowski

an Earthquake?

We asked our Western Regional Sales Manager, Chris Rutkowski, to help us better understand the ins and outs of seismic considerations in warehousing. Chris lives in Southern California and has over 20 years of experience working closely with customers who are heavily impacted by seismic concerns. Chris is a wealth of knowledge and a tremendous asset to our customers in his region who are looking for smart, space-saving warehouse storage solutions that can meet the needs of the seismic-prone West.

We asked Chris to give us his best advice to ensure your warehouse storage equipment can withstand an earthquake. Here’s what he had to say:

"I would always recommend going through the local permitting process for a pallet rack project, regardless of your location. Have a registered engineer review your elevations to ensure your pallet rack components will work with your desired capacities. Retain copies of the stamped engineered drawings to cover yourself so you know the specifications of the rack components. These specifications will help an engineer when you make changes to an elevation in the future, or if you want to relocate rack from one facility to another - whether that is down the street or across the country. The bottom line: what works for one facility may not work for the other, so don’t assume, be prepared, and cover your bases!"

WOW. Thanks, Chris!

As you can see, there is a lot to consider, but with an engineer to make it official and give you total peace of mind, you can feel confident that you’re meeting the proper requirements to keep your employees, equipment, and products safe.

Seismic-Ready Strategies Using UNEX Warehouse Storage Solutions

If you’re looking to increase space utilization in a new or existing warehouse layout, UNEX offers several solutions that fit within standard pallet racking. These solutions are easy to install and can be particularly beneficial in areas where seismic considerations play a large role in your warehouse equipment choices and overall design. UNEX SpanTrack carton flow and SpeedCell dynamic industrial shelving are two key solutions that can help increase space utilization, even in high-seismic locations.

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.



SpanTrack Carton Flow

UNEX-SpanTrack-Wheel-Circle-1SpanTrack is one of the industry’s most reliable, durable, and efficient carton flow systems. When it comes to seismic considerations, SpanTrack is on your side. When storing cartons, the height of each box is shorter than a full pallet. This allows for tighter beam spacing, which means your load per level will be less, making carton flow very conducive to layouts where seismic considerations are a concern. For example, storing pallets would require a capacity of 5,000 pounds per level, but with carton flow, capacity is reduced to 1,500 pounds per level. When your beams are closer together, the strength of your pallet rack frames increases, making carton flow a really attractive solution for maximizing space while simultaneously ensuring your pallet racking is seismic-ready.

Another word to the wise from Chris, “Getting pallet rack frames right is one of the most challenging aspects of planning your warehouse design, especially when it comes to beam spacing.” Leveraging a solution like carton flow to enhance and increase capacity creates a structure that is sure to meet seismic standards.


SpeedCell Dynamic Industrial Shelving

UNEX-SpeedCell-Ready-Bay-Circle-1SpeedCell is another great solution for dramatically increasing SKU density while staying seismic-ready. With SpeedCell, your first beam level will be quite high (94”), but with the help of an engineer taking elevations into consideration, you can get creative and alternate SpeedCell bays in a row.

For example, your first bay would have a lower beam level for pallet storage (the outside bays on each row need to have the lower beam level). The second bay would be used for SpeedCell with the first beam at 94”. You would then repeat this alternating pattern down the aisle, ending with a final bay of pallet storage with the lower beam level. 

In this setup, your high-density SpeedCell bays would be treated as “tunnel” aisles in the design. By alternating each frame, you would still have a beam connection lower for either pallet or carton flow storage, giving it extra rigidity for lateral seismic forces. Alternating between carton flow and SpeedCell, the SpeedCell bays become “tunnel” bays where the frame is reinforced by the lowest beam on one of the sides. This strengthens the structure enough to be seismic-friendly. With this strategy, you can be approved in a higher-seismic area.


Work with Warehouse Storage Experts at UNEX

Whether you’re beholden to strict seismic requirements or not, it’s important to consider rack safety when implementing a new or updated warehouse design. If you’re looking for solutions that can help maximize space while staying seismic-approved, you’ve come to the right place. Our team of experts like Chris have experience in the field to advise on the best space-saving and seismic-ready solutions for your operation. We partner with thousands of distributors who have the knowledge to help you meet the specific requirements in your region, seismic or otherwise. Together, we will develop a total solution for the unique needs of your business. Plus, we offer free engineering support on all our projects to ensure your UNEX solutions are tailored exactly to your requirements. Contact us today to get started on your next project!

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