Structural Vs. Roll Form Pallet RacksWhen is it better to choose structural steel versus roll-formed pallet racks? The answer is different for each operation and may involve a blend of both. In this article, we’ll review when to use structural steel versus roll form pallet racks in various applications.

When to Choose Structural Steel Pallet Racks

Structural pallet racks are made from heavier steel and can handle more pounds per square inch than roll form racks. In other words: you can use less for more. A structural load beam that is 3″ wide can hold more than a 3″ roll form beam, and the rack can go further in length with greater capacity.

Structural steel racks can also withstand an impact from a forklift (or other equipment) better than roll form racks. Though structural racks cost 20-30% more, they can pay for themselves overtime if you’re constantly replacing damaged roll form uprights and load beams. I’ve seen uprights with fork holes clean through, load beams bent like tin cans, and product dangling like low-lying fruit ready to fall at any time. Oh, and nobody knows who hit the rack!

Another benefit of structural steel racks is that they can be washed down, preventing contaminants from being trapped inside the frame. For this reason, structural steel racks are the choice for food handling warehouses, cold storage facilities and beverage distributors.

Other recommended applications:  3PL, any warehouse with a fast-paced environment.

Structural Steel Key Facts:
– Beam capacity: 3,200 – 12,000 pounds (with a beam tie)
– Upright frame capacity: 35,200- 51,000 pounds
– Handles heavy loads, forklift impacts and extreme temperatures better than roll form.
– Configuration options: selective system, pallet flow, pushback, cantilever, drive-in / drive-thru

With a drive-in or push back rack, structural is always a better choice. Live loads and constant forklift movement within the racks generate more wear and tear on the uprights and load beams. Structural racks can tolerate more abuse and won’t need to be repaired as often as roll form racks – which means increased productivity.


When to Choose Roll-Formed Pallet Racks

Roll-formed Pallet Racks are made of lighter gauge steel with boltless beam pin connectors. They’re less expensive and easier to reconfigure than structural steel racks. Though sturdy, roll form racks are best-suited for lighter loads, case lot picking, order picking, and narrow aisle applications. Fast-paced warehouses with multiple forklift operators frequently experience damage with roll-formed racks.

Roll form racks can be ordered with heavier, 10 or11 gauge steel (compared to the standard 12 or 14 gauge). But if a heavier gauge is warranted, it’s smarter to install structural steel instead.

Recommended applications: warehouses handling lighter-weight products, retail stores, facilities with seasonal product changes that require beam reconfigurations to handle varying product/pallet sizes.

Roll-Formed Pallet Racks Key Facts:
– Less expensive than structural
– Easier to adjust, reconfigure and relocate*
– Lower capacity than steel: 3,100 – 8,900 pounds per pair
– Configuration options: selective system, pallet flow, pushback, cantilever, drive-in / drive-thru

*reconfiguring racks to accommodate taller pallets may require heavier load beams and or uprights to meet seismic requirements.

Hybrid racking
Hybrid pallet racking combines the structural frames with roll formed beams to provide an economical yet rigid system.  Seismic calculations should dictate the type of racking used and should meet or exceed the engineered requirements. That said: it’s always a good idea to beef up your racking system.

Pallet Racks – The Bottom Line

For operations with lightweight products and minimal forklift traffic, a 100% roll form system can be a cost-effective option. Structural steel pallet racks are a better choice for food handling, outdoor operations, or any area with heavy forklift traffic. Many material handling operations have a mix of both.

Contact us to discuss what racking system is best for your business. Coming soon to Total Industries Livermore: a new racking system demo area where customers can test out equipment.

Further Reading:
Pallet flow, drive-in/drive-thru and other rack storage options from Total Industries
Our warehouse design case studies
Narrow aisle warehouse equipment – an overview