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When it comes to structural storage racking, there is little room for compromise. Each design element must be carefully accounted for to ensure the rack is capable of holding the desired payloads. It’s easy to assume that a rack is structurally sound just because it uses heavy-duty bolts, bracing, and I-beam construction. However, the truth is that there’s more to racking than just looking at them at face value. You want a racking system that’s engineered to withstand your required workloads over years of use.

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Let’s take a look at these 5 design elements that we believe every heavy-duty racking system should have.

  1. Choice of rack materials

A racking system’s performance relies heavily on the materials used for its construction. The type of steel columns used, shelf beams, and arms will have a significant impact on the rack’s ability to handle high loads. This is where 50-KSI steel comes in. 50-KSI steel is high-grade steel that resists bending and deformation. The more tensile strength the steel has, the less likely it is to break under tension.

With cheaper grades of steel, they tend to lose shape over time as products get loaded and unloaded repeatedly. This can weaken the overall structure of the racking system may even result in complete failure if not addressed. Rolled forms of thin-gauge steel rely on its shape to support the weight and once it gets deformed, it can no longer withstand its designed weight capacity.

  1. Use durable hardware

Having strong connections between the columns, beams, and arms is crucial to building a safe racking system. This means that your choice of hardware will affect how your racking system holds up when placed under load. Use high-performance hardware like the ASTM A325 bolt can make a huge difference in the rack’s overall integrity as the oversized hex head provides a wide bearing surface for even weight distribution.

These bolts have long shanks which keep the shear plane between the I-beam column and the arm connector plate from falling to the threads. The threaded region is often the weakest part of a bolt and while using the ASTM A325 bolt may make a small difference, it helps to create a stronger connection which translates into better load handling.

  1. Check if the racks are engineered for 100% loading

100% loading is commonly used in cantilever racking where all arms are loaded simultaneously to their maximum weight capacity. Some manufacturers economise the column and base design by engineering the racks for average loading. Shop managers believe that all four arms of the rack will be fully utilised so they under-engineer the base and column, For example, a cantilever rack with 10 arms and a 1,360 kg capacity on each arm can fully support 13,600 kg worth of material under full load. To save money, engineers will under-engineer the arms to hold only 10,880 kg of material.

This is never a good idea. Check with the engineers and ask them if the racking system has been engineered for 100% loading capacity to ensure it can handle the cumulative load that it was designed for.

  1. Ensure the racking system is fully load-bearing

It can be difficult to plan for weights, shapes, and sizes when you’re storing different things like heavy dies and coils. While some materials rest on both support beams and cover the width of the rack, others will not. If this is the case, it’s worth having a racking system that’s engineered to be fully load-bearing. This ensures the rack is capable of handling materials of any shape and size without damaging the structural integrity of the rack itself.

A good example is when storing narrow coils. The most common way to store them is to place the coil in the centre of the cradle so it doesn’t rest on just one shelf beam. In order to compensate for this, manufacturers adjust the width, thickness and angle of the cradle supports to accommodate high loads at the centre cradle (which is often a weak point). If the rack isn’t engineered to be fully load-bearing, the risk of deforming the rack beams increases and causes dangers to both the materials stored and the workers handling them.

  1. Check for fully welded beams

You can tell a racking system is built for heavy-duty use when the beams and arms are fully welded. This can prove advantageous in many different scenarios like when a forklift accidentally pushes the forks up the rack arm. If the arm isn’t fully welded, it may end up getting damaged and compromise the integrity of the racking system. To work around this, the entire perimeter of the I-beam at the connector plate is fully welded for additional strength and support from uplift loads.

While it can be difficult to inspect the welds once they’re painted, you can double-check the weld by looking at the root of the joint which sits right between the rack arm and the plate material. 

There’s more to a heavy-duty racking system than just its exterior looks. The engineering, the attention to detail, and the well-thought-of design elements should be considered if you want a racking system that’s safe, reliable, and is built to last. Make sure to look for these 5 design elements when choosing a racking system so you can store heavy materials with confidence and peace of mind.