Common FAQs - When Does Shelving Become Racking?

Difference between racking and shelving

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20 April 2020

Q. What is the difference between Racking and Shelving?

A. A key difference between racking and shelving is that shelving is almost always loaded by hand and the weight of the individual goods carried is comparatively low (typically less than 25kg), furthermore the total weight carried in a bay of shelving will typically be less than 4T. Racking is typically loaded by machine (forklift truck or crane) and the unit loads carried are typically heavy, i.e. many hundreds of kg; pallet weights exceeding 1T are common. The weight of goods carried in a bay of racking can exceed 40T in extreme circumstances. Racking is typically, therefore, a heavier duty system than shelving utilising larger members and thicker material.

If a racking structure has some sort of flat surface (decking, panels etc.) positioned on the beams then (with appropriate design) it is possible to use a racking structure as shelving. It is impossible to safely use a shelving structure as racking, i.e. storing pallets etc.

SEMA defines racking as:

A skeleton framework of fixed or adjustable design to support loads generally without the use of shelves. The term racking is usually qualified, e.g. Pallet Racking, Tyre Racking, Drum Racking etc.

Adjustable pallet racking is defined as:

A system of upright frames that are connected by horizontal beams to provide pallet storage levels, which can be adjusted vertically.

SEMA defines Shelving as:

A series of load carrying surfaces (shelves) supported by upright frames

Unfortunately, many people are not particularly precise in the use of these terms and will interchange them, which can lead to confusion.

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