When to Repair vs. Replace Damaged Warehouse Storage Racks

Too often, warehouse managers take their storage racks for granted. Most storage racks are designed and installed to serve a long life cycle with minimal maintenance or attention. That is, until they’re damaged. This damage can easily go unnoticed or unreported until it results in catastrophic failure and complete load collapse.

Far too many accidents occur across America annually due to damaged warehouse racking. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites warehouse workplaces as one of the highest-risk environments. Each year, many American workers are injured by failing storage racks. Some of these incidents are fatal.

Injury and loss of life aren’t the only consequences of warehouse rack failure. Loss of expensive product inventory, business interruption, cleanup and replacement costs and possible litigation are other fallouts. Because of this, rack failure is unacceptable in any warehouse environment.

The easiest way to prevent accidents caused by rack failure is to make a regular warehouse racking inspection. Storage rack inspections not only help protect workers but they also help prevent damage to expensive equipment and inventory.

Taking time to check storage racks should be part of the business safety plan. It shows due diligence in complying with safety regulations as well as significantly helping to prevent mishaps.

Of course, spotting potential trouble with compromised storage rack systems is one thing. Knowing when to repair vs. when to replace damaged warehouse storage racks is another.

Warehouse Storage Racks: Repair vs. Replace

Deciding whether to repair or replace warehouse racks can be a tough choice for managers because there are many factors to consider. You shouldn’t view any of these factors lightly. Safety and cost are the biggest concerns, so the pros and cons of repairing a damaged rack vs. replacing it need careful weighing.

The biggest consideration is whether the damage is significant enough to the point where repair isn’t practical or cost-effective. This depends on where it’s damaged and how extensive it will be to repair. The rack’s age, its current condition, the expected remaining life cycle and the return on investment are highly influential factors in this decision. These factors help decide whether it’s better to make possibly temporary repairs or incur the expense of an entirely new warehouse rack or rack system.

Like with any important decision, you must consider the pros and cons. Pros for repairing a damaged rack include:

  • Less Expensive. Less expense if the damage is minor and the rack can be safely fixed
  • Faster Solution. Quicker turnaround time as you don’t have to wait for new racks or parts
  • Less Disruptive. Less business workflow disruption due to the speed of repairing vs. replacing

But sometimes replacing a rack may be the only safe and practical option. These are a few cases where it might be better to skip the repair work and just buy a new rack or rack system:

  • Extensive Damage. The damage is extensive and not worth the time or risk to repair
  • Repairs Due to Regulation Requirements. The repairs would require expensive oversight to be regulatory compliant
  • Equipment is Outdated. The rack system is near its end, or is outdated and the parts aren’t available
  • Facility is Relocating. The facilities are changing and relocating the damaged rack isn’t worthwhile
  • Repairs are Complex. The resources aren’t available to handle the scope of the repair works

Ultimately, it comes down to what’s best for the business, and the potential for component failure. Whichever way you choose to go in the end, competent inspection is the first step in deciding whether to attempt an on-site warehouse rack repair or invest in a new rack system. To know what to look for in damage and how to recognize if it’s better to replace than repair, you must view racks as a system of components.

Viewing Warehouse Storage Racks as an Entire System

It’s important to view warehouse storage racks as an entire system. According to the industry authority, Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI), rack systems are high-performance structures that are highly engineered to support product loads more than 10 times the actual weight of the rack structure itself. The RMI demands each system component be designed, manufactured and tested to ensure endurance and strength through its intended lifespan.

The RMI also recommends warehouse storage racks be inspected by someone knowledgeable and trained in how to engineer and install warehouse racks properly. That means the responsible inspector must consider the entire rack structure’s integrity. What might appear to be a small defect in a structural upright could seriously compromise the process of transferring a horizontally placed load through to the floor.

Warehouse rack structures are a simple concept, but they have serious consequences when a structural element fails. In theory, racks take heavy loads and transfer live weight, placing them in a dead or static position. They do this because they’re designed as a system of vertical, horizontal and diagonal structure members that support a maximum design load cooperatively. Here are the main warehouse rack components, all of which are prone to failure when damaged:

  • Vertical Uprights: These support the majority of the weight and are subject to failure by buckling.
  • Horizontal Beams: This is where you place heavy, loaded pallets. Their failing point is deflection or horizontal bending.
  • Diagonal Bracing: These keep the vertical uprights and horizontal beams aligned. They may fail from stresses causing them to spring or snap.
  • Frame Connectors: These pin components together. Connectors can be the weakest link in the rack system because they’re proportionally small, but undergo large force.
  • Baseplates: These are evenly spread load points to the floor. Baseplates experience compression forces. They often fail due to not being mechanically anchored. This causes the rack’s floor base to slip or topple.

Recognizing Warehouse Rack Damage

Warehouse rack damage is usually obvious. When one or more of the structural components is bent, twisted or outright broken, it’s very difficult to miss. However, some damage can occasionally be more difficult to spot, and what might seem like a minor or insignificant issue is actually a serious problem. Damage such as this is an accident waiting to happen.

Sometimes, workers don’t notice or report damage. This is where regular and thorough inspections pay off. Here are the main points to look for in identifying rack damage:

  • General Appearance: Does the rack appear plumb and level, or is it twisted and skewed? Crooked rows or bad alignments are clear indicators the racks are problematic. This might be an issue with the floor support that often results from vertical, horizontal or diagonal bracing issues.
  • Impact Evidence: Impact from a forklift or other material handling equipment is usually obvious. Paint scrapes and frame dents stand out. The degree of damage is a key indicator of how severe the rack has been compromised. But it doesn’t take much impact to affect other components and causes issues like loosening beams, braces or connectors.
  • Bent or Buckled Vertical Uprights: These can be hard to spot without a close inspection. It only takes a slight bend or buckle to seriously reduce an upright’s ability to stand up under heavy loads. Use a straightedge like a three-foot level and place it against the vertical surface. If a gap shows, it’s a definite weak point.
  • Deflected Horizontal Beams: Beam deflection is also had to detect. If sagging or bowing is obvious to the eye, this is a serious problem. You should immediately relieve loads and take measures to repair or replace the structural member.
  • Misaligned Diagonal Braces: These should be easy to observe. Racks that have been struck by force or physically twisted often absorb the blow through their diagonal bracing. Sprung or snapped diagonals are dangerous and need immediate attention.
  • Rust Spots: Paint blisters or rusty staining are sure signs of trouble. Once metal has corroded so much that the corrosion becomes visible, it’s often too weak for continued service. Surface rust evidence is often evidence that the material strength is weak and unreliable. Repairs will likely be useless and the rack should be replaced.
  • Loose Baseplates: A rack’s feet are crucial to its load capacity and stability. All racks should be anchor-bolted to the floor. Any baseplates that have loose, bent or missing plates and bolts should be pulled from service until you can repair or replace them.
  • Connectors: Examine all connection points for fit and finish. Anything that’s loose or out of place needs to be dealt with. As you’re dealing with these problems, however, don’t forget to investigate why the problem occurred. Bad connections are almost always caused by a pre-existing problem in the entire rack system.

Causes of Warehouse Rack Failure

Warehouse rack failures are almost always caused by human errors. It’s nearly unheard of for a properly designed rack system to fail on its own, provided you go with a reputable manufacturer using quality materials and assembly techniques. Most failures result from incidents occurring in the warehouse environment. Some examples of the incidents that might occur include:

  • Forklift Impact: This is by far the leading cause of warehouse rack damage. Forklifts are heavy, powerful machines and they’re operated by people who get distracted, make mistakes and sometimes are just plain careless. For many reasons, operators don’t report forklift strikes and even cover them up. Proper training is the first step of forklift damage prevention. Regular inspections are second.
  • Overloading: All rack systems have a manufacturer’s maximum design load. You should post these figures clearly on the rack or in the vicinity. Failure to comply with load ratings is the second most common cause of rack damage.
  • Changing Manufacturer Design: This commonly happens in older environments where the warehouse grew, and the manager modified racks to accommodate expansion. Heights and spans exceed the original safe design limits making stresses unbearable.
  • Money-Saving Tactics: Making rack purchase choices based on cost alone can backfire. Purchasing inferior systems that aren’t capable of lasting under posted loads is a poor return on investment. Remember, you get what you pay for.
  • Modifying Original Manufacturer Components: Mixing and matching components leads to rack failure. Using uprights from one design and adding beams, braces or connectors from a different manufacturer can be dangerous. It’s far safer and less expensive in the long run to purchase a new rack system than to risk blending wrong components together.

In order to maximize the lifespan of your warehouse racking, it is vital to implement policies that actively prevent these types of accidents and damaging behavior from occurring.

Warehouse Rack Safety

Safety should be the primary factor when deciding whether to repair or replace damaged warehouse racks. One major mishap in a rack collapse could mean thousands of lost dollars, not counting the expense of treating injured workers or suffering through a lengthy legal litigation.

OSHA has specific guidelines regulating warehouse racks. These guidelines are in place to guide the industry in a safe direction, not to punish a business when a mishap occurs. Here’s what you need to know about OSHA’s regulations regarding warehouse racks.

OSHA’s General Duty Clause discusses main rack safety issues. It generically deals with rack safety parameters and a common-sense approach to working with warehouse racks. OSHA gets more specific in its publication titled ANS/RMI16.1—Specification for Design, Testing & Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks. This paper identified five top reasons for rack damage and failure:

  • Forklift impact
  • Misaligned racks
  • Loose Floor fittings
  • Unsuitable material handling equipment
  • Overloading above design capacity

OSHA makes numerous references to information in the Rack Manufacturers Institute Guidelines. Their publication includes considerations for proper planning and uses of industrial steel racks. It includes rack repair details and what to know about purchasing and installing new rack systems. It also offers suggestions for dealing with engineering issues and instructions on how to properly inspect racks for damage and dangerous situations.

Working with a Leading Manufacturer of Custom Rack Solutions

Working with a high quality, customer-driven company that provides manufacturing solutions rather than temporary repairs is the safest way to secure warehouse products and workers.

Summit Storage Solutions is that company. We deliver diversified storage solutions that solve your space and safety problems. We’re focused on supplying custom rack solutions that are versatile, durable and built to last — all at a competitive cost.

Browse our website and see how we provide more than just vertical storage solutions. We offer storage racks, carts and containers all made in the United States. Summit Storage Solutions’ customers work in retail, wholesale, automotive, building supply, raw materials, industrial manufacturing and even the aerospace industry.

We serve the east coast and beyond by understanding and delivering value to our customers. We save space and provide a safer, more efficient working environment. To help organize and control operations, we integrate reusable and recyclable materials as well as reduce company training and maintenance costs. Best of all, our products are designed and manufactured in the USA. We’re proud to offer these custom rack solutions:

  • Vertical Storage Carousels: These industrial storage carousels maximize your efficiency and use of space by leveraging your unused vertical space. They are ideal for a variety of warehousing and manufacturing industries, including tires, carpets, consumer goods, textiles, wire, parts and more.
  • WIP (Work in Progress) Carts: These versatile movers are designed to get work in progress from one location to the next with ease and speed. They improve workflow by protecting and storing parts needed at different assembly stages.
  • Assembly Line Racks: Specialized racks that are available to dramatically improve assembly line efficiency. They’re excellent for ergonomics when designed to prevent assembly line workers from bending over or doing repetitive, strenuous tasks.
  • Material Handling and Moving Carts: These are best for unique business needs that require much material moving and handling, we can design and engineer specialized carts to handle goods. We give the best form, fit and function for specific performance.
  • Returnable Racks: These racks are the perfect answer for continuous assembly and restocking are returnable racks. They’re made to perform the same tasks reliably and continuously.
  • Shipping and Storage Racks: These are high-quality storage and shipping containers made using a combination of steel, aluminum and plastic. Custom designs suit every imaginable shape and size.
  • End-Item Racks and Crates: End-item crates and racks are vital where shipping is an integral part of the process. Summit Storage Solutions builds your end-item containers for the exact product.
  • Custom Stackable Racks: Companies with large inventory volume benefit from stackable racks. They’re the ideal solution for vertical storage where space is a premium.
  • Custom and Collapsible Baskets and Containers: We’re a leading supplier of custom baskets and containers that collapse. There’s no better use of idle space than to collapse containers when not being used.

Summit Storage Solutions is proud to help American businesses store their products safely and securely. Contact us today for a free quote on your next industrial storage project!

If you have additional questions about our carousels, feel free to call us at 610-921-1119 or email us at SummitSales@SummitSteelInc.com.