Rack Design & InstallationRack Repair & Reconfiguration

Roll Formed Versus Structural Racking: Key Differences

When it comes to designing, engineering and manufacturing pallet racks, RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification applies to both of the two main rack construction types: roll formed and structural. That’s because both are made of steel and both are more than capable of holding and storing heavy loads.

But how do you know which type is the better choice for your operation? To decide, it’s first important to understand the differences between the two types across five key areas: manufacturing process, durability, application type, configuration requirements, and cost. Here’s an exploration of each of those characteristics.

Manufacturing Process: Roll formed rack is made of sheet steel roll-formed into a structural shape. After a full roll of steel is slit into narrower widths, each section is then run through a machine outfitted with a series of rollers that progressively form the steel to create a structural shape that is later cut to length. The shapes are then bolted or welded together to create the racking columns, beams and other components. Conversely, structural rack is built from hot rolled structural steel components. The structural shape profiles (typically C, I or angle) of these components are created at the steel mill and do not need additional bending or forming to be incorporated into the rack structure. The structural steel profiles are cut to length to form racking components, including columns and beams.

Durability: Roll formed rack tends to be built from lighter, thinner material, while structural rack is usually thicker and heavier—particularly in the corners. Both offer high strength, can carry equally heavy loads and (when used properly) will provide years of safe, trouble free service. One selection consideration is that roll formed racking is more easily damaged by an impact from a forklift truck than structural rack. When impact damage occurs, roll formed rack sections are difficult to repair and return to their original shape and load bearing capacity (to mitigate the damage, a variety of accessories and rack guards can be deployed to protect the uprights). In contrast, because of its heavier construction and steel thickness, structural rack is less likely to be damaged by a forklift impact and, when damaged, can often be repaired more easily.

Application Type: Operations where there is infrequent forklift damage are well served by roll-formed racking. These include big-box warehouse and home improvement stores, as well as a wide variety of other applications where there are not typically high levels of vehicle traffic in the aisles. Conversely, facilities with significant vehicle traffic (forklifts, pallet jacks, and other material handling equipment) that frequently accesses products at multiple rack elevations may be more prone to damage from impacts, making them a good application for heavy-duty structural pallet racking. Industries like grocery, food, beverage and cold storage have mostly adopted structural racking systems in their warehouses because of their high volumes of throughput, large fleets of forklifts, and multiple daily load handling demands.

Configuration Requirements: Both roll formed and structural rack can be configured to virtually any type of storage configuration (selective, double deep, push back, and more). Because the beams click in place with limited bolted hardware, roll form is fast and easy to assemble and reconfigure, making it adaptable to changing pallet load dimensions. With its bolted connections, structural rack may take slightly more time to install, but the bolts provide a positive connection that ensures components are not dislodged by lift trucks.

Cost: Because it is constructed from lighter steel sections, roll form rack is normally less expensive than structural rack. It can also take less time to install or reconfigure, as the beams and uprights click into place via a teardrop shaped connection. Conversely, structural rack components are normally bolted together and must be tightened manually. As noted above, however, in an impact-prone operation, the return on investment in structural racking can be advantageous due to their inherent damage resistance.

Have more rack system questions? Visit RMI’s page of frequently asked questions, here.