Rack Codes & StandardsRack Design & Installation

Sticker Shocker: Why Used Rack Is More Expensive Than You Think

Many warehouse and distribution center owners consider pallet storage rack to be a commodity; that is, all racks are created equal. Therefore, to save a few dollars, they might consider purchasing used pallet rack on the secondary market—because its less expensive than a new system.

But buyer beware!

While used rack might appear to be cheaper, there is a significant risk that the purchased system will not create a safe working environment and be highly prone to failure and collapse. This can cause incalculable expenses from any resulting worker injuries (or deaths), as well as costs associated with product damage and loss, facility damage, downtime and lost productivity, insurance premiums and more. Therefore, any dollars saved by purchasing used rack will be significantly surpassed by those expenses.

The reason is because each rack system is uniquely designed and engineered to accommodate multiple, application-specific criteria. This can include (but is not limited to) the load(s) to be stored, their unit load weight and dimensions, the geographic location of the facility and its associated degree of seismic activity, local building code requirements, and more.

Yet, many resellers offer used racking for sale as individual components, not as a complete system. It’s not a safe practice to mix and match components from different manufacturers or installations — nor is it a safe practice to utilize used racking — without having a qualified, professional rack engineer review and approve the proposed structure.

A reseller may be unable to verify and provide proof that the used rack system in question meets the current RMI and building codes. RMI’s publication “Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks” offers more detail on this consideration in section 3.2, stating: “When purchasing storage rack, new or used, it should be clearly spelled out in the request documents and in the purchase order that the racks must be designed in accordance with the latest edition of the RMI Specification and Commentary.”

If used rack is being considered for purchase, a qualified professional engineer should be engaged to oversee the selection, design and installation of the entire system. The rack engineer should review any documentation associated with the rack prior to purchase to verify its suitability for use in a new location.

Identifying the original rack manufacturer, as well as the previous location of the racking structure, can increase the possibility of obtaining copies of the original design documentation for a professional engineer’s review. That makes it more likely that the beams and columns will be properly assembled in accordance with the original manufacturer’s load application and rack configuration (LARC) drawings. Permits can also be useful resources when seeking additional information about the used rack and its construction.

Likewise, it may be very difficult to ascertain whether used rack components have sustained damage from a forklift impact or other collapse. The components should be thoroughly inspected by a qualified rack engineer prior to purchase and installation. Any damaged or repaired parts should not be used. Additionally, resellers often “refurbish” used rack prior to making it available for purchase. While repainting is acceptable, any components that show signs of being modified or re-welded are significantly more likely to fail.

Still considering buying used? For additional details about how to ensure a safe used rack installation, visit the RMI website.