What is the diffference between shelving and racking?

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To the uninitiated, shelving and racking may appear to be the same thing. For those in the warehouse trade or similar, there is a key difference between these terminologies. This guide will outline the key differences between these two similar-sounding storage methods, allowing you to make an informed decision about which will best suit your business.

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It is vital that a warehouse is organised efficiently in order to ensure it works effectively for your business. As with every other aspect of a business, having a well-organised and effective floor plan with optimised flow is important in making it work for you. The storage options selected will give you a head start in achieving this.


When used in a range of businesses, shelving is used to store individual or smaller products that are able to be accessed by hand. Whether in a shop or garage shelving is normally made of metal and comes in a variety of heights. If goods are to be accessed by hand, they are generally built to only go up high enough for the average worker to use safely without climbing.

Again, if used in a shop garage shelving will either have an open or closed back; either one can be specified depending on the items destined to be stored there.


Racking is generally designed to store pallets, with access to these performed via forklift truck or automated delivery systems. Due to the use of forklifts and other mechanical devices, racking systems tend to be far taller than shelving. Similarly, they can also be deeper. Pallets of small items are stored on racking, along with larger items such as washing machines.

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Racking may or may not have solid shelves and tends to be constructed from heavy-duty metal due to the heavy weights to be stored on them.

Which is best?

Depending on the sort of storage needed and the way in which it is likely to be accessed by your staff, you could well end up needing a combination of both shelving and racking. Anything that needs to be selected by a member of staff by hand should be stored on shelving, whilst items stored on a pallet should be held on racking. This can then produce a system where both styles of storage are used in tandem, offering maximum efficiency in the warehouse.

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