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A storage rack or racking is a structure that consists of at least two upright (vertical) frames, horizontal beams, and some form of decking (bars, panels, meshes or none) in order to store goods and materials.

Storage rack is an essential component to material handling as it allows you to maximize the height space available in your storage space, without subjecting your goods to load crushing due to stacking.

In this guide, we at SWL help you understand the various types of storage shelves racks and identify which is the one you truly need for your storage space, from a neutral point of view.

Fundamentally, most storage racking systems fall under these three broad categories: Light Duty Racking System, Medium Duty Racking System, Heavy Duty Racking System.


Light Duty Rack is designed for the sole purpose of hand-loaded storage, rather than using a machinery like reach truck or forklift. The loading capacity per tier varies between manufacturers but in general, Light Duty Racks can withstand between 80 to 250KG per tier, assuming uniformly distributed load (UDL).

These attributes make Light Duty Racking Systems best suited for lightweight storage in homes, offices, SOHOs or commercial warehouses that deal with ecommerce and small FMCG. The two common types of Light Duty Racks in the market right now are Bolt & Nut Racks and Boltless Racks.

Bolt & Nut Racks were very popular in the 1980s to 2000s as they are customizable to fit different kinds of space sizes. However, once fixed and bolted, it is hard to adjust the Shelf Levels or Tiers. Due to the additional components required to bolt the structure together, Bolt & Nut Racks are often very heavy and immobile, making relocation a hassle.

Boltless Rack is a recent innovation and became popular during the early 2000s, when ecommerce started to take off and warehouse logistics realized that they needed versatile and modular storage racking systems to adapt to the ever-changing good sizes. Boltless Racks are typically set up by connecting the horizontal beams to upright frames via connector hooks and catches, instead of bolting. The decking is then placed on top of the horizontal beams in order to distribute any load towards the weight-bearing beams. This modular design makes Boltless Rack Systems versatile and adaptable to a wide variety of storage goods. However, a downside of the boltless feature is that Boltless Racks may feel flimsy and shaky, when there is no load on it. Another downside is that they often only come in standard sizes and offer little to no customization to its sizing.

Regardless of which type of Light Duty Racking Systems, they often come in two types of decking – wooden boards (MDF/HDF/Plywood) or metal shelves.


Medium Duty Rack is also designed for the sole purpose of hand-loaded storage, rather than using a machinery like reach truck or forklift. The key difference is that Medium Duty Racks have better loading capacity per tier, often between the ranges of 300 to 800KG per tier (UDL), and has the ability to come as a Cantilever System.

Due to its increased loading capacity, they tend to have longer horizontal beam lengths up to 2400mm long and deeper upright frame profiles up to 900mm deep. To withstand the higher loading capacity and larger surface, they minimally use 12mm HDF Board or 18mm Plywood as decking, to maintain cost-effectiveness. Using metal shelf decking is possible too but at the cost of nearly 4 times the price of its wooden counterparts.

These attributes make Medium Duty Racking Systems best suited for commercial and industrial warehouses where heavier goods and components, such as automotive parts or stackable boxes, need to be stored.

Medium Duty Racks are sometimes referred as Longspan Racking by certain manufacturers, including us. At SWL, we further break down Medium Duty Racking Systems into,

Ideal Longspan Rack, where the loading capacity per tier is 300 to 500KG per tier (UDL)

Longspan Rack, where the loading capacity per tier is 500 to 800KG per tier (UDL)


Heavy Duty Rack, or more commonly known as Pallet Racking, is a robust structure designed for palletized goods and heavy goods storage. These goods often require material handling machineries such as a reach truck or forklift to lift. As such, Pallet Racks have loading capacity per tier that ranges between 1000 to 3000KG per tier (UDL). It also boasts horizontal beam lengths up to 3600mm long and upright frame depth profiles up to 1200mm deep.

18mm or 25mm Plywood must be used as decking, in conjunction with Centre Support Bars, to withstand the high loading capacity and large surface. Likewise, using metal shelf decking is possible too but at the cost of nearly 4 times the price of its wooden counterparts.

Pallet Rack is a versatile racking system that allows you to adopt it in various setups:


The storage you require at home or office is lightweight and normally doesn’t exceed 20KG per item. These items may be household or office supplies like a carton of beer cans, A4 paper boxes, clothing and food. In this case, the use of Boltless Rack Systems will be most effective.

Depending on the size and shape of your storage space with warehouse mezzanine, Boltless Racks can be configured into L-Shape Boltless Racks to offer better corner accessibility, at the expense of a reduced loading capacity across the L-Shape tier. This is due to the connection of the extended L-Shape portion borrowing loading strength from the main Boltless Rack.

Automated storage systems for home and office should be kept at an optimal height of around 2m and no higher than 2.5m for safety reason, as most modern homes and office may not allow securing of the storage structure to the wall.  Keeping to the 2m optimal height allows an average person to be able to reach the topmost of a storage rack, without the use of ladder or stool and without climbing on the storage cantilever rack itself. In the event that the storage rack has to be around 2.3m – 2.5m high, do remember to use a short stool or platform to access the higher tiers, instead of climbing on the storage rack.


It can be a daunting task to maximize space and improve efficiency within your storage space. A balance of space consumption and ease of order picking must always be considered. Here are some of the key factors to help you with choosing the right warehouse racking system for your warehouse.

How heavy are your goods?

Do you need machinery to store your goods?

What aisle width is needed for your warehouse?

What rack depth should I be choosing?


If your goods can be hand carried and generally weighs no more than 20KG, Light Duty Boltless Rack systems will be sufficient for your storage needs. With loading capacity up to 200KG per tier, you can easily store 7 to 8 of such items on a tier.

If your goods can be hand carried but weighs more than 20KG yet less than 80KG, it is recommended to venture into the Medium Duty Racking systems. With loading capacity up to 500KG per tier, this range of racking system is more suited for heavier items that often require two people to carry or a semi-electric pallet jack to load up. The Medium Duty Racking systems also offer better length and depth profiles for goods size bigger than 60cm x 60cm, in terms of length and width.


If your goods cannot be hand carried and requires a machine such as reach truck or forklift to load, Heavy Duty Pallet Racking systems should be your only consideration. It is the only system that is designed for machine-loading, due to its roll-formed structure that provides high strength and durability, and is able to withstand accidental small impacts. The Heavy Duty Pallet Racking systems also offer ideal depth profiles to suit the commonly used pallet sizes.



For Light Duty Boltless Rack systems with rack accessories and Medium Duty Racking systems, we recommend a range of 80 to 120cm of aisle width, if you only do hand-loaded storage, or mobile racks. An aisle width of 80cm is often considered minimally comfortable as it provides the user with ample walking and body-turning space, while holding a big carton box. It also allows the user to roll in your average trolley, single direction, when doing order picking or goods stuffing. If your warehouse requires two users to be able to use an aisle concurrently or to be able to turn a trolley within an aisle, 120cm aisle width will be ideal.

Do note that the 80 to 120cm is only a recommended guide and by no means a must – in the event your warehouse uses special material handling tools that require a large aisle width, adjust accordingly and always provide at least 30cm of clearance to manoeuvre your material handling tool.

For Heavy Duty Pallet Racking systems, the required aisle width depends on the following factors:

Reach Truck/Forklift Overall Length, inclusive of body and fork length

Load Length

Turning Radius


There is no definite formula to calculating ideal aisle width when it comes to the use of machinery. An estimation we often use at SWL is (Turning Radius + Load Length + 450mm). Meaning to say, if your machine has a turning radius of 1,950mm and your common pallet load length is 1,100mm, we will recommend an aisle width of 3,500mm. This is to ensure that your machine has sufficient space to turn your picked load out, without being obstructed by other load positions to its left or right.



For Light Duty Boltless Rack systems and Medium Duty Racking systems, we recommend that the rack depth should match as close as possible to the goods size. If your box is 45cm x 60 cm, either go for a rack depth of 50 or 60cm. If you intend to store your boxes double deep and the box size is 20cm x 23cm, you can go for a rack depth of 40 or 50cm.

For Heavy Duty Pallet Racking systems, if you are mainly storing palletized goods, it is recommended to choose a rack depth that is 20cm smaller than your pallet load length. For example, if your pallet size is 110cm x 110cm, a rack depth of 90cm will be ideal. If your pallet size is 120cm x 120cm, a rack depth of 100cm will be ideal. This is because the horizontal beams of the Pallet Racks are the core load-bearing components and you want most of the weight of the palletized goods to be on them. A rack depth smaller than the pallet load length also gives your reach truck/forklift driver a comfortable leeway – 10cm to the front and back - to rest the pallets on the Pallet Rack beams, without being too precise.