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On The Wire

A breakdown of an often misunderstood product

Pallet rack has been around for many years and its uses and benefits are well known. It provides the user with the opportunity to store dramatically more material in the same square footage by utilizing the vertical space between floor and ceiling in a warehouse. In today’s high-bay warehouses, a rack system may go up 40 feet or more. There is constant pressure on the supply chain to be ever more efficient. On the other hand, one of pallet rack’s most common accessories, wire decking, is not as well understood.

Divider ComboSafety
First and foremost, wire decking is a safety product. It protects people from material falling out of or through the rack. Falling material could be from an unsecured load or it could be an entire palletized bundle falling through as the result of a damaged pallet or an improperly placed pallet. This hazard, while always present, may vary in degree. It may be low in a large facility with few employees and quite high in a retail environment filled with shoppers.

Like the rack, wire decking is designed and produced with a specific load capacity rating. This is typically expressed in pounds per deck under a “uniformly distributed load.” The most common capacity rating by far is 2,500 pounds, which is simply a reflection of the load-bearing capacity of the rack itself. Most beams are designed to carry 5,000-pound loads, and since the common application is two decks per pair of beams, that translates to 2,500 pounds per wire deck. Of course, like the rack, these load capacities can vary widely from extremely light to extremely heavy, depending on the material being stored. Think pillows and socks compared to car batteries and sheet steel.

Wire mesh decking standards clearly state that this product is not designed to be used when there is potential for someone to walk on the product. Walking on the product creates a moving point load; therefore, other shelving products or bar grating would be much better suited for such an application.

Inventory Protection
Wire decking protects the user’s inventory investment. This is primarily accomplished by not impeding the effectiveness of an overhead sprinkler system, as the open wire mesh design allows smoke and heat to rise while simultaneously allowing water to penetrate and extinguish the flames. Furthermore, the steel construction of a wire deck does not introduce additional flammable material to the warehouse as the use of wood or plastic might.

Wire decking also protects inventory in less obvious ways. With the addition of a turned-up rear waterfall, a wire deck can serve as a backstop, preventing items from falling or being pushed off into the flue space between runs of back-to-back rack or between the rack and wall. Decks can be configured to completely cover the flue space, providing even greater protection to inventory. The open nature of the wire mesh allows for a visual inventory. Sometimes a carton or two stored in the rack 20 feet or more in the air may never be found if they can’t be seen from the ground and less than perfect inventory controls are in place.

Wire mesh decking standards clearly state that this product is not designed to be used when there is potential for someone to walk on the product.

Flexibility
Traditional pallet rack is designed to be fairly focused on storing a particular pallet footprint or a fairly small range of pallet footprints. Naturally, a standard 40-inch x 48-inch pallet will fit like a glove in a standard 42- inch-deep rack, but it may overhang into the aisle space on a 36-inch-deep rack and fall right through a 48-inch-deep rack.

A wire deck creates a load-bearing surface covering the entire depth of the rack. While it may not prevent items from sticking out into the aisle, it does offer flexibility to accommodate different size loads, as well as non-palletized loads such as cartons, drums and totes, which may be hand-picked off the rack from an order picker or from employees working off the floor or a mezzanine.

Dividers on wire decks turn bulk storage space into easily identifiable bin locations, making it easier to segment and indentify inventory of small items. Dividers can be used to divide shelf space across a bay of rack front-to-back, directly down the middle of the rack if items are to be picked from both sides, or even divide the rack in both directions at the same time.

By understanding the features of wire decking, distributors can better understand what applications could benefit from its inclusion.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Steve Johnson Meet the Author
Steve Johnson is vice president of sales for Nashville Wire Products, located in Nashville, Tennessee, and on the Web at www.nashvillewire.com.

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