Flow racks are specialized storage racks used to quickly move packaged products through a warehouse. They are built on a vertical slant with rolling tracks that make for efficient movement of products once they are on the rack, needing nothing more than gravity. Flow racks are often utilized by distribution centers and manufacturing plants.
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Applications of Flow Racks
As highly-efficient storage rack systems, carton flow racks serve such industries as warehouses, industrial, commercial, distribution, wholesale grocery, electronics, cosmetics, automotive, and medical. Typical applications for carton flow racks include storage, material handling, picking, inventory rotation, assembly lines, wash-down, and other applications that require the FIFO, or first-in first-out, method of handling inventory.
How Flow Racks Work
Similar to conveyors, carton flow racks are loaded on one side by either a worker or, more commonly, a forklift, and the carton is then driven by gravity to flow down a framed roller track until it reaches a stopper at the other side of the rack. Rolling racks will typically have lanes in which similar cartons are kept separate by means of shelf guides.
Flow Rack Design and Customization
Consisting of many individual components, carton flow racks are modular and allow for flexibility and variety of use. By using "starter" and "adder" sections, rows of carton flow racks can be developed by stringing together different units that befit the specific application. Carton flow racks have two distinct frame styles: square front and layback. Square front carton flow racks are vertical frames with straight shelving and are advantageous for picking full cartons. Layback carton flow racks are vertical frames with diagonal shelving and are beneficial for picking from open cartons.
There are also several types of shelving for carton flow racks: straight shelves, knuckled shelves, weld-in trays, and reverse knuckled shelves. Straight shelves are the most common type of carton flow rack shelving. Knuckled shelves are the next most common type and are beneficial when it comes to picking individual items out of cartons. Weld-in trays are similar to knuckled shelves. However, they provide a much larger access space for picking. Reverse knuckled shelves are beneficial for split case picking applications in which the items are picked out of the carton’s front.
Benefits of Using Flow Racks
Carton flow racks are a live storage system in which cartons are deposited on one side and are driven by gravity to gently flow to the other side. A type of flow rack relying on gravity and specifically designed for the storage of cartons, carton racks provide high-density, dynamic storage for medium or slowing moving SKUs. Unlike a static storage system that requires much reaching, bending, and pulling on the part of the laborer to reposition and restock, a carton flow rack system provides an easy-access, ergonomic way for product to always flow to the front position, a property that is implemented in many types of warehouse racking.
Using carton flow racks cuts labor costs by reducing the amount of required pickers by half or more as well as floor space, since fewer aisles will be needed to store the same amount of cartons. Both the backside and the front of carton flow racks are used for storage, making them highly useful for high-density storage.