Not all Storage Racks are Created Equal
By: John Ferrari, P.Eng., P.M.M.
ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
While many rack manufacturers produce components with certified steel and qualified welders, there are some who do not. Prior to selecting your rack vendor, conduct proper due diligence. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. To ensure that the storage system adheres to current applicable design and engineering standards, the rack user must be provided documentation by the supplier that establishes capacity, configuration and use of the rack. The documentation must originate from the rack manufacturer to ensure authenticity. Consider making the purchase order conditional on receipt of certified material test reports, or mill test reports, that stipulate the specific standards from the CSA or ASTM that the steel is compliant with. These documents validate the steel’s chemical composition and
mechanical properties. Ask for a copy of the rack manufacturer’s Letter of Validation from the Canadian Welding Bureau acknowledging that the fabricating facility is certified to CSA Standard W47.1. If you struggle receiving adequate information prior to releasing a purchase order, it could be a sign of things to come. Don’t settle for anything less. As a user of a storage rack system, you are ultimately responsible for providing a safe work environment to your employees and this can be attained by ensuring that your suppliers are meeting their regulatory obligations.
QUALITY, INTEGRITY, COMPLIANCE
The overall safety and integrity of a rack structure can be in jeopardy when critical items of its design and manufacturing process do not meet recognized
standards. In Canada, rack frames and beams must bear an identification mark traceable to the manufacturer. Without knowing the source of the rack, it becomes
difficult to verify that the engineering design will be accepted by building officials, that the steel is of structural quality and that the welding was performed by qualified personnel adhering to Canadian standards. The risk of a rack collapse resulting from a sub-standard product is real and will amount to incalculable expenses associated with worker injuries (or deaths), product loss, facility damage, lost productivity and more. As a best practice, all documentation and technical specifications of a rack system should be reviewed and approved by a qualified professional engineer prior to its purchase. By doing so, it will help ensure that the rack system in consideration will be safe and meet required standards. This process, however, can have its own pitfalls as well. Not many engineers are well-versed in the design of these unique structures. It is important to ask for an engineer’s qualifications and experience related to storage racks. Items to consider may include the engineer’s years of experience related to the design and engineering of storage rack, number and scope of projects completed, range of oversight including assessment of and adherence to material and manufacturing standards. On your next rack purchase, don’t be short-changed. Be sure to conduct your due diligence and demand compliance with all applicable Canadian engineering and manufacturing standards, and remember . . . not all racks are created equal.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – John Ferrari, P.Eng., P.M.M.
John is a Professional Engineer with over 25 years of experience in the design of steel storage rack systems for many of the largest warehouses and distribution centres in North America. He is highly regarded in the material handling industry for both his leadership and technical expertise as the SVP - Engineering with Rack It Right, Canada’s foremost steel rack manufacturer. As Chair of the CSA S16-14 Rack Structures Workgroup and member of the Rack Manufacturers Institute’s Specification Advisory Committee, John continues to contribute to the development of key industry standards and regularly presents educational sessions on the safe use and maintenance of these high-performance structures.