Rugged drive-in rack enhances longevity and access
To meet retailer demand for efficient cold chain distribution east of the Mississippi River, Manfredi Cold Storage has had to keep expanding its Kennett Square, Pennsylvania facility.
Just recently it expanded the facility by 70,000 sq. ft., for 400,000 total sq. ft. of cold storage space, and already plans are in the works for future expansion. The distributor handles fruit, vegetables and food stuffs from 22 countries, at 0-55°F temperatures, in its facility that provides retailers with wireless, real-time inventory and access.
In order to keep such continued growth on track, however, effective operation has required the use of exceptionally rugged drive-in rack, designed to the application, according to Rob Wharry, the facility’s Director of Operations.
“About 150-200 truckloads of product move in and out of our storage everyday, about 25,000 pallets, so the drive-in rack needs to be very durable and accessible,” says Wharry. “The product has to go out quickly and efficiently to grocery stores, club stores, distribution centers, and the food service industry.”
Withstanding a Tough Environment
Drive-in rack enables storing up to 75% more pallets than selective rack and is ideal for high-traffic and cooler/freezer installations. With drive-in rack, forklifts drive directly into the rack to allow storage of two or more pallets deep.
But because forklifts drive directly into the rack, they tend to take more abuse than other rack structures. In cooler and freezer applications, the rack must withstand some of the greatest forklift abuse in warehouse material handling due to the confined space, slick surfaces, and cold temperatures that slow driver reflexes and make impact more frequent.
“We’re in and out of rack with heavy pallets and equipment so many times a day,” says Wharry. “It’s a fact of life that sometimes forklifts will run into the rack, so it just needs to be able to stand up to the daily use.”
Looking to optimize the rack’s durability and operation, the cold chain distributor turned to Steel King Industries, a storage system and pallet rack manufacturer.
“We had used several different rack manufacturers previously, but have pretty much exclusively used Steel King for the last 13 years because they make a very rugged product that is specifically designed for our application,” says Wharry.
In the most recent expansion, about 4,000 pallets of refrigerated storage capacity were added. For this, Manfredi Cold Storage chose SK3000® pallet rack, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns, by Steel King.
A number of rack features are helping the distributor to meet its strength, durability, and maintenance goals.
Compared to typical racking, the pallet rack constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontal and diagonal bracing offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All Grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with
a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.
The drive-in rack also includes a number of features that enhance ease-of-use and safety. The drive-in load rail construction includes: structural angle rails that “guide” pallets for ease of use; flared rail entry ends to allow easy bay access; space-saver low profile arms that increase clearance and decrease possible product damage; welded aisle-side load arms that eliminate hazardous load projections into aisles; welded rail stops that prevent loads from being pushed off and increase safety; and 2” vertical adjustability of the bolted rack, which allows for a variety of configurations for current or future products.
“The heavy rub rail inside the rack helps to guide the pallets in,” says Wharry. “The flared rail entry makes it easier to put pallets in and to take them out of the upper positions.”
For extra protection and reinforcement against forklift impact, a guard on the front of the rack’s first upright was added. The double column, welded angle column protector is designed for heavy pallets and provides additional strength.
According to Wharry, their drive-in rack vendor was also willing to accommodate their needs in other ways as well.
“Our operation is a little different than a typical storage customer because we’re dealing with lots of different sized products, so we had a very specific design in mind,” says Wharry. “Everything is specific to our application: rack height, width, pallet loads, and how we utilize it.”
The rack openings are about 12-16” taller than a standard rack opening to allow the use of very tall pallets, he says. Additional adjustments to the rack include the specific implementation of guards, heavy rail, and how it is anchored to the floor.
“Other companies can build to order, but Steel King is more willing to work with us to design a system that gives us exactly what we need,” says Wharry. While Manfredi Cold Storage’s latest expansion of its Kennett Square facility will help provide retailers with greater cold chain distribution coverage and speed, there is still room to do one more expansion of similar size at the site, says Wharry.
With continuing growth expected, however, the distributor is already planning to start the construction of a brand new cold storage facility in southern New Jersey.
“When the new facility is constructed, the racking set up will be just like what we have here,” concludes Wharry. “We’ve determined what works for us and our customers, and now it’s just a matter of ramping up.”