All racks are not created equal

The need for quality racking in
Australian warehouses

The availability of imported “brand-compatible” racking in the
Australian marketplace has increased over recent years. There is no shortage of
statements and certificates from the manufacturers and suppliers claiming
adherence to Australian and international standards. In some instances,
published frame load capacities have been proven to significantly overstate the
true capacities. These are serious concerns for the industry.

It is apparent that some companies importing and selling
brand-compatible racking have an extremely low level of knowledge of racking
design and standards. It is therefore important to work with a reputable racking
manufacturer that has a detailed knowledge of racking design and safety, gained
from decades of experience and involvement with standards bodies, and programs
of structural testing

It is also essential that companies considering purchasing imported
racking are mindful of their duty of care obligation. Should the equipment fail
during use, the health and safety of your workers could be at risk, and the
potential legal ramifications extremely serious.

Some things just don’t stack up

In response to market concerns about the structural adequacy and safety
of imported brand-compatible racking, Dematic, the maker of ColbyRACK, carried
out independent structural testing on a range of imported rack components.
Dematic incorporated the test data into computer models to correctly assess the
load carrying capacity of the racks, which were then compared to the published
values.

The results of the calculations indicate the equipment may be
considerably under-designed for Australian applications. The degree of under
design varies according to the configuration but it has been confirmed to be as
high as 30 per cent. Such a rack would be in serious danger of collapse in the
event of an accidental overload or damage caused by forklift impact, and
therefore poses a significant occupational health and safety risk.

There are several possible explanations for the unsafe designs uncovered
by our investigations. The racks investigated were made from low strength steel
(nominal yield stress of 235 MPa). By contrast, in Australia, racking is
typically made from high-tensile galvanised steel with a nominal yield stress
of 450 MPa. This difference in steel grade means that an upright or beam made
from lower grade steel will fail long before a component of identical thickness
made from Grade 450 high-tensile steel. Rack importers may try to dodge the
issue of the lower steel grade by claiming they are using thicker, heavier
components and claim this enables their lower grade steel products to conform
to Australian Standards. Our investigations show this is generally not the
case.

Another possible reason for the poor design integrity of imported
brand-compatible racking is that the companies may not appreciate the crucial
importance of the beam-to-upright connection on the overall load carrying
capacity of the system. Our investigations have revealed that the end
connectors of certain imported racking are significantly more flexible and
weaker than ColbyRACK end connectors. It is possible that the stiffness and
strength of the end connector is not properly accounted for in the design
procedures adopted by companies manufacturing and selling imported
brand-compatible racking.

One of the major concerns with sub-standard, brand-compatible racking is
the issue of product substitution. It is conceivable that a number of original
branded components in a properly designed racking system could be replaced by
imported brand-compatible components. While the brand-compatible components may
look the same as the originals, it is unlikely they will be made from the same
materials or be manufactured to the same standards. A rack structure derives
its stability through the interaction of all the components; therefore mixing
the weaker brand-compatible components with genuine components within a rack
may compromise the structural integrity of the overall system. It is not
feasible to provide structural certification of a rack that incorporates a
mixture of branded and brand-compatible components.

Generic certificates claiming
compliance with standards are worthless

We have seen various conformance certificates issued by companies
distributing imported rack from Asia, which claim the racking conforms to
Australian Standard AS4084-2012 Steel Storage Racking. The simple fact of the
matter is that such certificates on their own are worthless.

Compliance with AS4084-2012 is not just about meeting certain product
characteristics. True compliance with standards requires the company to have
carried out an extensive range of component tests, and to have a soundly based
structural design methodology (often encapsulated in advanced software programs
like Colby RackMAN), which enables the interaction between all the components
in a racking system to be properly assessed. Design adequacy can only be quantified
in relation to the weights of the pallets stored in the racking – a rack of a
given configuration might be adequately designed for 500kg pallets, but grossly
under-designed for 1000kg pallets.

Integrating quality in
manufacturing

With more than 50 years’ experience, Dematic offers safe and proven
storage solutions for hundreds of applications across a wide range of
industries.

ColbyRACK is manufactured by Dematic at an advanced production facility
in Sydney, incorporating the latest innovations in roll-forming, punching,
painting and welding technologies. Extensive testing of Colby storage products
ensures world-class quality, long-life performance and the lowest lifecycle
cost.

ISO9001 Quality Assured automated manufacturing processes, using only
quality certified steel with full traceability, ensure high-quality,
repeatability, and low product cost.

Professional warehouses need
professional racking

The reality is that pallet racking and other types of industrial storage
systems are very complex structures that need to be professionally designed to
suit the application.

Given the potential for serious accidents to occur if sub-standard rack
components find their way into an existing rack structure, we would caution
anyone against purchasing such equipment for this purpose.

If you are considering purchasing imported racking, our advice would be
to seek independent structural engineering certification to ensure it fulfils
your duty of care obligation and protects you from the potential legal ramifications
should the equipment fail during use, putting the lives of your workers at
risk.

Author: Dr Murray Clarke, Structural Engineering
Manager, Dematic. 

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