Forklift Operation for Pallet Flow Racking

Modern warehouse interior

Pallet flow racking is an efficient way to support a first-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory system. Its design, which incorporates a slight incline with rollers or wheels, allows product to flow down the lane for effective space utilization, though it does require a particular process for loading and unloading.

The following tips and guidelines can help your forklift operators load and unload pallet flow racking in a safe and efficient manner.

Forklift Operation Safety

Of course, safety is the first priority. Improper forklift operation can result in serious injury or even death, not to mention material losses for your facility. To make sure your forklift operations follow all applicable safety rules and best practices, consider the following tips:

Safety Tip 1: Use PPE

Forklift operators should always wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a hard hat, goggles, gloves, and anything else that may be necessary in your warehouse. Fall protection equipment should also be used when working at height.

Safety Tip 2: Go Slow

When moving pallets with a forklift, it’s important not to rush it. Operators should be aware of their surroundings and make sure product is only moved when the forklift is in the right position.

Safety Tip 3: Conduct Regular Safety Training

Experienced personnel may be less prone to forklift accidents, but experience alone is often insufficient to ensure safety. Regular trainings on PPE, OSHA guidelines, and the rationale behind safety rules can help prevent accidents.

Safety Tip 4: Appropriate Pallet Rack Design

The final safety tip is to make sure pallet racks are designed for the loads you’ll be placing on them. The dimensions of your flow racking should allow 6” of clearance above and 4” of clearance on the sides, and its design should be rated for the level of weight it’ll be holding.

Safely Loading and Unloading Pallets on Flow Racks

The dynamic design of a pallet flow rack means operators will need to follow a particular process when loading and unloading pallets. Train your personnel on these processes.

Loading Pallets onto Flow Racks

To pick up a pallet with a forklift and place it on a flow rack, follow these steps:

  1. Lift the pallet and square the forklift with the front of the aisle.
  2. Raise the pallet to a few inches above the flow lane rails. Avoid raising it too high.
  3. Slowly lower the pallet onto the lane, keeping it centered.
  4. Tilt the load down so it can slide down the lane.
  5. Slowly back out of the lane, allowing the load to flow down on its own.

A pallet flow rack is designed to allow pallets to flow down toward the picking face. A number of accessories such as entry guide rails and dampers help prevent accidents and limit the speed of flow.

Unloading Pallets from Flow Racks

To unload a pallet from a flow rack, these steps should be followed.

  • Square the forklift with the opening.
  • Slowly load the pallet onto the forks and raise it a few inches from the rails.
  • The load should be able to clear the front beam without colliding with the shelves above.
  • Back away from the rack. Take your time, controlling the flow of the pallets behind.

If the pallets behind do not flow down, pushing them back a little with the loaded pallet can help restart the flow. This is referred to as “plugging the lane.” If that doesn’t work, replace the pallet and wait until the problem is resolved before resuming picking.

Common Questions on Forklift Operation

When training your personnel on safe forklift operation, these questions may come up:

Can you push a pallet with a forklift?

Pushing a pallet along the floor can not only damage the load and the forklift, but it can also increase the odds of an accident. However, you can use a forklift to plug a lane in a pallet flow rack.

What is the difference between a pallet truck and a forklift?

Pallet trucks (aka pallet jacks) are used to move product along the floor. Forklifts can lift it to height for stocking or picking.

When would you use a forklift instead of a pallet jack?

You would use a forklift to load or unload product at height.

Maximize Pallet Flow Rack Efficiency with Safe Forklift Operation

Safe operation is key to maintaining the efficiency of a pallet flow racking system, not to mention preventing injury in the workplace. Adequate racking system design also supports efficiency. If you want more information on building an efficient pallet flow racking system, contact Precision Warehouse Design today.