Guide: Planning Warehouse Shelving

If you are moving to new business premises and are looking to incorporate new warehouse facilities, planning your warehouse storage should be straightforward, with a blank canvas with which to work. All storage facilities should ideally be designed from the inside out, starting with the goods that need to be stored and used, and then designing the racking and shelving to decrease the distance each item has to travel, as well as how far the staff has to walk to collect the items they require. 

When warehouse shelving is properly planned it is possible to make a significant improvements to the functionality of a space, speed up loading and unloading and increase output by ordering space more efficiently in order preparation areas. Accommodating areas of high volume storage can allow you to make significant savings on unit prices by purchasing in bulk, increasing profit margins.

Due to the importance of planning warehouse shelving properly and the potential for costly mistakes, take a few minutes to read our warehouse shelving tips to get your storage space working as you want it to.

Redesigning storage in existing facilities

As a business grows and develops, warehouse usage also changes. New lines must be incorporated, storage requirements change and shelving and racking arrangements cease to function efficiently.  If you are considering redesigning current storage facilities it is a good opportunity to conduct a stock movement assessment to reduce any unnecessary manual handling of goods.

The aim of this exercise is to reduce - as far as is possible - the distance goods have to travel from receipt in the loading bay to their designated storage area, and reduce the need for manual handling. Large bulky items and stock with a rapid turnaround should ideally be housed closest to the loading bay. Infrequently accessed stock can be stored the furthest away.

Staff movement and order preparation

If your facilities are small, the distance the staff must travel to pick up items and prepare orders may not be far, but organising space efficiently can still make a big difference to productivity. In larger facilities, reorganising storage locations can result in significant savings in staff costs and can increase output significantly, as well as make major improvements to staff morale.

To make it easier on your warehouse staff, incorporate convenient order preparation areas into your plan to reuce the distances staff have to walk. Where ever possible incorporate areas of low density storage, where small quantities of goods can be stored for ease of order preparation, with bulk storage elsewhere.

Calculating available storage space

It is essential to know the exact dimensions of the space available for storage before shelving and racking arrangements can be planned and items ordered. Any errors made in measuring can have costly implications if shelving and racking not fit the available space.

Take numerous measurements of the floor area, in addition to the height of the room, taking into consideration any overhead pipes and ductwork. It is important to calculate the amount of “clear space” available before planning storage facilities and ordering warehouse shelving, rather than use the dimensions of the building.

When planning shelving layouts, check for power sockets and fuse boxes and measure carefully to ensure that vents and drains will not be blocked. Sufficient clearance space must also be left for doors, and access routes should be planned for both pedestrians and vehicles.

Assessing your storage requirements

Even a relatively small storage facility with limited floor space can offer plenty of storage volume. Try to think in terms of volume rather than floor areas. There is plenty of dead air that can be easily utilised as storage space. The best layout will depend on the space available, the type of goods that need to be stored, whether vehicular access is required and many other variables. However, ultimately your choice of shelving layout will be dictated by how much you need to store and the space you have available.

If your company holds a high volume of stock it is essential that space used incredibly efficiently. Arranging your shelving with narrow aisles will ensure the most efficient use of space, but ensure ample room is allowed for easy loading and unloading of goods and sufficient space is allowed for lift trucks to be used.

Purchasing Shelving for Warehouses and Storerooms

If you want to create a storeroom or warehouse you will need to buy warehouse shelving or racking. The cost can vary substantially depending on the strength required, the height, number of shelves and maximum weight capacity.  

Buying heavy duty shelving provides the maximum versatility should storage needs change, although buying the toughest, most robust shelving units will require a higher initial spend. The more accurately you can estimate your storage requirements, the easier it will be to choose the correct shelving units to match your storage needs.

When choosing shelving for warehouses consider the following features to ensure you buy the product to match your requirements:

Construction material

Look for a robust steel frame that has been galvanised or powder coated to resist corrosion. Steel shelves can be flimsy and are not ideally suited for heavy duty storage. Chipboard shelves offer good strength and offer a significant cost saving over their metal counterparts.

UDL – Uniform Density Load

The UDL is the maximum safe weight that can be stored per level. If you need to store heavy items, pay particular attention to how the weight will be distributed. If a load is not evenly distributed, maximum load levels will be reduced. Err on the side of caution and choose the heavy duty or industrial storage bays if you anticipate storing particularly heavy items.

Access to goods

It is essential that access to goods is made as easy as possible for order preparation. Look for shelving bays which allow unimpeded access to goods from both sides, and factor in any reduction in clearance caused by struts and supports.


With proper care, quality warehouse racking will have a long lifespan, during which time storage needs will invariably change, It is important to plan for the future and to purchase versatile heavy duty shelving units that can be adjusted as needs demand, should storage requirements change.