The First in, first out (FIFO) system of storage that carton flow pallet racking uses means it works great for large volumes of storage. The type of products that are typically stored in a carton flow system will include piece picking or split case items, such as small parts or small boxes. Gravity is used to load the racks from the back side, pushing the products, such as small load boxes or cartons, to the front for picking. The FIFO system of the carton flow racking means it implements an automatic rotation of products and the ability to be built according to your SKU’S. It also keeps all the products reachable and easy to monitor.

General Characteristics

The whole Carton Flow Racking System consists of wheels and storage lanes. With small loads like this, it’s easier to pick the storage out by hand. Starting in the first aisle, the containers are loaded in, and gravity helps push the next containers to slide to the front of the racks to be picked. Selective pallet racking can be added to the first in, first out carton flow systems, or the system can simply be a stand-alone carton flow system. For instance, you could use the first six feet of the rack height for the carton flow system and hand pick those items, with the remaining height of the upright to store pallets.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Larger storage capacity
  • Less space used per aisle
  • Less work for employees
  • FIFO and automatic picking (pushing the next container to the front after each pick)
  • Easy monitoring of products with high visibility
  • Higher productivity for employees


  • Does not work for Last in, First (LIFO) systems

Different Types of Carton Flow Racks

Roller Lanes

Roller lanes will have either full-width steel or aluminum rollers that each slide on their own independent axle, allowing the rollers to turn independent of one another. Full-width rollers provide a broader surface area, making it easy to evenly distribute the weight of various small loads. This spacious method of loading also prevents the full-width rollers from leaving imprints on cartons. Roller Lanes are best used when individual lanes are required for specific carton flow tasks, and work better when all of the cartons are of similar size.

Wheel Beds

Wheel beds will typically consist of plastic, aluminum, or steel rows of wheels that lay between two channels. Although each row of wheels is mounted on one axle, most wheel bed racking comes with added bearings which allow the wheels to turn independently. In addition, wheel beds can also come with the option of using alternating or staggered wheels to help spread the weight of the cartons out more. This keeps all the weight evenly distributed across the bed, and therefore, less stress on the wheels and less imprinting.

Unlike full-width rollers, wheel beds can be placed right next to each other to achieve a continuous flow of cartons across one level of pallet racking. Thanks to this, wheel beds work great in situations where different sizes of cartons are needed, or when bays need to be re-slotted in the midst of changing product lines.

Tilted Shelving

Tilted shelves are made of either mesh wire or solid metal. The shelving is placed in an angled position, facing the pick face, which allows the SKU’s to smoothly flow to the front, once the product(s) at the face is picked. At this angle, the top of the cartons are exposed, increasing the visibility of items and creating ease of access for split picking actions. All of the storage areas are easy to reach because tilted shelves do not have a “dead zone”, like certain flat and static shelving. Because of this, a shepherd’s hook is not needed and employees do not have to attempt dangerous actions to reach a product.

Since tilted shelves have more depth than wheel beds, wheel rails, and roller lanes, they operate best for slow-moving SKU’S. They do not work well for SKU’s that require frequent stocking.

Wheel Rails

Wheel rails put to use either aluminum, steel, or plastic wheels that are mounted directly within a channel. Sometimes, the wheels are mounted on a single, independent axle. Other times, the wheels are mounted right in the channel with heavy duty studs. It all depends on the design of the wheel rails, as they can vary greatly. According to your needs, wheel rails can use a single, vertical line of wheels or an alternating wheel pattern. The rails can be placed in a wide range of distances and varying arrangements since each wheel is independent of the next.

Wheel rails are not load bearing. In other words, they are not sturdy enough to carry lots of weight and flow properly. They require support from employee’s hands intermittently for consistent product flow. The wheel rails must be parallel within the rack to ensure the cartons or totes do not get stuck on the rails. For this reason, wheel rails operate best when holding smaller and less dense containers.

What you need to know before installing Carton Flow

Since carton flow racks are designed to incline up at each level, when setting them up inside your warehouse, you need to be sure that you have enough space to accommodate them. However, considering it is a hand picking system and forklifts are not needed, the racks should only be as high as the average employee can reach, unless you want to utilize selective pallet racking above the system. There will need to be an aisle at each end for easy depositing and picking. If you are planning on integrating the carton flow racking in with another pallet rack system, you will need to measure the existing rack.

Then, you will need to provide the specified measurements in order to be sure it will be compatible with the carton flow racks. You will also need to know the sizes of your cartons and their maximum weights. This will enable the carton flow rack designer to manufacture the carton flow rails and decks to fit your needs.

For warehouses that have smaller load products, carton flow is a great high-density system. It requires minimal effort on your part, as it does not need forklifts. Since fewer aisles are needed to get access to the items, less overall space is used within the warehouse. If you have any questions or if you are thinking about adding this type of carton flow pallet racking system to your facility, contact us today!

Stein Service & Supply carries a large selection of carton flow pallet racking. Let us be your one-stop material handling equipment provider, contact us today!