Guide to... Multi-Tier Racking Systems



Multi-tier racking systems can be a highly effective solution for those looking to maximise cubic area, but who don't necessarily want to invest in new premises, take on additional warehouse space or have the upheaval of moving.


In the latest SEC Storage blog we take a look at the pros and cons of the system, the kind of products they are most suitable for, and what kinds of components and accessories you can incorporate into the structure to maximise pick accessibility and operational efficiency. 

Click below to see each section!

What is a multi-tier racking system?


Believe it or not, a multi-tier racking structure can actually be a cost-effective solution. That huge steel structure may look costly, but when you offset this against warehouse expansion or even the cost of taking on a new facility, that cost actually starts to look much more reasonable.


First of all, a multi-tier system is engineered to maximise picking operations and is best suited to businesses with a high number of SKUs (stock keeping units). The system creates a highly dense storage capacity within a limited footprint and is a highly efficient, and cost-effective way of utilising the cube (warehouse area).


Multi-tiers are a great solution for maximising the cube in limited areas


When you can't go out, go up! Multi-tiers are a great solution for maximising the cube in limited areas



Multi-tier structures by nature are also highly flexible in terms of the number of levels, accessories and options you can incorporate. They can also vastly improve the picking efficiency of your warehouse operation, essentially making all products accessible for instantaneous picking. But what kind of products can a multi-tier hold?


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What kind  of products are suitable for storage on a multi-tier?


Multi-tiers are most effective for online retailers and e-commerce operations where picking and packing operations are combined with a high turnover. The floors can, of course, be designed to allow trolleys and pallet trucks throughout the areas, essentially opening up the possibility for the storage of larger product types.


In most scenarios, multi-tiers can be adapted to accommodate a large variety of product sizes, but think of it this way though: if your personnel are having to ascend through multiple floor levels, the physical weight in which they can carry will be their primary limitation, especially without the help of transportation assistance. In this scenario, the structures will be best suited to small parts picking.


An example of small parts product storage on a multi-tier floor


An example of small parts product stored on a multi-tier floor ~ SEC Storage - Essentra PLC 



So what can't you store on a multi-tier then? The answer is quite simple and relates directly to strict building and safety regulations (something we'll cover in more detail later), but it's basically any products that are flammable i.e. aerosols, fireworks, explosive materials etc. Nice and simple!


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Bonus: Examples of multi-tier racking systems we have installed:


The multi-tiers we've installed for our clients were built for (but are not limited) to the storage and picking of car parts, greetings cards, plastic components, clothing and more. You can get a better understanding of the projects and the companies we installed them for via our case study selections below:


  • Lonza Biologics PLC (Lonza Group) - Installation of a rack supported, multi-tier storage structure at Lonza Biologics PLC (Lonza Group) in Slough...
  • Essentra PLC - A pallet racking installation with a three-tier picking tower and multi-floor mezzanine structure with lift access at Essentra PLC in Oxfordshire...
  • Kuehne + Nagel - A bespoke warehouse configuration & storage system that optimised storage space and pick efficiency for Kuehne + Nagel Ltd / Ben Sherman in Milton Keynes...


Take a look at our project case studies featured above and below, and when you're finished with this section scroll down the page to find our list of multi-tier pros and cons that will no doubt help you to make up your mind about the system.



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See how a  warehouse multi-tier comes together...

View our time-lapse feature below...


The pros of multi-tier racking systems:


  • Multi-tiers essentially allow for a massive increase in storage capacity. Some of our projects have seen up to a 100%+ increase, making them an ideal solution for space optimisation
  • Simultaneous order picking. Every area is accessible at all times via the incorporation of fixed shelves or carton live dynamic shelving
  • Additional floor space is gained (lost on a single-tier structure) for storage, packing and assembly needs. This also allows for a high degree of floor surface utilisation, meaning a large majority of the area can be covered by SKUs


Carton live dynamic shelving on a multi-tier mezzanine structure


Carton live dynamic shelving for a multi-tier mezzanine structure at our Madison UK project


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The cons of multi-tier racking systems:


There are numerous building regulations to be considered when installing multi-tier racking systems, including a robust, fire risk assessment and the implementation of an extensive fire exit escape strategy (which is, of course, something we can effectively deal with at the planning stage).


You cannot fire rate a multi-tier racking structure, which means you have to incorporate specific measures into your operation to fulfil health and safety regulations. This could include the installation of water sprinkler systems, multiple staircase access points, fire rated enclosed staircases and more. All of these measures can essentially drive up the cost of the solution (although not necessarily by that high a margin).


Multi-tiers need to comply with strict health and safety regulations


You will need to optimise the structure to comply with strict health and safety regulations


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Components and  accessories that can be incorporated into a  multi-tier racking structure:


Components and accessories include:

  • Floor to floor conveyors, goods lifts, pallet gates and gravity chutes for the transferrance of products to different levels
  • The introduction of full pallets, working on a (first-in-first-out) principle. This would work in tangent with product trolleys and pallet truck vehicles
  • Various flooring options are also available including timber decking and galvanized steel depending on the required finish, along with protective handrails, mesh netting and other preventative safety measures


Accessorize! A pallet gate loading system atop a multi-tier


Accessorize! An example of a pallet gate loading system atop the multi-tier at Piccadilly Greetings Ltd



The above recommendations act as a small showcase for the possible accessories and components that can be incorporated into a structure like this. Various configurations are available that can help to optimise both picking operations and also maximise safety, and SEC can happily advise in greater detail at the planning stage should you chose to explore these options. 



So there you have it, a nice and concise overview of multi-tier racking structures: what they can achieve in terms of space optimisation, what types of product they can store, and the pros and cons surrounding them. Of course, these are all just general pointers, so if you're looking for more information on whether a multi-tier racking structure would be suitable for your operation, then take a further look at our product page, or feel free to get in touch and give us a call to see how we can help. 


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