Our first question this month asks about Maintenance on FIFO racking and our second is are there any rules or regulations with fitting back stop beams.

Maintenance of FIFO racking Q. Hi I would like to understand what level of SEMA training is required for maintenance of rollers, brake rollers and guides in FIFO racking. I am not including maintenance of the structural condition of the racking, just more the moving parts. We already have a company who are SEMA qualified to inspect and repair structural elements, however I want to bring “In-house” basic maintenance elements.

A. As far as we are aware there is no formal guidance published anywhere as to how to go about inspecting the ‘mechanicals’ on live storage systems or push back racks. Generally, this issue would rely on the supplier’s “operational file” or something that the inspector himself might decide as ‘sensible’ from his own point of view. An Operational file would normally be handed over on commissioning an installation which would give guidance on all kinds of operational issues such as lubrication, how to un-jam a stuck system, what weekly checks are required etc. Unfortunately, it is not unknown for the Operational file to have disappeared on older system or perhaps it was lost on handover as often occurs!

SEMA are aware of this issue and are currently re-writing the code of practice on inspecting racking generally, and hopefully there will be a section covering live storage generally within the revised code. This item as well as other specialist racking such as drive-in, mobiles and a number of other items seem to have escaped the careful attention that has been given to the more common adjustable pallet racking product.


Q. A customer has asked me are there any rules or regulations with fitting back stop beams and do SEMA insist these be fitted or is it customer choice.

We have sites that have the back stop beam and also back stops using profile bolted to brackets.

A. Backstops come in two varieties, ‘safety backstops’ and’ buffering backstops’ both of which need careful consideration in the initial layout of the racking. The safety backstop is located 50mm behind the normal placement point of the pallet so in theory should only be hit in a significant accident. It is allowed therefore to be installed on the assumption that the racking frame can deal with this impact force as an overstress in the material without the need to specifically design for it which would be the case if regular impacts were involved.

The consequences of this however are that there has to be 50 mm clear in front of the backstop beam between it and the pallet and the beam itself may be anything from 50 to 100 mm wide so the central flue in back to back situations needs to be designed much wider than with racking without backstops. This rarely happens in practice and the backstop is fitted in whatever space is available and is therefore hit on a regular basis, becoming a ‘buffering’ backstop and usually does not last too long!

With the ‘buffering’ backstop the design anticipates regular impacts by incorporating these forces into the design of the rack structure and therefore increasing the size and strength of the upright, backstop to upright fixings, floor fixings, and frame bracing. This means the forces have to be included in the original design of the rack and it cannot be added as a ‘post-installation’ addition. This is how it should be done, however it is almost always ignored on cost grounds which leads to ongoing arguments between customer and supplier where a customer wishes to know why the design was not strong enough to resist serious damage.

SEMA have for many years recommended against these items as in our view they encourage bad driving techniques on the part of the truck drivers who will use the backstop as a ‘stop’ for his truck rather than using his judgement and the brakes on the truck!

When we have discussed these issues with our continental manufacturing colleagues they admit they have all these problems however as they are very popular they argue that they have to give the customer what he/she wants, so they continue to use them and accept the flak generated as a result!

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