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Shelving and Racking Buying GuideContents

Introduction

Considerations for buying shelving and racking

Checklist for buying shelving and racking

Choosing the right shelving and racking

Organising your workspace

Storeroom health & safety tips

General best practices when buying office furniture

Further information

 

Introduction

Every workplace needs proper storage systems in place; they help you to maintain items safely and securely and help employees to work efficiently without losing time trying to find items that have been improperly stored.

There is a wide variety of shelving and racking systems available and each one has its benefits, depending on what kinds of items will be stored there. It’s crucial that the system you choose is up to the job; get it wrong and you could end up with damaged items and injured workers. Health and safety should be your top priority when choosing a storage system, so you need to pay particular attention to the weight capacity of bays and individual shelves.

It’s also important that you choose the right materials for the job; wet areas need the right kind of material or you run the risk of corrosion which can damage and weaken shelves, causing damage or injury.

You also need your storage system to be well organised; some shelving systems are more suited to lever arch files or paperwork archive boxes than larger, bulkier items, for example. Choose the right system for the job and work will be carried more efficiently with a boost to performance and productivity.

Here at Equip4Work, we carry a wide range of shelving and racking systems and at first glance you might find yourself confused about what system is right for your needs. Thankfully, we’ve put together this buying guide which contains everything you need to narrow down your choice and get the perfect shelving system for your storage requirements.

Firstly, we’ll take a look at some of the main considerations you need to think about when you’re purchasing racking and shelving. Careful planning is required to ensure that you get the right system for the available space you have and that you choose the right material and weight capacity.

Next, we’ll provide a checklist for you to work through that will help you to assess your needs. Understanding exactly what you need from a shelving system will help you to narrow down your choices significantly and prevent endless searching.

Then we’ll help you to understand the types of shelving and racking systems available, including the different designs, materials and weight capacities and how each one is best suited to storing different types of goods or items.

We’ll help you to organise your storage space with some useful tips that can help you at the planning stage and discuss relevant health and safety guidelines, including how to minimise risks when manual handling.

Finally, we’ll give you our best practice guidelines on choosing a supplier and keeping yourself safe when shopping online.

While there’s a lot of choice out there, working through this buying guide will help you to get an understanding of what kind of shelving or racking system best suits your requirements, narrowing down your choices and helping you to get the storage you need with a minimum of hassle.

 

Considerations for buying shelving and racking

Storage is one of the most important, and often overlooked, features when designing an office, industrial unit, storeroom or other workspace. Because it’s often an afterthought, many of us find ourselves with shelving that isn’t suitable, meaning organisation soon becomes chaos, as we stack things in piles on the floor, in corners or on top of shelving units but not on the shelves themselves.

The proper kind of shelving and racking doesn’t just help you to stay organised and efficient, and provide you with extra storage with minimal expense, it also improves health and safety. The right shelving will be secure and bear the weight of the items it carries, keeping everything sensibly organised and easy to reach without risk of an accident.

Before we get into the details involved in choosing the right kind of shelving and racking for your workspace, let’s take a broader look at some of the main things to keep in mind when you’re planning your storage.

Available space

More often than not, you’ll have to fit your storage solutions around your existing space. Luckily, shelving and racking systems are often very flexible, but for them to work well, you need to measure your space.

Measure the existing floorspace you have and that will help you when it comes to choosing both the type and sizes of your shelving and racking systems.

Size of the system

There are other measurements you need to consider beyond the available floorspace, primarily the height and depth of the shelves and racks you’ll need. This is where forward planning comes into play. If you’ve drawn up an appropriate plan, you should have an idea of what you’ll be storing and where.

This will help you to decide the right height and depth. Remember not to make the storage system too high unless there are secure ladders in place, otherwise there will be a risk of injury to employees.

Weight/load capacity

The next most important consideration is the weight the shelving will bear. This will be determined by the kinds of products or items you’ll be storing. For instance, heavy equipment and electronics or raw materials will need heavy duty shelving to ensure that the units can sustain the weight.

Remember that the stronger the shelving units you buy, the longer they will last, so always err on the side of caution and buy a little heavier than you need; this will prevent you having to purchase a whole new system if your storage needs change.

Number of shelves

The last consideration around specifications is the number of shelves each unit will have. This will partly be defined by the types of items you’ll be storing and partly by your own health and safety standards and legislation you need to abide by.

Storerooms and warehouses will tend to have more shelves and higher units because they have equipment for accessing it; for general workrooms, industrial units and offices, your shelving should be low enough to reach without staff stretching or pulling, whether they’re using ladders or not.

Cost

Finally, you’ll need to think about your budget. When it comes to shelving and racking units, you really do get what you pay for, although there are budget options that are available that are perfectly up to the job; depending on what you plan on storing.

Never cut costs when storing heavy or large items as the consequences won’t just be damage to the units themselves but also the stored items and, most importantly, your employees. Spending a little bit more on a heavier, more secure system will also make it future-proof; no matter what changes your company makes to the kind of items you need to store, your shelving will remain up to the task.

A quick way to gauge the size and weight

Here’s a quick way to decide on the specifications for your new shelving or racking system:

1 – Measure the space the unit will sit in and decide on the total width of the shelving area.

2 – Use the items that will be stored to gauge the width, depth and height of shelves you need (think realistically about how you’ll stack items, and how many items deep you will store).

3 – Gauge the average weight of the items you will be storing and multiply that by the number of items you’ll store on each shelf. This is your average load; round up to allow for occasional larger or heavier items.

Choosing a product

1 – Make sure the product works

This seems like an obvious statement, but it’s important that you check the product you’re thinking of buying is up to the job. Carefully read through all of the information and specifications and look at the photos provided to see if it matches up to your intended use. Where possible, check customer reviews to make sure other buyers have used it in the same way.

2 – Will the product save you time?

Make sure that the storage system you choose is going to improve your efficiency and not hamper it. Choosing the correct storage will save time that is wasted when workers have to search for items in the wrong place, or when paperwork has slid down the back of shelving, for example. Get the right product for the job and you’ll save time and money in the long run.

3 – Health and safety

Health and safety should be your top priority, so always check that the product you are looking at will fit into your existing health and safety policy. Make sure as well that it matches up to any specific legislation you are bound by.

 

 

Checklist for buying shelving and racking

Buying a brand-new shelving or racking unit can seem a little bewildering at first; there are a lot of choices out there and it’s hard to know what kind you should opt for. The easiest way to begin to narrow down your choices is to work out your requirements.

The following questions will help you to do that. Answer each of them and the results will give you a better idea of what you’ll need when it comes time to look at the varieties of shelving and racking units out there.

Some of the questions that may help you to understand your needs include:

How much available space do I have?

Measure the height, width and depth of the available space in which you would like to set up the shelving or racking unit. Be careful to allow enough room for access in front of the shelves so that employees can get to the items safely. Also make sure that there’s enough room to get the items into and off of the shelves.

How much weight do the shelf levels have to hold?

This is a critical question; the wrong kind of shelves could be disastrous if you put too much weight on them. When you’re looking at the weight capacity of shelving, it’s important to note that they are designed for uniformly distributed loads (UDLs), which means that the shelf supports the capacity specified only if the load is evenly distributed across the shelf.

If you need to support one heavy item, you’re best going for a higher duty, otherwise placing that item in the middle of the shelf could cause it to collapse, and placing it at the end could cause the shelf to become stable.

Do I need access from both sides or only one?

In most cases, your shelving unit will need to be placed against the wall. Many shelving units are cross-braced at the sides, which is when diagonal struts are positioned between the frames and shelves on both sides. They reinforce the structure preventing collapse, but block the side access to the shelves.

Think about this carefully when you’re planning your storage space; you don’t just need to think about the available space in terms of the size of the unit, but also access. Some shelving units are cross-braced at the sides but stand unsupported by the wall, meaning you can get access from the front and/or the back.

What am I storing?

The types of items you plan to store on the shelving unit will play a big part in your decision. Each kind of shelving systems has pros and cons for storing different types of item or product. We’ll break these down in more detail later in the guide, but for now, it’s worth considering what you’ll be storing.

You should also think about grouping items by type, as this will make it easier when you come to buy shelving units. It might be more appropriate to buy two different types of systems, one for each group of items.

Where will I place my shelving?

Now you need to consider the environment in which your storage system will be placed. For dry, indoor environments, a powder-coated finish would suffice, but is the area is damp, you’ll need to think about getting a galvanised, rust-proof finish.

For sterile or food storage and preparation areas, stainless-steel is usually best as it can be washed down with risk of rust. Chrome is an inexpensive finish designed for use of light-duty shelving and is best for display purposes.

Will I need more storage in the future?

There’s every chance you’ll need to add to or extend your storage as your business grows. Most shelving systems can be extended easily; just check that the system allows for add-ons and you’ll be able to add to it whenever needed.

Who will you purchase from?

If you have a supplier or manufacturer you usually buy from, approach them first to see if they stock the kind of equipment you are looking for. If not, or if you’d prefer to shop around, check that they are a reputable supplier before you buy.

Budget

While it’s tempting to save money when purchasing capital items, it might be more efficient in the long run to spend a bit more now. Set yourself an upper limit, but don’t be afraid to spend all of that. Getting a better product will mean it lasts you longer and you’ll save money on maintaining and replacing it.

 

Choosing the right shelving and racking

Types of shelving and racking

Express shelving

A great starter system, especially when you need it fast, our Express Delivery shelving systems are budget boltless units. Available in light or heavy load, they are fully adjustable, robust and economical.

They come with 5 shelves included and no need for nuts or bolts; the bays just tap together. These bays also have the benefit of full access on all sides, so they’re ideal if space is at a premium. Great for when you need it fast, we can offer these on an express 5 working day delivery.

Boltless shelving

Boltless shelving is an economical, no-fuss solution to your storage needs. Available in a range of duties and styles, there’s no need for nuts as bolts as the bays and shelves just tap or click together. With adjustable shelving, this range is ideal for offices and storerooms where you’ll be storing smaller items, although we do offer a great, economical heavy-duty unit for heavier goods.

Galvanised shelving

Galvanised shelving units are great for hygienic or harsh environments and are highly durable, so they’re built to last. This unit is offered as a starter bay with 4 uprights, 5 shelves and a galvanised cross brace.

This system is designed to expand as you need it too, as we offer an extension bay package and individual shelves, so you can design the unit to suit your specific needs.

Zinc shelving

These units are also galvanised, but are finished in a smooth zinc coating, making them hygienic and easy to use. They are ideal for manufacturing, retail, wholesale and other commercial and industrial environments.

They are lightweight and manoeuvrable, making them ideal for temporary shelving or for storage that you’ll need to move around at times. They are strong and durable, so they’re built to last, and with a bolt-free construction, they’re really easy and quick to put together.

Available in a start pack that contains two upright frames and six shelves, you can expand your storage with a pack including one upright frame and six more shelves. This allows you to design the shelving unit to your own needs.

These units can also be fixed to the wall, floor or back to back with other bays. The shelves are fully adjustable too.

Bolted shelving

Available in light and medium duty units, this bolted shelving is suitable for general purpose and office use. They are ideal for storing A4 or Foolscap files, with adjustable shelves that make them flexible and adaptable to your needs.

They have greater flexibility too; there are 3, 4 and 5 shelf units available. The 4-shelf unit can be constructed as a 4-shelf unit or as a 2×2 unit, while the 5-shelf unit can also be constructed as a 2 and 3 shelf unit.

You can choose from a black powder coated or galvanised finish.

Tubular shelving

Flip tubular shelving is multipurpose and has tubular shelves that adjust in increments of 62.5mm. They are completely boltless, the shelves just clicking into place on the uprights. Each bay comes with 4 uprights and 5 tubular shelves.

This is a completely flexible storage system; expansion bays and extra shelves are available and, if you’re looking to store smaller items on any of the tubular shelves, you can purchase hardboard covers too.

They frame is epoxy powder coated in a high-visibility blue. This product also works with the standard Flip units as well as with the Fliplus heavy-duty shelving which comes with a galvanised cross brace. Together they make this an incredibly flexible system that you can configure to your exact requirements.

Chrome shelving

Our range of chrome shelving comes in units that are suitable for dry areas and has chrome wire shelving with a clear epoxy coating for longer life. Starter bays have 4 uprights and 4 shelves and you can configure the system by adding expansion packs that connect inline or at right angles.

You can also choose to add braked casters that make this an effective mobile shelving system.

We also stock the Quartermaster hygienic shelving with has an antibacterial nylon coating. They are designed for use in kitchens, coldrooms and hospitals and can be assembled quickly with no tools.

Starter bays and extension packs make the units extremely flexible and you can configure them as you need to, and you also have the option of casters that make the units mobile. Expansion packs can be added inline or at right angles to suit your available space, although bear in mind that right angle configurations will mean your shelf capacity is reduced by 20%.

Widespan shelving

Widespan (or longspan) shelving is suitable for bulkier loads, ideal if you have wider or longer items to store. They are also suitable for long term storage and archiving. Bolt free construction means they click together easily and are available in configurable starter and expansion bays that allow you to designed the perfect shelving system for your requirements.

For heavier items, the Epsivol shelving units have a capacity of 448kg UDL

Garment racking

If you need a racking system for storing garments such as uniforms, jackets, overalls and other clothing items, you can choose our zinc garment racking system. They are constructed of galvanised steel with a smooth, hygienic zinc coating.

These units are extremely lightweight and manoeuvrable and have a bolt-free construction that means they are very easily and quickly assembled. Starter packs and expansion bays allow you to design the racking system you need or add to it as your business grows.

These units are double-sided meaning you can maximise hanging space in open areas, as they can be placed against walls or free-standing in open areas. The oval shaped beams provided are suitable for use with most hangers and you can also add flat shelves to allow you to build a comprehensive storage system, if you also wanted to store hard hats or other gear, for example.

Archiving

If you need to store or archive documentation, we have both lever arch storage and archival storage systems. The lever arch system is easily assembled and boltless and will hold either A4 or Foolscap files. You can choose from 20 or 50 file versions and 3 colours; grey, blue or red. We also provide bay links that allow you to connect multiple bays to one another.

The Supershelf Archive zinc shelving system is similar to the other zinc systems outlined but is ideal for storing medical records, legal files and accounts. The system is available with or without triple walled archive boxes, making this a fantastic option if you want to get started on archiving your paperwork.

Cantilever shelving

The cantilever shelving system is sturdy, versatile and stylish and comes with the option of single or double-sided units. Each shelf has a rolled front face that adds strength and allows you to add display strips so you can identify what is on each shelf.

The unit has integrated backstops that prevent files or paperwork from falling through or behind the shelves. Shelves are adjustable in 25mm increments and you can choose starter and expansion packs allowing you to create the perfect storage system or grow as your business does.

The units are powder coated in a smoke white finish and have an Active Coat antibacterial coating, with adjustable feet. You can also purchase optional tilted display shelves, making this system ideal for both storage and promotional uses.

Accessories

As well as shelving and racking systems, we also carry a range of identification systems that can be purchased as add-ons for your storage solutions.

Self-adhesive labels packs come in bold, high-visibility black on yellow and can be used for labelling shelves, bins, racking or files, and can be removed easily with no residue.

Self-adhesive and magnetic label holders, location markers and document pockets are all ideal for labelling, identifying and holding important information on the items you are storing.

Floor signal markers come in a variety of types including arrows, circles, T-shapes and corners making for an inexpensive way to mark off walkways, forklift routes and pallet positions, while bay markers can help you to easily identify types of goods or items by bay.

Floor markers are also available; these hi-vis graphic floor markers are available in a variety of warning or special requirement styles, including No Pedestrian Traffic, Stop, Fire Exit and many more.

Using any combination of these identification systems will help you to keep your storage space well-organised, improve health and safety and make staff more efficient.

Material

Galvanised steel

Galvanised steel is sheet steel that has a protective zinc coating applied using hot-dip galvanising. The zinc coating protects the steel by preventing corrosive substances from getting to the metal underneath. Steel is lightweight and durable, so the combination of the steel and the zinc coating makes the resulting unit both manoeuvrable and hard-wearing.

Zinc

While this may seem the same as the previous material, smooth, zinc-coated galvanised steel has a further layer of zinc applied. While this offers a little extra protection, the main reason for the further coat is to provide a smoother finish and a brighter, more uniform appearance.

Chrome

Chrome plating is similar to galvanised steel in that it is a metal such as steel or iron with a chromium electroplating on the surface. While chrome affords some anti-corrosion properties, it is mainly used for its aesthetic properties.

Chrome is very bright and reflective, making it the ideal coating for shelving systems that are used for promotional or display purposes.

Epoxy powder coating

Powder coating is applied as free-flowing dry powder that is then cured under heat, forming a skin of colour on the surface of the material used. Most general powder coatings are an epoxy resin which offers corrosion protection and results in bright colours.

Anti-Bacterial coating

ActiveCoat is a durable anti-bacterial powder coating similar to epoxy. However, it was developed to ensure the cleanest hygienic standards, with a 99% reduction in E.Coli and MRSA. The coating is designed to last the entire life-span of the unit and is 100% safe for human contact, making it perfect for hospitals, schools, leisure centres, kitchens and other areas where hygiene is a top priority.

Duty rating / load capacity

There are two weight or load specifications you need to check when considering purchasing storage equipment; the individual UDL of each shelf and the maximum weight loading of the entire bay.

Systems usually come in light, medium and heavy-weight varieties but it’s important that you check the specifications carefully. Make sure you work out the average load of each shelf and the overall unit by weighing the individual items and multiplying that by the number of items you’ll be storing.

Always err on the side of caution here; if you think that you might go above that average, always purchase a unit that has a higher weight capacity. Remember too that the UDL is the distributed weight capacity of the shelf i.e. when the products are spread out across the length of the shelf.

If you place one item in the centre of the shelf that is the same as the weight capacity of the entire shelf, you run the risk of the shelf buckling or collapsing, so be careful here.

 

Organising your workspace

Whether you’re looking for storage for an office, warehouse or stockroom, business of all kinds need effective and practical storage in order to work efficiently. No matter what kind of items you are storing, it’s important that you can get to them quickly as this will save time and money. Well-organised storage prevents delays caused by misplaced or poorly-labelled items, which has a negative impact on productivity.

Poor storage can also result in hazards that exposes your workforce to the risk of injury and exposes the business to potentially expensive insurance and litigation costs.

Measure the available space before purchasing storage and ensure that you take into consideration any height restrictions and access. Make sure that once the storage systems are in place that employees can access them easily. It’s also important to make sure that the floor is strong enough to hold heavy loads in bays that are used for storage large or heavy items.

Shelving systems come in a variety of sizes and styles, as outlined earlier, so always make sure you check the specifications and choose bays that are deep and wide enough to hold everything you plan to store there.

Many shelving units have chipboard shelves which are practical and strong, but are susceptible to water damage. If there’s a risk of water or other liquids coming into contact with the shelves, choose galvanised steel which is less susceptible to corrosion.

It’s also worth considering a system that can be expanded over time as your business grows. Many of the shelving systems we offer come with both starter and expansion packs that allow you to add extra shelves or whole bays as you need to.

Keeping the workspace organised

One clear way to keep the storage space well organised is to create ‘zones’. Whether it’s paperwork in lever arch files or archival boxes, or equipment or heavier products, grouping everything by type makes it much easier to put your hands on that item you need.

Also, it’s crucial that ‘hidden’ items, those in boxes for instance, are well-labelled. Some shelving systems allow for labels to be attached to the front of shelves or you can simply use a sticky label. Either way, make sure labelling is sensible and clear, and maintain it over time too. Labels can peel away or become scuffed as items are moved on and off shelves, so freshen up labels that are no longer legible.

Use vertical space

Your real estate is one of the single biggest costs to your business, so it’s crucial you make the most of that investment. Vertical space is often wasted because it’s difficult to make use of it in office, workroom or retail areas, but you can maximise your storage space by building upwards.

Of course, it’s important that you factor in health and safety when storing vertically. Secure ladders should always be provided and training given on how to use them safely, but here’s a couple of useful tips for making the most of vertical space while staying safe:

1 – Store heavier items as near to waist height as possible. It might be tempting to put the heavier goods nearest the floor, but you run the risk of employees injuring themselves as they bend to lift heavy items. Situating them at waist height means they can effectively be slid from the shelf carefully into a standing carry position.

2 – Store infrequently-used items high up. If you’re making the most of your vertical space, save time and effort by storing the lesser-used items on the higher shelves. That will mean less need for climbing ladders to get items that are used daily and will maximise your space.

Discard older items

It’s common for storerooms to accumulate ‘stuff’, but often, if we’re honest, most of it is no longer required or relevant. Storerooms should never become junk rooms, so if you have obsolete or old equipment or goods in there, have a clear out. Once you’ve discarded or recycled the old items, make a roster for checking through the stockroom regularly to make sure only essential items are stored there.

There will always be a need for storing items or paperwork that isn’t in current or regular use; instead, this is about being ruthless with what you no longer need. Free up the space and make the most of your storage.

 

Storeroom health & safety tips

Every storeroom covers a wide range of activities, each of which can result in hazards and risks to health. It’s important that you recognise that as an employer, you are responsible for risk management and that you have a duty of care to your employees. Sensible measures should be put in place to ensure that all hazards are reduced and risks minimised.

The main injuries reported in storerooms are slips, trips and falls, manual handling issues and objects falling from a height.

You should have in place a sensible and clear health and safety policy. This is the starting point for how you manage health and safety and will inform everything from how you store items to the training you need to provide to your staff. If you have more than 5 employees, that policy needs to be a full written policy statement.

Steps to successful management of health and safety

  • Identify key health and safety priorities
  • Focus efforts on those priorities
  • Assess any risks to your employees or others
  • Eliminate those risks where you can; reduce to an acceptable level where you can’t
  • Use safe systems of work
  • Provide employees with information and training
  • Involve the staff force in decision making on health and safety issues
  • Regularly review performance

Risk assessment

Firstly, you need to work out the priorities in health and safety management and this is achieved through a risk assessment. Many people fear that risk assessments will be unnecessarily complex but in fact they are just careful examinations of the kind of work people do in each area and the potential things that could cause harm.

There are 5 simple steps involved in a risk assessment:

  • Identify hazards
  • Decide who might be harmed and in what way
  • Evaluate the risks and decide on any precautions you need to take
  • Record the findings and implement them
  • Review and update the risk assessment regularly

Key hazards in a storeroom

Manual handling

In the UK, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most common occupational illnesses. Over 1 million people are affected by this every year and include problems like back pain, neck pain and upper-limb disorders.

Sometimes MSDs can be caused by repetitive tasks but they are also caused by one-off instances such as poor manual handling. Activities that involve heavy lifting, bending and twisting or exerting too much force can all result in MSDs.

Where possible, you should avoid the need to manually lift or handle loads. However, in practice there will often be a need to lift items of some kind. For regular handling of heavy items, mechanical lifting devices should be used, such as forklift trucks, chutes or scissor lifts.

You should risk assess all manual handling by working through the following checklist:

  • The task – are there any foreseeable risks, such as excessive lifting or twisting?
  • The load – Are loads unsuitable for manual handling, either because they are too heavy, bulky or slippery?
  • The environment – Do the conditions of the working environment increase the risk, perhaps just to constricted areas or uneven flooring?
  • Individual capability – Do certain employees need a specific assessment before manually handling items, for example pregnant women or older or young workers?
  • Other factors – Clothing or personal protective equipment can hinder manual handling, for instance.

Good handling technique

When manual handling must be carried out, there is a simple technique that should be applied that significantly reduces risk.

1 – Stop and consider the activity before you carry it out; don’t rush into it, but stop and think of the best way to approach the lift.

2 – Adopt a stable position; feet apart, with one foot slightly forward to keep your balance.

3 – Bend at the knees and keep the back fairly straight; get into a good posture and get a firm hold of the item.

4 – Carry the load close to your waist.

5 – Keep your head up while you carry the item.

6 – Don’t twist the back or lean sideways while carrying the item, especially when the back is bent.

Make sure there’s enough room

Employees must have enough space in which to carry out their work and this is true of storerooms and storage areas. You should always make sure that there is enough space for employees to access the storage, as well as to safely retrieve items from shelves and put items back. They should be able to comfortably carry items out of the storage space without hazards and try to avoid narrow corridors or corners.

Falling objects

Falling objects is one of the main causes of accidents in storerooms and storage spaces. It’s important that you minimise this risk through careful planning and training.

System for stacking, including the physical stacking units, should be safe. This means properly maintaining them and regularly checking them for damage or corrosion. Always store items on shelves according to the specifications, with particular attention paid to the UDL of each shelf and the overall weight capacity of the shelving bay.

Items should always be correctly loaded on shelves; make sure that they are not sitting on the edge or piled too high.

A lack of space can also result in items falling from shelves and you should make sure that items aren’t positioned to high without proper equipment like stepladders.

General best practices when buying shelving and racking

Buying the right shelving and racking equipment is much the same as making any other kind of capital purchase for your business. You need to make sure you get the items you need and that you protect yourself, particularly when buying online.

Follow standard best practice when purchasing shelving and racking and you’ll get great products at the best price from a reputable supplier. Here are some of our top tips for making the right purchase:

Research your retailer

With online shopping it’s easy to buy what you need. You can choose from high street brands, tried and trusted retails or new suppliers that you hadn’t heard of before. There are no right or wrongs here; just make sure you do some homework and buy from a reputable, legitimate and trustworthy supplier.

Some red flags to look out for when shopping online include:

  • Security flags or warnings from your browser or anti-virus software when you visit a website
  • No customer reviews or feedback
  • No registered address or telephone number, or only PO box addresses on the site
  • Bad spelling, grammar and overall standard of English in the content
  • Prices that seem too good to be true; check the small print
  • Very young or new businesses or sites

It’s easier than ever to check if a website is that of a legitimate supplier. Use the ‘whois’ lookup service to find out who the registered owner is. You should find full details of the owner including contact details; if they’re hidden behind the host details, you might want to look somewhere else.

Scammers can sometimes clone legitimate websites as a means of phishing for credit card information, but thankfully, most modern browsers will warn you if there’s something dodgy going on. One more reason to always make sure your operating system, browser and anti-virus software are kept up to date.

Be wary of buying from a brand-new supplier; they might be undercutting their competitors to make a mark on the market, but if they fold or go into administration, you could lose any guarantees or warranties they provided.

Check customer reviews

Customer reviews of products are a fantastic way to see the pros and cons of each one. You can also find out useful information on how to use the product for a specific purpose. Just make sure you look at a spread of reviews; sometimes it’s the single one-star review that tells you what you need to know, while equally, bad reviews don’t always give you an accurate picture.

Don’t immediately assume that a bad review reflects a poor product. Occasionally customers will have chosen the wrong item for the job but will blame the supplier or manufacturer. Bad reviews can also sometimes reveal more about the retailer, particularly if you can get an idea on how they resolved the issue.

It pays to shop around

Not all suppliers charge the same for their products and with online shopping and price comparison sites, it’s never been easier to get a range of prices on a similar product. Always get a number of quotes before making a decision.

You might also want to get in touch with a supplier to discuss their products. Some suppliers will offer discounts for first time buyers, or if you’re looking to set up an account; that discount might guarantee them some repeat business, so it’s always worth asking.

The headline prices might look great, but look out for other costs to make sure you aren’t stung when you get to the checkout. Here are some of the main extra charges you should be on the lookout for:

  • VAT: Currently at 20 per cent in the UK, which is a whopping fifth of the purchase price. This might or might not be visible until you get to the checkout, so always keep an eye on it.
  • Import or export tax: If you shop with an overseas supplier you could get a fantastic price on your items. However, you need to be wary of import/export tax. This won’t be added on at checkout; in fact, you’ll only find out about it when you take delivery of the item, and for large items it could be a substantial fee. Check online to get an idea of possible charges.
  • Delivery: Here at Equip4Work, we offer free delivery on most of our products to UK addresses. Some competitors, though, will charge expensive delivery fees, so be wary of these.
  • Admin: Admin fees are a rare sight these days, but occasionally suppliers will still try to add them on, particularly for account purchases. Watch out for admin or invoice handling fees, and query anything that looks out of place.

Remember that price isn’t everything, especially when you’re buying for a business. You’ll also want fantastic customer care, great quality products and cast-iron warranties or guarantees should anything go wrong. Factor these in when you’re looking at prices too.

Only ever buy what you need

By working your way through this buying guide, you should have a proper handle on the kinds of shelving and racking systems you are looking for. However, once you start looking at products, it can be easy to be swayed by new technologies or extra features. Try to stick to your requirements and don’t pay for anything that isn’t essential to your needs.

Don’t get caught in a decision-making loop either; it’s great to shop around and get quotes, but it’s also important to get the items you need so they can start making a difference. Narrow it down, choose the best option and sit back and wait for delivery!

Further information

Here at Equip4Work, we stock a vast range of shelving and racking systems, so we have something for every need. All of products have photos, clear specifications and descriptions and upfront pricing.

However, if you need help with any specifications or you’d just like some advice on choosing the right shelving or racking system for your business, talk to our Sales Advice Team who will be happy to help. Call us today on 08444 999 222, email us at sales@equip4work.co.uk or complete the contact form on our website and we’ll get back to you.

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Last Modified / Updated on: May 31, 2018 at 11:09 am