One of the biggest challenges timber and builders merchants face is storing long pieces of timber such as beams, planks and decking, effectively.

Long pieces of timber can only be stacked so high before becoming unstable and storing them on the ground often takes up far more space than a merchant can afford.

Standing them vertically is not recommended either, partly from a safety point of view, but also because over time timber is prone to bow or sag, making it unsalable.

But two jobs recently carried out by Yorkshire-based racking and storage specialist Filstorage demonstrate the versatility of cantilever racking for storing long sections of timber in the most efficient way. When talking about efficient, of course, we’re referring to maximising the use of the space a merchant has available for all of its stock lines, while also ensuring the timber is easily accessible.

After all, it is no good storing anything above ground if you can’t get a forklift truck close enough to retrieve the items to fulfil an order.

Kevin Shindler, Filstorage regional account manager for the north-west, said cantilever racking is used extensively by timber and builders merchants because it is versatile enough to be employed in a range of circumstances and capable of storing a large span of products.

This is why builders merchant Walter Tipper Ltd – which has 12 branches throughout the Midlands – contacted Filstorage early this year, after the business had introduced a new composite decking product at its branch in Lichfield, and needed a storage solution that would fit into its existing facilities.

“Walter Tipper started stocking a composite decking that is 3.6m long by 900mm deep and that was always going to take up a lot of space,” said Mr Shindler.

“It is an experienced merchant and came to us knowing it needed cantilever racking and where it would go.

“Our job from there was to design a system that perfectly suited its needs. We needed to consider the length of the decking, of course, as well as the weight.

“It needed a design that would be able to store up to 27 packs on a run, so that’s 54 on a double run of racking. This is the equivalent of 1.2 tons stored at height, so we needed to factor all of that in.”

Another issue Filstorage had to factor in was securing the cantilever racking to the ground.

The area of Walter Tipper’s yard where the racking was to be located was block paved, and racking cannot be secured on block paving or tarmac, but instead needs concrete to be safely fastened down.

This necessitated the need to build a concrete plinth for the racking to stand on, before installation could take place.

“The client earmarked an area in the yard that it knew would be accessible for the racking,” said Mr Shindler.

“It went for one run of six columns and a double run of six columns which was the right solution for them. It keeps the product clean, tidy, and accessible, which is exactly what a good storage system should do.

“The job was relatively straightforward and took around two and a half days to complete. It’s worked out really well; the client is very pleased.”

Filstorage carried out a similar job in September this year for Sovini Trade Supplies, a builders merchant with five branches across the north-west.

The business recently started to stock timber decking in 4.2m and 4.8m lengths and needed an efficient storage solution that would maximise available space.

So, to achieve this, it re-engineered the layout of the yard, making space for the racking by relocating some building products lines and some stillages to other areas of the yard.

“Sovini Trade Supplies had the great idea of utilising the outside of is building and placed two large single runs of cantilever racking along the exterior of the warehouse,” said Mr Shindler.

“This gave it enough space to store the new decking product, and access it easily, but barely impacted on the wider storage capacity of the yard.

“All that was needed to achieve this was a bit of diligent relocating of existing products, and a really intelligent storage solution in the cantilever racking.

“The racking is 5m high, has a base and three levels of 1200mm arms, each capable of supporting 1.5 tons. This has enabled the company to introduce a new line while barely compromising on yard space.”

Mr Shindler added that both of these jobs demonstrated the versatility of cantilever racking to enable merchants to store products high up, and how this can often make for the best use of space.

An important point, he added, is that a racking system can be designed to fit into the space available, and simple but innovative solutions such as placing it along the outside of a building can make all the difference.

“The great thing about racking systems is they are so flexible,” he said.

“You can opt for single runs or backto- back double runs, or mix and match depending on the space you have and how your yard is set out, and canopies can also be added to the structure to protect the product from the elements.

“Often, the best results can be achieved by bringing in a racking partner to work with you to re-engineer your yard for the best results.

“We have seen and designed hundreds of timber and builders merchant yards over the years and that often means we can see the potential for a yard even where others in the business can struggle, simply because we offer a fresh set of eyes.

“That can be invaluable in creating new space and then slotting in precisely the right storage solution.

“Once you find that, it can transform the efficiency of your yard, and as a result, the whole business.”