Mix Racking From Different Manufacturers At Your Own Risk

By MHI Industry Group, RMI (Rack Manufactures Institute)

In many cases, rack collapses are caused by unsafe mixing and matching of incompatible components from different manufacturers (also known as “intermembering”). If a rack column or beam is damaged, an owner might erroneously believe that it can be replaced with any other upright or beam that appears similar in construction. This risky practice can lead to connecting incompatible members that can potentially fail, causing the rack system to collapse.

Although pallet rack columns and beams from different manufacturers may appear similar, they are not. Different manufacturers use different production techniques, steel gauges, connectors, bracing, trusses and beam locking devices in designing their products. All RMI members test their beam, column and other connections to work as a unified system. Further, nearly every rack installation has been engineered specifically for a unique storage application and job site condition.

RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, section 1.4.9, states that a damaged portion of rack should be repaired and restored to at least its original design capacity, then certified by a licensed professional engineer. Further, RMI’s Guideline for the Repair/Replacement of Damaged Rack, section 5.1, notes:

When original or updated engineering documentation is available, replacement of damaged components with identical parts from the original manufacturer is an approved method to address the damaged rack, as long as the rack system still meets appropriate capacity requirements. It is important to not interchange uprights, beams or other components that look “similar” to each other.

RMI member companies perform extensive testing to ensure that their beam to column connections are safe and meet all code requirements. This testing applies only to their own products and is invalid when intermembering with other manufacturers (unless the components are specifically validated and tested by the supervising engineer or manufacturer).

The best (and safest) practice for repairing or replacing a damaged beam or column—and to ensure that the repair is compliant with all building codes—is to return to the original manufacturer. That ensures full confidence that the replacement components will work together safely and match your installation’s unique design and load capacity.

Looking for more guidance on the safest way to modify your existing pallet rack? Download RMI’s Guideline for the Repair/Replacement of Damaged Rack.