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Posted by Stephanie on November 13, 2023

Warehousing has evolved significantly to meet the ever-growing demand for efficient storage solutions. One such innovation is the Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) racking system, designed to optimize space utilization within a warehouse. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of VNA racking, exploring its features, structural components, and the specialized equipment it requires.

Overview of VNA Racking

Very Narrow Aisle Pallet Racking System

Definition and Characteristics

VNA racking is a space-efficient storage solution that condenses standard pallet racking into a smaller area, creating a high-density storage system. Its defining feature is the narrow handling aisles, making it an ideal choice for warehouses where maximizing storage capacity is crucial.

Comparison with Standard Pallet Racking Systems

To understand the uniqueness of VNA racking, it’s essential to compare it with traditional pallet racking systems. While the main body remains a pallet racking system, VNA introduces the crucial element of “three-way stacking forklift” action rails at the bottom, setting it apart in terms of structure.

Key Features of VNA Racking

The VNA racking system, an abbreviation of Very Narrow Aisle racking, is an adaptation of standard pallet racking systems designed to maximize storage capacity in warehouses with limited space. The primary distinction between VNA racking and conventional pallet racking lies in the incorporation of guide rails, which enable a specialized type of forklift known as a three-way stacking forklift to navigate the narrow aisles with precision.

Precision Maneuvering via Guide Rails: The inclusion of guide rails is a defining feature of VNA racking. These rails, typically made of steel or aluminum, run along the length of the aisles, providing a precise track for the three-way stacking forklift. This guided movement ensures safe and efficient operation in the confined spaces of VNA racking systems.

Narrow Aisle Configuration and High-Density Storage: The aisle width in VNA racking is typically narrower than in traditional pallet racking systems, ranging from 5 to 7 feet. This narrow configuration maximizes storage space, allowing for the accommodation of more pallets within the same warehouse footprint. Despite the reduced aisle width, VNA racking still allows for efficient retrieval of stored goods, thanks to the specialized three-way stacking forklifts.

Three-Way Stacking Forklift: The three-way stacking forklift is an integral component of VNA racking systems. This specialized forklift is designed to operate in narrow aisles, with the ability to move forward, backward, and sideways. The forklift’s wheels are positioned in a unique configuration, allowing it to turn within the confines of the narrow aisles without requiring excessive maneuvering space.

Optimized Storage and Accessibility

VNA racking offers several advantages over traditional pallet racking systems, including:

  • Increased storage capacity: The narrow aisle configuration allows for more pallets to be stored within the same warehouse footprint.
  • Improved accessibility: The guide rails and specialized three-way stacking forklifts ensure efficient retrieval of stored goods.
  • Reduced labor costs: The automation of material handling through VNA racking can lead to reduced labor costs.

Structural Components

Pallet Racking

Shelf Structure in VNA Racking

The primary structural difference lies in the addition of guide rails. VNA racking retains the essential components of pallet racks but introduces guide rails as a significant accessory.

Role of Guide Rails in the Racking System

Guide rails play a crucial role in the VNA system, serving as the guiding system for the three-way stacking forklifts. This addition enhances precision and reduces the risk of damage to the racks caused by human factors.

Unique Accessories Differentiating VNA from Standard Pallet Racks

Beyond the standard accessories in pallet racking, VNA introduces guide rails, marking the most substantial structural difference. This additional feature allows for specialized handling.

Design and Aisle Width

Design Considerations for VNA Racking

The design of VNA racking considers the specific requirements of narrow aisles. This design is tailored to optimize space while ensuring efficient storage and retrieval.

Narrow Aisle Width for Increased Efficiency

A notable feature of VNA racking is the significantly smaller aisle width than standard pallet racks, typically ranging from 1600-2000mm. This narrow aisle design contributes to increased efficiency in material handling.

Advantages of Three-Way Forklifts in VNA Aisles

The VNA system employs three-way forklifts due to the narrow aisle width. These specialized forklifts, capable of navigating tight spaces, enhance the overall efficiency of the VNA racking system.

Specialized Equipment Requirements

Dedicated Forklifts for VNA Racking

VNA racking necessitates the use of dedicated three-way stacker forklifts. These forklifts are tailored to slide along the established guide rails, ensuring precise movement within the narrow aisles.

Role of “Three-Way Stacker Forklifts”

Three-way stacker forklifts are a critical component of VNA racking, enabling efficient and precise handling within the confined spaces of the narrow aisles. Their design aligns with the specific requirements of VNA systems.

Elimination of Traditional Forklift Space Requirements

Unlike traditional forklifts that require additional floor space and turning width, three-way stacker forklifts used in VNA racking eliminate such requirements. This contributes to a more streamlined and space-efficient warehouse layout.

Storage Facilities and Utilization

Narrow Aisle Forklifts

Integration of Specialized Equipment in VNA Storage

VNA racking seamlessly integrates with specialized equipment, such as three-way stacker forklifts, enhancing the overall storage facilities. This integration ensures efficient material handling within the narrow aisles.

High Warehouse Utilization Rates

The vertical storage capabilities of VNA racking, often reaching heights exceeding 10 meters, contribute to high warehouse utilization rates. This vertical storage maximizes available space, making it an ideal solution for warehouses with limited floor space.

Vertical Storage and Its Impact on Space Optimization

The VNA racking system’s ability to store goods at significant heights positively impacts space optimization. This vertical storage capability ensures that warehouses maximize their available cubic space.

Guide Rail System

Functionality and Importance of Guide Rails

Guide rails serve a dual purpose in the VNA racking system – they guide the three-way stacking forklifts along the established routes and act as a protective measure, reducing the risk of damage to racks caused by human factors.

Height and Design of Guide Rails

The guide rails installed in VNA racking systems typically have a height of about 200mm. This design choice ensures practical guidance for the forklifts while minimizing the potential for damage to the racks.

Minimizing Damage and Enhancing Precision

The guide rail system significantly reduces the risk of damage to the racking system, particularly from forklift operators. This enhanced precision in movement contributes to the overall safety and longevity of the VNA racking.

Benefits and Considerations

Advantages of VNA Racking Systems

  • High Selectivity: All individual pallets are accessible, increasing stock rotation.
  • Floor Space Utilization: Requires less floor space for aisles, freeing up more storage space.
  • Improved Picking Rates: The streamlined design can achieve Faster picking rates.
  • Automation Potential: Suitable for integrating automated storage and retrieval systems.

Considerations in Implementing VNA Racking

  • Lower Flexibility: All pallets need to be the same size for optimal use of the racking.
  • Specialized Equipment Requirement: Narrow aisle trucks are necessary for maneuvering between aisles.
  • Guidance System Requirement: Guide rails or wires are essential for precisely positioning forklift trucks.
  • Warehouse Floor Condition: Requires a perfectly flat warehouse floor to prevent higher-level tilt issues.
  • Additional Truck Requirement: Outside of VNA racking, a different truck is needed to load and unload vehicles unless an articulated truck is used.


Implementing a Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) racking system presents a strategic approach to maximize warehouse efficiency and storage capacity. The careful integration of specialized equipment, precise aisle design, and thoughtful consideration of the specific storage requirements contribute to the success of VNA racking systems. While it demands specific considerations and investments, the benefits of space optimization and streamlined operations make VNA racking a valuable asset for modern warehouses. As industries continue to evolve, VNA racking stands as a testament to the ongoing pursuit of innovative storage solutions in warehouse management.

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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.