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Should I Buy Chinese-Manufactured Pallet Rack?



We’re reviewing to most popular pallet rack brands and styles, giving one to five stars in the following criteria: design, availability, competitive pricing, ease of installation and durability. Our final category is selective pallet rack manufactured in China.

Design:  two stars

Chinese manufactured pallet rack has been on the rise for the past decade. While China is a source for most styles of racking, notably teardrop pallet rack and some others, there exists a wide variety of quality and supply. Like most products, Chinese manufacturers have been able to copy the basic design style and color match of made-in-America rack. But capacity and other standards are often called into question since they don’t follow RMI (Rack Manufacturers Institute) Standards.

Chinese Manufactured Pallet Rack
Design: A Chinese manufactured upright and beam connection.

Availability:  one star

The availability of Chinese made rack has expanded in the US the last few years with some distributors choosing to carry this inventory in stock. The issue with availability is most often recognized when trying to fill truck load quantities and individual drop ship orders of Chinese rack. I think we have all heard about the “Slow Boat” from China – it may be 4-6 months before the rack arrives. Also, the limited availability of standard add-on items (row spacers, column guards, pallet supports, etc.) and lack of variable sizes doesn’t help when trying to find a reliable source of Chinese rack.

Competitive Pricing:  five stars

The pricing of Chinese rack is the major driver in the sale of these products. Some users are willing to sacrifice quality and capacity for a few dollars in savings. In reality the savings are not that great when you factor in shipping, handling and replacement costs. I believe some users don’t even know that they are buying a Chinese made product because it is being represented as teardrop compatible rack. When a distributor does disclose the material is from China, the current price difference from US rack is substantially less than 10%.

Chinese currency
Competitive pricing: While Chinese rack is one of the most competitively priced pallet racks on the market today, the value is not.

Ease of Installation:  three stars

The installation of Chinese manufactured rack is generally not a problem. The teardrop compatible design will usually work well together. However, there is always an uncertainty of interchange with similar US sourced products due to conversion from metric dimensions and the lack of quality controls at the factory.

Durability: one star

The biggest problems with Chinese manufactured rack are durability and wide range of quality. There are no specifications for the chemical components and no enforced controls on the content or capacity ratings for steel manufactured in China. Since these manufacturers don’t follow RMI standards, the rack may not offer the same capacity as American made – remember not all 96″ x 4″ beams are created equal. These Chinese made products can be produced with lighter gauge steel and in most cases the upright frames are designed to bolt together rather than being welded. The bolted design frame allows for greater capacity in a shipping container but less capacity when actually storing pallets.

Final Word

If the time on the high seas isn’t a major concern, with trial and error for specific sources, you can find decent quality rack in the Chinese source market. What you don’t know, without considerable track record, is whether quality control is a moving target, or whether to gamble on a foreign source whose primary goals may not be in sync with yours: quality, safety, consistency.

Chinese rack wide view
Chinese manufactured rack: A top ranking on competitive pricing cannot come close
to making up for deficiencies in durability, availability and design.