To meet retailer demand for efficient cold chain distribution east of the Mississippi River, Manfredi Cold Storage, Toughkenamon, Pa., continues to expand its Kennett Square, Pa., facility. 

In fact, it recently expanded the facility by 70,000 square feet, for a total of 400,000 square feet of cold storage space, with plans already in place for future expansion. The site handles fruit, vegetables and food stuffs from 22 countries at 0-55°F temperatures, and provides retailers with wireless, real-time inventory and access.

However, in order to keep such continued growth on track, effective operation requires the use of exceptionally rugged drive-in racks.

“About 150-200 truckloads of product move in and out of our storage every day, about 25,000 pallets, so the drive-in rack needs to be very durable and accessible,” says Rob Wharry, director of operations for Manifredi Cold Storage. “The product has to go out quickly and efficiently to grocery stores, club stores, distribution centers and the foodservice industry.”

Withstanding a tough environment

Drive-in racks enable storing up to 75% more pallets than selective racks and are ideal for high-traffic and cooler/freezer installations. With drive-in racks, forklifts drive directly into the rack to allow storage of two or more pallets deep. 

But, because forklifts drive directly into the rack, drive-in racks tend to take more abuse than other rack structures. In cooler and freezer applications, the rack must withstand some of the greatest forklift abuse in warehouse material handling due to the confined space, slick surfaces and cold temperatures.

“We’re in and out of rack with heavy pallets and equipment so many times a day,” says Wharry. “It’s a fact of life that sometimes forklifts will run into the rack, so it just needs to be able to stand up to the daily use.”

Looking to optimize the rack’s durability and operation, the cold chain distributor turned to Steel King Industries, a storage system and pallet rack manufacturer based in Stevens Point, Wis.

“We had used several different rack manufacturers previously, but have pretty much exclusively used Steel King for the last 13 years because they make a very rugged product that is specifically designed for our application,” says Wharry.

The most recent expansion addd about 4,000 pallets of refrigerated storage capacity. For this, Manfredi Cold Storage chose Steel King’s SK3000 pallet rack, a rugged bolted rack with structural channel columns. 

A number of rack features help the distributor meet its strength, durability and maintenance goals. 

For starters, the pallet rack is constructed of hot-rolled structural channel column with full horizontal and diagonal bracing, which offers greater frame strength, durability and cross-sectional area. All Grade-5 hardware provides greater shear strength, and a heavy 7-gauge wrap-around connector plate ensures a square and plumb installation with a tighter connection and greater moment resistance.


The drive-in rack also delivers a number of features that enhance ease-of-use and safety.

The drive-in load rail construction includes structural angle rails that “guide” pallets for ease of use; flared rail entry ends allow easy bay access; space-saver low profile arms increase clearance and decrease possible product damage; welded aisle-side load arms eliminate hazardous load projections into aisles; welded rail stops prevent loads from being pushed off and increase safety; and 2-inch vertical adjustability of the bolted rack allows for a variety of configurations for current or future products.

“The heavy rub rail inside the rack helps to guide the pallets in,” says Wharry. “The flared rail entry makes it easier to put pallets in and to take them out of the upper positions.”

For extra protection and reinforcement against forklift impact, Steel King added a guard on the front of the rack’s first upright. The double column, welded angle column protector is designed for heavy pallets and provides additional strength.

“Our operation is a little different than a typical storage customer because we’re dealing with lots of different sized products, so we had a very specific design in mind,” says Wharry. “Everything is specific to our application—rack height, width, pallet loads and how we utilize it.”

The rack openings are about 12-16 inches taller than a standard rack opening, allowing the use of very tall pallets. And, additional adjustments to the rack included the specific implementation of guards, heavy rail and how it is anchored to the floor.

“Other companies can build to order, but Steel King is more willing to work with us to design a system that gives us exactly what we need,” says Wharry. 

With continuing growth expected, however, the distributor is already planning to start the construction of a new cold storage facility in southern New Jersey.

“When the new facility is constructed, the racking set up will be just like what we have here,” adds Wharry. “We’ve determined what works for us and our customers, and now it’s just a matter of ramping up.”