Rack Safety, Design Pivotal in Growth of MHI’s Oldest Industry Group

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI), officially the oldest Industry Group in MHI, has seen its share of changes through the years—especially when it comes to rack safety and design. With 2020 being its 62nd anniversary, that equates to decades of knowledge compounded and built upon each year in order to ensure the safety of racks used in the material handling industry.

Carlos Oliver, president of MHI member Frazier Industrial Company and president of RMI, said the group was formed “to provide industry-wide support for testing and development of a specification for the design and use of storage rack systems.” Members support the use of the RMI code and manufacture products that are built in accordance to RMI specifications.

As the world markets continue to grow, rack systems and their designs must adapt too, which means continual re-evaluations of the products being manufactured, marketed and used. Oliver feels RMI will play a pivotal role to industry growth for years to come. “RMI will continue to test and modify the industry specifications as needed for market conditions. As concerns are raised by the industry for safety and design, the RMI will undertake new testing to address those issues. Specifically, the design of rack structures for the ever-changing seismic occurrences and the introduction of new methods of handling are constantly being considered,” he said. “The design and safety practices have changed for the better,” he assured.

He said his most memorable experience since joining RMI was when the International Building Code (IBC) adopted RMI’s specification as methodology for the design of storage racks. “I’m proud to be involved in the ongoing efforts of RMI,” he said.

Director of engineering for Frazier Industrial Company, Dan Clapp, has seen several positive changes take place since attending RMI meetings in the early 1970s. “The Uniform Building Code (UBC) had decided to include storage rack structure in the design requirements of the building code. They tried to fit rack structures into the same set of seismic design requirements as buildings but they did a poor job.” In the mid-1970s, RMI, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, sponsored theoretical calculations and full-scale storage rack seismic tests on a platform able to simulate seismic ground motions. This resulted in the first seismic design parameters and was published in the UBC Building Code. Since then there has been much research, testing (both sub-assembly and sized full storage racks), and peer reviewed and published scientific papers worldwide that have been used to update and improve the RMI specification. “This specification has evolved, revised and improved over the ensuing years and continues to be used today,” said Clapp.

In the early days, the storage rack designers felt there was a disconnect between the RMI specification and what the industry was using for design of their product. “In 1999, a program, called the R-Mark was developed. This was a voluntary seal that, after an independent design process review, could be put on storage rack information, along with a professional engineer’s (PE) seal. This indicated that a licensed PE reviewed the design and certified to the end-user that the storage rack system was in compliance with the RMI specification.”

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