Seismic Conditions vs. Material Handling System: What You Should Know

Written By: Greg Conner

Ceiling Hung Conveyor Project

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s just rack,” or how about, “It’s only ceiling hung conveyor.”? Anyone who has been in the material handling industry could tell you that it ain’t just rack and you better think before hanging anything on the ceiling.

Planning for your racking and ceiling hung conveyor projects is a critical first step no matter what, but never more important than when installing them in areas where seismic events can occur. Below are some items to discuss prior to budgeting for your facility layout when seismic conditions and related permits are key factors to a successful project…

Consider the subsequent list as the fundamentals for determining a seismic pallet rack job:

  • Slab thickness and whether or not the slab is reinforced
  • Soil compaction underneath the slab
  • Seismic zone in which the building is located
  • Code requirements of the city: UBC (uniform building code) or IBC (international building code)
  • Rack layout and profile design
  • Number of beam levels and the unsupported length; the greater the distance, the less the frame will be able to handle (this is very important when considering an alteration to existing pallet rack)
  • Structural or roll formed, and if the rack is bolted, snap together, or welded

Consider the subsequent list as the fundamentals for determining a ceiling hung conveyor job:

  • Building construction at the customer’s facility: spec building or custom build?
  • Seismic zone in which the building is located
  • Code requirements of the city
  • Types of conveyor to be used (weight)
    • Consider the drive locations
    • Consider whether or not you can common support
  • Ceiling joist orientation and the type of header steel you can use (usually C4 is the most common – anything larger will require a special U-Bolt; you can always opt for a double C4 if a structural engineer deems a C6 or similar is required). This is very important because your project costs can skyrocket if you don’t research ahead of time.

Once you have considered some of the criteria for the project, you will need to find an engineering firm that is licensed in the state where the job is to be installed. After you find a firm, a professional engineer will perform detailed seismic and load calculations and drawings. Assuming everything you have proposed is satisfactory, the engineer will stamp the calculations and drawings (some municipalities require copies of your stamped calculations and drawings).

Here are some other tricky items to consider if you wish to avoid potential show stoppers:

  • Have the firm you plan on hiring conduct preliminary calculations based on your design; preliminary calculations are often done at no charge!
  • Consider OSHA or other regulations
  • Local fire department (a lot of rules are subjective when it comes to fire codes; they vary depending on interpretation of the code)
  • Allow plenty of time to obtain the necessary permits; cities have the right to shut down your job if you don’t have the proper paper work. Often times a project may be at the mercy of a city engineer’s approval.

The reality is most cities and municipalities are requiring permits and seismic rated and stamped calculations/drawings. Allowing the proper time to develop the design criteria and obtain approval from the city are an absolute must. Lastly, the firm you hire to complete your calculations and stamp your drawings may have knowledge on the city you plan to install your project; leverage on their experience.

Good Luck!

I have been with Bastian Solutions since June of 2005, and I enjoy helping our customers find solutions to their material handling challenges. I began my career at Bastian as a Project Engineer before transitioning into a Field Sales Engineer position and now Regional Director. Being in a sales role has given me the opportunity to interact with customers while serving in various roles including business development, system design, and project management / implementation.

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1 comment

  1. SPS Chauhan says:

    Nice insight on the Siesmic Considerations

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