Utilization Ratios in Structural Engineering

You may have heard the term used before and been confused, but “Utilization Ratio” isn’t a complicated concept. Although it’s a structural engineering term, it also applies to the material handling industry and pallet racks. In this article, we’ll explain what it is, when and where it’s used, and how it’s determined. 

What is Utilization Ratio?

Really, the term is self-explanatory. It represents how much a component of a structure (ie, a rack beam or column) is utilized compared to its capacity. So, if a beam’s utilization ratio is 100%, then it is holding all of the load that its capacity allows it to hold. I like to tell people to think of it as “percent stressed”. If the utilization ratio of a beam is 50%, you can think about it like the beam is only 50% stressed. Anything over 100% means it’s overstressed and isn’t strong enough to use. 

When and where is it used?

Utilization ratios are used in structural engineering when we’re determining if the components of a structure work or not. It’s the engineers’ measure to determine if something passes or fails. 

In the pallet racking industry, you’ll see it in prelims and calculation reports, displaying if a beam, connection, columns, base plates, anchors, etc. have the capacity for that particular project. It’s also used in the same fashion for mezzanines, platforms, conveyors, and any other structure used in the material handling industry. 

How is it determined?

The word “ratio” in “utilization ratio”, again is self-explanatory. To determine the utilization ratio, simply put, is to divide the demand (the force from the pallets, storage, seismic, etc.) by the capacity. So if the force induced on a component is 100lbs and the capacity of the component is 150lbs, then the utilization ratio is 67%.

Of course, the process to determine the demand and capacity of a structural component is complicated, which is why structural engineers have jobs. 

Utilization ratios are just that: a ratio determines how much a structural component is being utilized. Although the process of determining the demand and capacity of structural components is complicated, there are software applications that make it easier. 

OneRack is a software that calculates utilization ratios for pallet racks automatically, making it extremely simple to design racks in minutes.

The best part is, you don’t need to be an engineer to use it! Try it for free by clicking here.

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