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Increase Distribution Center Productivity and Ergonomics with Improved Heavy-Duty Cart Wheels

At your distribution center, you face constant pressure to maintain productivity and minimize worker injuries. You monitor your production metrics, train your workers in the latest safety best practices, and maintain your carts and material handling systems to keep them in service.

One area of your operation that you must also review is the casters and wheels on your carts. The OEM carts that are in use in today’s distribution centers are notorious for being fitted with commodity casters that make carts hard to push and pull (injuring workers), and that fail prematurely (causing unscheduled downtime).

If you want to increase productivity and ergonomics at your distribution center, replace your commodity casters with heavy-duty casters and wheels that are designed and manufactured for demanding environments like distribution centers.

Increase Distribution Center Productivity with Better Casters

Your first order of business is to understand why casters in distribution centers typically fail. Once you have diagnosed your problem, you are ready to prescribe a solution. Here are the top reasons that commodity casters fail:

  • Inadequate weight rating. Every cart in your distribution center has a weight rating, which is the maximum recommended load for the cart based on intermittent operation over smooth floors at speeds not exceeding three m.p.h., with no shock loading or adverse environmental conditions. Casters also come with weight ratings. If the casters on your carts are not rated for the weights that the carts carry, you can expect the casters to fail, and to take the carts out of production.
  • Kingpins. The leading cause of caster failure on carts used in distribution centers is the kingpin. The kingpin is the rivet, threaded stud, or bolt with nut, that holds together the mounting plate and fork assembly of a swivel caster. Most OEM carts used in today’s distribution centers feature kingpins. Failed kingpins put your carts out of service, but they also endanger workers.
  • No wheel bearings. Some casters on OEM carts lack axle bearings. Instead, the metal axle spins against the plastic core of the wheel. This produces friction, and make carts harder to push and pull, especially when overloaded.

The way to maintain and even boost productivity in your distribution center is to replace the commodity casters and wheels on your OEM carts with casters and wheels that are engineered to avoid the problems so common with commodity casters.

  • Your first step, naturally, is to always spec casters that are rated for the carts they are fitted on.
  • Find the weight capacity you need for each caster by adding the weight of your cart to the weight of your maximum load.
  • Then add 33% to that number as a safety margin. Then divide that total weight by the number of casters on your cart.
  • The number you get is the weight rating you must pick for each caster on your cart.
  • Next, look for casters that don’t have kingpins. Kingpinless casters handle heavy loads, perform excellently in tow lines, and offer great durability because of their lack of a kingpin.
  • Finally, buy casters and wheels that have sealed bearings. CC Apex casters from Caster Connection, for example, feature sealed precision bearings that distribute loads, reduce friction, and dampen noise.

Improve Ergonomics with Better Casters

To reduce worker injuries that are caused by poor ergonomics (overexertion and lower-back injuries, for example), you must understand the role that low-quality casters have in poor ergonomics.

Workers in your distribution center overexert themselves and injure their lower backs when your carts are hard to push, pull and steer. Here are the main causes of poor ergonomic performance in casters:

  • Standard swivel lead. The swivel lead is the offset distance between the centerline of the kingpin and the centerline of the axle of a swivel caster. The larger the swivel lead, the easier the caster is to swivel. Carts that are fitted with casters that have standard or zero swivel leads can move heavier loads than carts fitted with casters that have extended swivel leads, but the carts are harder to push, pull and steer.
  • Wrong wheel diameter. The larger the diameter of the wheels on your carts, the easier your carts are to maneuver. So, check the wheel diameter of your casters. If they are too small in diameter for use in your distribution center, then they will be harder to push, pull and steer, especially when loaded to capacity (or beyond).
  • Wrong wheel durometer. Carts fitted with hard wheels are typically easier to push and pull than carts fitted with softer wheels. If your carts are hard to push and pull, check to make sure the wheels have the right durometer (level of hardness) for your floors. Wheels with the right durometer will have better “rollability,” the ease of beginning and maintaining rolling motion.

As you can imagine, the quickest way to minimize worker injuries and improve ergonomics is to enhance the rollability and maneuverability of your carts, and you do this by replacing your commodity casters and wheels with units that are designed and engineered to deliver better, safer ergonomics. This means buying casters that have extended swivel leads, that have the largest wheel diameter possible for your carts, and whose wheels have the optimum hardness.


Yes, those little swiveling wheels on the bottoms of your carts have a profound effect on your production and worker safety. The wrong casters put your carts at risk of going out of service, hindering your production. And they put you at risk of worker injuries brought about by poor ergonomics.

If you want to improve your production and ergonomics, replace your commodity casters with casters manufactured to withstand the demanding conditions at your distribution facility.

Learn more about Caster Connection by watching our on-demand webinar, When Push Comes to Shove: How Better Casters Help Distribution Centers Reduce Injuries and Improve Operations.

Shop casters for distribution centers.

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