From The Ergoweb® Learning Center


Dan MacLeod, CPE, MA, MPH

Common issues


A problem when storing spools occurs when cut lengths are to be delivered, as opposed to the whole spool. When a length is to be cut, the traditional method is to lift the spool into the aisle, roll out the needed length, cut it, then lift the spool back into the racks. The task is time consuming and hard on the back and shoulders. Fortunately, simple alternatives are possible.


Rolls of the type shown in these photos are known as either spools or reels. There is no distinction between the two terms, as used in general industry.

Common options for improvement

Roller systems

SpoolRollers1 SpoolRollers2
Examples of spool rollers

Roller systems take advantage of the round rims of the spools. A length of material is simply pulled out, with no need to handle the whole spool.

Rollers systems are commercially available from a number of vendors. However, terminology varies considerably, so it may be necessary to search using multiple names such as: reel winder, spool roller rack, reel rack dispenser, roller platform, and cable drum rotator. It may also be possible to fabricate a homemade system by removing rollers from a section of roller conveyor.

Note in the photo above right the vertical skate wheels that keep spool in position.

Turntables (Lazy Susans)


Turntables can also be used, once again eliminating the need to remove and replace the spool in order to cut a length of material. The photo above left shows a spool simply placed on an inexpensive turntable. Above right is a turntable system (the turntable itself is not visible under the spool). Note vertical roller to help stabilize the spool.

Racks and trees

SpoolRack SpoolTree
Standard spool rack Spool tree

Spools can also be put on horizontal poles, using the center holes. This approach allow easy unwinding and can be a satisfactory technique. But it can be a problem when there is more than one spool per pole and several spools must be lifted in order to exchange just one. A spool tree overcomes this problem by allowing spools to be loaded onto poles from the side, without being affected by other spools.

Vertical carousels


Vertical carousels provide a good way to use vertical space and to put the spools are optimal work height. Lifting is still required for loading new spools and it is normally a good practice to use short poles and one spool per pole (as noted above).