FIFO vs. FEFO- What's the Difference?

FIFO, First-In, First-Out, is important for companies that distribute products with expiration dates, such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverage. It is a safe practice that ensures your products will not expire or go bad. With FIFO, the oldest products are used or picked first, ensuring product quality and safety. When products are picked for an order, newer arrived products slide forward from the back to replace the just-picked item. Replenishment occurs from the back of the shelves.

FEFO, First Expired, First-Out, is similar to FIFO in that items closest to the expiration will be shipped first. The “E” refers to the expiration date of the product. The APICS Dictionary defines FEFO as “a picking methodology assuring that the usage shelf life of items is optimized.”

In order for the FEFO methodology to be used, items must have serial or lot numbers on them and the item has to be posted to inventory with an expiration date. The serial or lot-numbered items to be picked are sorted with the FEFO methodology, i.e. the items are listed in the order of expiration, so items closest to expiration are picked first. This is useful for pharmaceuticals and medical products that can expire quickly, but can cause significant issues if shipped past the expiration date.

unex fifo rack


FIFO works for items in any type of packaging, whether it’s a can, bottle or bag. FIFO can be used for fresh, frozen or canned items as well. When used correctly, the FIFO rotation method ensures companies are serving safe products and reducing spoilage. When adding new items to storage units, push them to the back of the shelf or load shelves from the rear so that older items will be moved forward and used first. With the FIFO methodology, workers won’t have to continually check expiration dates, saving them time in picking operations, because they know to use older items first.

Labels placed on storage shelves serve as a visual aid in assisting workers to rotate products, maintain quality items and minimize waste. Shipping a product that has expired to a customer can lead to big problems, especially if products are regulated by the government or industry group. Expired products, such as food on a grocery shelf, can affect a brand’s image, not to mention potential consequences from regulators.

Let the UNEX Pickologists help you pick the best storage products and methodology for your needs. Contact us today.


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UNEX Manufacturing, Inc.
691 New Hampshire Avenue
Lakewood, NJ 08701

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