FIFO vs. FEFO - What's the Difference?

UNEX Span-Track Lane used for FIFO pick method for a paint distributor.

First In, First Out (FIFO)

FIFO, First-In, First-Out, is important for companies that distribute products with expiration dates or perishables, such as pharmaceuticals, food, and beverages. It's 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.


FIFO works for items in any type of packaging, whether it’s a can, bottle, or carton. FIFO can be used for fresh, frozen, or canned items as well. It's important for good stock rotation to use the oldest stock first. When used correctly, the FIFO rotation method ensures companies are serving safe products and reducing spoilage.

Guide to Optimizing Warehouse Space Utilization

FIFO Span-Track Lane being replenished in a distribution center.Improve FIFO rotation with SpanTrack Lane Carton Flow Rollers

UNEX SpanTrack Lane Carton Flow Rollers are loaded from the back and picked from the front. The first item you load is the first item you pick. If you load items in the order of expiration, when products are picked for an order, fresh products slide forward from the back to replace the just-picked items. Replenishment occurs from the back of the shelves.

When adding new items 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 the worker will know they are picking older items first.

Sequencing With FIFO

FIFO is also used for sequencing. Sequencing (JIS) is part of the JIT (Just In Time) manufacturing process. Items are picked in sequential order based on when they will be used and delivered to production.

Flow Cell Carton Flow Racks help with part sequencing. On your auto assembly line, you may be building the interior of 1 brown, 2 blue, and 1 black van. The parts would be sequenced in order of production: 1 brown, 2 blue, 1 black, ensuring the parts are available to the assembler at just the right time.

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First Expired, First Out (FEFO)

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.”

UNEX Span-Track Bed at Thermo Fisher using the FEFO pick method.Leveraging The FEFO Methodology

For FEFO methodology to be used, items must have serial or lot numbers and 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. All items from each lot are picked completely before the next lot slides forward.

FEFO Use Case Scenario For Distribution

This is useful for pharmaceuticals and medical products that can expire quickly but can cause significant issues if shipped past the expiration date. Thermo-Fisher used SpanTrack Wheel Bed, a flexible carton flow solution, in a 13,000 square foot cold box space to house 2,000 of their plant's fastest moving temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals. The condensed, organized storage allowed the plant to improve pick efficiency by more than 45%.

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.

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Optimize For FIFO and FEFO With UNEX

UNEX SpanTrack Lane or Bed helps distributors ensure proper stock rotation, whether they are using the FIFO or FEFO method. Assemblers can increase pick efficiency and ensure parts arrive on the assembly line exactly when needed with Flow Cell Lineside.

To start maximizing your FIFO and/or FEFO operations, contact our space optimization experts for leading picking and storage solutions by UNEX.

Posted by: UNEX