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FIFO: First In, First Out

Delve into the First In, First Out (FIFO) inventory management method. Understand its mechanics, applications, advantages, and limitations for effective stock control.

 Introduction to FIFO (First In, First Out)

First In, First Out (FIFO) is an inventory management principle that suggests the first items added to inventory should be the first to leave, whether through sales, usage, or other methods. FIFO is a widely adopted approach in sectors where inventory items have a limited shelf life or are subject to rapid technological obsolescence.

The Mechanics of FIFO in Inventory Management

The basic concept of FIFO is straightforward: items purchased or manufactured first are sold or used before items acquired later. Inventory systems often employ this method by automatically releasing products in the order they were received. Let’s look at some key elements:


Maintaining precise records is essential to implementing FIFO effectively. These records commonly include purchase dates, manufacturing dates, and batch numbers.

Inventory Layout

Physical arrangement of stock can facilitate the FIFO method. For instance, newer items are placed behind older items to naturally encourage FIFO picking.

Stock Rotation

Effective stock rotation practices ensure that older items are accessible and selected before newer arrivals, minimizing the risks of spoilage or obsolescence.

Application Areas of FIFO

FIFO is particularly useful in specific industries and situations:

Perishable Goods

In food and pharmaceutical sectors, items have expiration dates, and therefore following FIFO minimizes waste.

Seasonal Items

For products like apparel with seasonal variations, FIFO ensures that older styles are sold before new ones arrive.

Volatile Pricing

In industries where costs of goods fluctuate, FIFO can mitigate the impact of rising prices on gross margins.

Advantages and Limitations of FIFO


  • Minimizes waste due to spoilage or obsolescence.
  • Aligns well with the natural flow of perishable goods.
  • Easier to implement as it follows a logical order.


  • May not be suitable for all types of inventory.
  • Sometimes can result in higher income taxes if inventory costs are rising.
  • Requires rigorous record-keeping and physical organization.

Best Practices and Considerations

When adopting FIFO, consider the following:

Software Tools

Modern inventory management systems often come with FIFO capabilities built-in, which can automate much of the process.

Employee Training

Employees need to be trained in FIFO principles and practices to ensure smooth operation.

Audit and Review

Regular audits are crucial to validate that the FIFO method is being followed correctly and to make any necessary adjustments.

Contact Us

The world of logistics is complex and full of technical, financial, and business elements. The logistics experts at Phoenix International deliver top-quality freight forwarding service, supported by powerful technology and decades of experience. Contact us and let us know how we can help you!

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