Understanding the FIFO Method in Inventory Management.

 In eCommerce, Fulfillment, Inventory Management, Reverse Logistics, Supply Chain


Effective inventory management is crucial for any business, helping ensure that the right products are available at the right time. One widely used approach to inventory management is the FIFO method, which stands for First-In, First-Out. This method is especially useful for businesses dealing with perishable goods or items with a limited shelf life. In this blog post, we’ll explore what the FIFO method is, how it works, and its benefits.


What is the FIFO Method in Inventory Management?

The FIFO method is an inventory valuation technique where the oldest inventory items are sold or used first. This approach is based on the idea that products purchased or produced first should be the first ones to leave the inventory. FIFO is particularly beneficial for managing items that can spoil, expire, or become obsolete over time.

Related: Procurement and Inventory Management Must Go Hand in Hand to Elevate Your eCommerce Business.


How FIFO Works

To understand how FIFO works, let’s look at an example. Suppose a company buys batches of widgets at different times and prices:

  • Batch 1: 100 units at $10 each
  • Batch 2: 100 units at $12 each
  • Batch 3: 100 units at $14 each

When the company sells 150 units, the FIFO method would dictate that the oldest inventory is sold first. Thus, the cost of goods sold (COGS) is calculated as follows:

  • 100 units from Batch 1 at $10 each = $1,000
  • 50 units from Batch 2 at $12 each = $600
  • Total COGS for 150 units = $1,600

The remaining inventory would be:

  • 50 units from Batch 2 at $12 each = $600
  • 100 units from Batch 3 at $14 each = $1,400
  • Total remaining inventory value = $2,000

Essentially, inventory purchased at different times will have varying costs, resulting in different profit margins.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Sourcing and Procurement.


Benefits of the FIFO Method

1. Accurate Cost Matching

FIFO provides a more accurate reflection of inventory costs, especially in environments with stable or rising prices. By matching older costs with current revenues, businesses can ensure their financial statements reflect the true cost of goods sold.

2. Reduced Obsolescence and Spoilage

Selling the oldest inventory first helps minimize the risk of obsolescence and spoilage, which is particularly important for perishable goods like food products or items with expiration dates such as pharmaceuticals.

3. Simpler Tracking and Reporting

FIFO simplifies inventory tracking and reporting by maintaining a straightforward chronological order of inventory usage. This can make it easier for businesses to manage their stock and understand their cost structures.

4. Higher Ending Inventory Values

In times of rising prices, FIFO results in higher ending inventory values on the balance sheet since the remaining inventory is valued at more recent, higher costs. This can provide a better representation of the current market value of the inventory.

Related: Techniques for Better Inventory Management.


Implementing the FIFO Method

Organize Inventory Storage

To effectively implement FIFO, businesses should organize their storage areas so that the oldest inventory is more accessible. This might involve arranging stock on shelves in a way that newer items are placed behind older ones, ensuring the oldest items are picked first.

Use Inventory Management Systems

Modern inventory management systems can automate the FIFO process by tracking the dates when items are received and sold. These systems can help reduce manual errors and improve accuracy, making it easier to manage inventory levels and costs.

Conduct Regular Audits

Regular inventory audits are essential to ensure compliance with the FIFO method. Audits help identify discrepancies between physical inventory and recorded inventory, allowing businesses to correct any issues and maintain accurate records.

Related: How Can a 3PL Cut Operational Costs for eCommerce Businesses?


Impact on Financial Reporting

Income Statement

FIFO affects the cost of goods sold and, consequently, the gross profit and net income reported on the income statement. In periods of rising prices, FIFO typically results in lower COGS and higher gross profit compared to other methods like LIFO (Last-In, First-Out).

Balance Sheet

Under FIFO, the ending inventory value on the balance sheet reflects the most recent purchase costs. This can lead to a higher inventory valuation, providing a more accurate representation of the current market value of inventory.

Cash Flow

While FIFO can lead to higher taxable income in times of rising prices, resulting in higher tax payments, it also enhances cash flow by reducing the risk of holding obsolete or spoiled inventory. Efficient inventory turnover can improve liquidity and overall financial health.


Bottom Line

The FIFO method is a practical and effective inventory management technique that offers numerous benefits, including accurate cost matching, reduced obsolescence, simpler tracking, and higher inventory valuations. By organizing inventory storage, using modern management systems, and conducting regular audits, businesses can successfully implement FIFO to enhance their operational efficiency and financial reporting. Whether dealing with perishable goods or items with varying costs, adopting the FIFO method can lead to more accurate and reliable inventory management, ultimately supporting business growth and profitability.


An external fulfillment service partner like Elite OPS is responsible for picking, packing, and shipping orders. Consider such a strategy to reduce shipping and operational costs.

Elite OPS has been a leader in Shipping and Logistics for over 25 years. Contact Us to find out how we can help you Save Time and Money on Procurement as a Service, eCommerce Order Fulfillment, and Kitting and Assembly.

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