First In – First Out (FIFO)

First In – First Out (FIFO) is a method of inventory management and asset valuation, where the first items added to a stock or inventory are the first ones to be used, sold, or consumed. It follows the principle that the oldest items in inventory are the ones to be used or sold first, ensuring that goods do not remain in storage for extended periods and reducing the risk of obsolescence. FIFO is commonly used in various industries, such as retail, manufacturing, and food services, to manage inventory and maintain cost consistency.

Key Characteristics of FIFO

  1. Chronological Usage: The key characteristic of FIFO is the sequential usage of inventory items based on their entry or arrival time. The oldest items are considered to be sold or used first.
  2. Cost Consistency: FIFO results in cost consistency in inventory valuation and cost of goods sold (COGS). The inventory is valued at the most recent cost, reflecting current market prices.
  3. Prevents Obsolescence: By using older items first, FIFO reduces the risk of goods becoming obsolete or outdated, as newer items are always added to the inventory.
  4. Applicability to Perishable Goods: FIFO is particularly useful for industries dealing with perishable goods, as it ensures the consumption of older items before they expire.

FIFO Application in Inventory Management

  1. Inventory Tracking: FIFO requires maintaining a detailed record of the order in which inventory items are received, ensuring accurate tracking and proper rotation.
  2. Accounting for Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): In financial reporting, FIFO is used to calculate the cost of goods sold, with the assumption that the oldest inventory items are sold first.
  3. Inventory Valuation: The value of the remaining inventory is based on the most recent cost of the items, providing a more accurate representation of the current value of assets.

Advantages of FIFO

  1. Simple and Intuitive: FIFO is straightforward to implement and easy to understand, making it a popular method for small and large businesses alike.
  2. Realistic Inventory Valuation: By valuing inventory at the most recent cost, FIFO provides a more accurate representation of the current value of goods.
  3. Minimizes Obsolescence: Using older inventory first helps in reducing the risk of items becoming obsolete, saving costs and preventing waste.
  4. Compliance with Accounting Standards: FIFO is widely accepted and often required by accounting standards, making financial reporting more consistent and compliant.

Challenges of FIFO

  1. Cost Fluctuations: In times of rising costs, FIFO can lead to lower reported profits due to the higher cost of older inventory items.
  2. Data Management: Maintaining accurate records of inventory entry and usage is essential for effective FIFO implementation.


First In – First Out (FIFO) is a fundamental method of inventory management that ensures the usage or sale of the oldest inventory items first. It provides cost consistency, reduces the risk of obsolescence, and complies with accounting standards. For industries dealing with perishable goods or seeking a simple and intuitive inventory management approach, FIFO proves to be a valuable and widely used technique.


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