Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Does squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle make you a bad logistician? - PART 2

So we ran a competition for readers to get their opinions published on "Does squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle make you a bad logistician?" - Sadly some of our most prolific bloggers were tied up with work and study which meant I got sent a lot of ideas but no blog post as such.  So I thought I would give a go at doing justice to Michael Keizer's idea of FIFO vs FEFO vs LIFO.

Michael is a logistician working in the humanitarian healthcare sector and someone whose blog and twitter posts I enjoy.

Now FIFO FEFO LIFO may sound like something from my childhood fairy tales where the giant cried FEE FI FO FUM - I smell the blood of an englishman - and to be honest if you don't get your choice of FIFO, FEFO or LIFO right it could land you with a giant problem.  For those of you not used to these terms they mean.

First In First Out    -     First Expired First Out     -     Last In First Out

Perhaps a little too meticulous even for TLP
this chap is definitely a LIFO practitioner.
My preference for toothpaste usage is last in first out.  The easiest way to achieve this is to squeeze from the bottom of the tube, neatly rolling your way up the tube until the smooth flow comes to an end leaving you with a tightly rolled expended tube. Whilst this appropriate for my toothpaste usage it is not often perceived as a good model.  It does however reduce the workload of your warehouse team as they can stack lots of product on push back racking, or stack for maximum density and always take from the front of the storage area.  It produces problems in any commodity with an expiry date as the product at the back of the stack will expire prior to use.  As we looked at in The Logistics of My Packed Lunch this is not good.

For good batch control FEFO is definitely the way forward.  First Expired First Out is a more labour intensive strategy and requires excellent record keeping and an effective stock controller.  When putting together pick lists it will require the batch number to be part of the pick data; warehouse staff will need to be educated in the importance of picking from the right batch.  FEFO however does not really figure in toothpaste use except perhaps in choosing between tubes.  Is your Colgate going to expire before your Arm & Hammer....if either of them expire you should probably review your dental hygiene program.

So we are left with FIFO - first in first out.........hmmmmmm ........short of cutting the bottom off the tube of toothpaste I can't sees how that can be effected in the dispensing of toothpaste.  I do know of people who do this to ensure they get every last mg of toothpaste from the tube.  I sometimes think of FIFO as FEFO for those without a batch control system but such things should not be left to chance.  In some warehouses FIFO is the result of how the racking system works.  There is a receipt face to the racking which has a gravity roll to the pick face, therefore you will always pick the first you received.  It is good for items that have a long expiry date and a quick turnover meaning they will be picked and consumed well before expiry.

So in conclusion none of these recognised systems look even vaguely like squeezing the tube in the middle.......so middle squeezers review your stock movement policy!!!!  You are upsetting us LIFO users. 

Michael I hope I have done a reasonable job on this.


  1. You most definitely did! The only thing I would add is that batch control is an absolute must in medical logistics: when goods are recalled you need to be able to trace them -- not only where they are in your warehouse, but also where they went after they left it. Consequently FEFO is not such a big deal because the most onerous precondition is fulfilled anyway.

  2. Thanks Michael, I am looking forward to quieter times for you and a few words on a humourless lot.