FIFO or FISH That is The Question! Make Materials Flow Right!

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Enrique Mora


In a humorous tone but making a high impact reflection, a manufacturer expressed his logistical frustration with this question at a recent enlightening presentation he gave.

Sometimes we do not have the right system to assure the correct flow of materials and this gets still worse when inventories are overwhelming. Countless times I have seen spoiled aged materials be dumped without ever being utilized and that hurts the economy of the person, the Company, and America.

It is mandatory these days – and strictly observed in the Lean Manufacturing disciplines – to assure the correct and thorough utilization of all our resources. Materials are sometimes turned into major losses by not being consumed timely.

FIFO is for just That!

Some creativity is critical here. The goal in this particular case is to make sure that we use first the materials that we received first. FIFO is as most of the Lean Manufacturing thoughts, pure common sense, but as usual easier said than done. We actually have a large number of great examples of FIFO everywhere, but not always are we set to “Observation Mode” so we overlook many clever ideas. One place that has always been fascinating and was appreciated by the Japanese (when they discovered the “Pull-System”) is the supermarket. The supply or replenishment of new products is always put in the back of the shelf, so the First In is easy to reach by the customer and goes First Out.

Watch out! The FISH kills the FIFO!

Ironically there are some other items that seem to not be FIFO friendly, so we need to become more creative to assure that we do not get the bad news that First In is Still Here [FISH]!

When I was a kid I made a few coins by helping a local grocery store in peak hours. Don Joaquín the owner was one of the kindest employers I have met in my long 50+ year career. His systems, though were terrible. At the time, customers would come to the counter and ask the people inside the store for the products they wanted. The granulated sugar in that store was put in a drum sitting on the floor next to the counter and the scale we used to weigh the customers’ orders. At some point, reaching the sugar would get more difficult as the level in the drum would drop. Easy, one of the stronger guys would simply bring a new sac and fill the drum up again and again… Same logistics was applied to beans and other grains. Do you get the idea? Of course, the bottom of the drums was in the case of the sugar, like a rock! And in the grains some moldy stuff would take care of the long time abandoned grains. Now, compare that concept to the coffee grains dispensers in any supermarket today. The supply is poured on the top, but the customer gets the grains from the bottom. That is FIFO! Same thing you can observe in the dairy section, where you pull the products from the front and someone from inside the refrigeration chamber will replenish from behind.

We can always help design and implement an efficient FIFO system for any materials you may have in your facility, Just give us a call! or Send us an Email. In some cases we may be able to help you even without having to go to your place in person.


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This page last updated on

08/02/08 11:31











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