As of November 12, 2023, we are not accepting additional merchants into the Lot Tracking and FEFO program.
Certain products need to have additional tracking for safety measures and to meet certification requirements. Flexport offers First Expired First Out (FEFO) and Order-Level Lot Tracking for Recall Management (Lot tracking) to help enable you to manage your products at an additional level than standard fulfillment.
- FEFO fulfillment is fulfillment based on expiration date. FEFO allows you to stop fulfillment of inventory for a specific expiration date.
- Lot tracking Track Lot code batches from inbound to order fulfillment. In the event of a recall you can:
- Stop fulfillment of inventory for a specific lot code.
- View the orders associated with a lot code. This will help facilitate direct communication with customers impacted by a recall.
FEFO fulfillment works slightly differently at the network level vs. warehouse level. At the network level, Flexport does not always fulfill the oldest expiration date first. We factor in expiration date, destination of the order and inventory distribution in the network. The fulfillment algorithm aims to keep future expiration to a minimum while optimizing fulfillment costs.
This means that sometimes it makes more sense to ship a product that doesn't have the oldest expiration date but one that is closer to the buyer because there is little chance of future expiration so we prioritize on time delivery and fulfillment costs.
Conversely at the warehouse level, we fulfill the oldest expiration date first. Model performance is monitored to ensure minimal expiration.
In this section:
- Actioning FEFO fulfillment and Lot tracking
- Compliance Responsibility and Liability
- Growth Opportunities
SKUs can be both FEFO and order-level lot tracked or separately enabled. Merchants will need to enable both capabilities for each SKU on the inventory detail page. For FEFO, older products are shipped to customers first in order to avoid fulfilling old or expired products and to increase customer satisfaction. When a SKU is enabled for FEFO or Lot tracking, Flexport will inbound that SKU only to the warehouses with capability. There are warehouses with FEFO and Lot tracking capability in every region of the U.S. If a batch of products is located in some regions and not others, there could be an effect on Fast Tags coverage.
These capabilities are not offered in the current program:
- Inventory currently in the network cannot be retroactively enabled for FEFO and Lot tracking.
- While a kitted item may contain multiple lots and expiration dates within it, there can only be one visible lot and expiration date on the sellable unit (i.e. bag or box) because kits are treated as a single SKU in the fulfillment network. We are unable to track multiple expiration dates and lot codes for a single parent SKU.
- Returned inventory cannot be FEFO or lot tracked. Once received, that inventory will go into an untracked status.
- First in First (FIFO) processing is not available. For context, a FIFO processing would go by the date that inventory was received into the network rather than by expiration date of the inventory.
- Serial number tracking is not available.
These requirements are necessary for seamless fulfillment. If these requirements are not followed your items are at risk of not being inbounded with lot tracking or FEFO fulfillment. Additionally, non compliance fees can apply.
- Expiration dates or lot codes must be printed on each physical unit and be visible during the inbound receive process. This is so the accuracy of expiration date or lot code can be assured during the inbound receive process at the warehouse.
- The expiration date of the physical unit is validated against the expiration date entered in Flexport Portal during shipping plan creation.
- Each SKU must have only one lot code or expiration date per shipping plan. There can be multiple SKUs in a single shipping plan, but each SKU must have one lot code or expiration date. This is to reduce the risk of inaccurate receiving and confusion downstream. For merchants who wish to inbound multiple lot codes or expiration dates, you must create multiple shipping plans.
- All cartons in a shipping plan must be single SKU.
- FEFO fulfillment and Lot Tracking must be enabled for each SKU on the product detail page. At this time, there is no way to bulk enable FEFO or Lot Tracking.
- FEFO fulfillment and Lot Tracking will apply to units in new inbounds only, after the feature has been enabled. Units currently in our network will not be fulfilled based on expiration date nor available for recall management based on lot code and expiration date.
Actioning FEFO fulfillment and Lot tracking
Steps for enabling and creating a new shipping plan
1. In the Flexport Portal, go to Inventory> Products and select the product you want to enable fulfillment by expiration date or recall management.
- If you want to enable fulfill by expiration date, then under Lot tracking toggle on Enable fulfillment by expiration date.
- If you want to enable recall management, then under Lot tracking toggle on Enable recall management.
When creating a shipping plan for a SKU that is enabled for FEFO and/or lot tracking, additional information will be requested:
- If the SKU is FEFO enabled, then you will see a new page requesting the expiration date format and the actual expiration date of the product. There are two options for date formats: mm/dd/yyyy and mm/yyyy.
- If the SKU is recall management enabled, then you will see a new page requesting the lot number of the product you're inbounding.
- If the SKU is both FEFO enabled and recall management enabled, then you will see a new page requesting both the expiration date and the lot number of the product you’re inbounding.
3. Complete the rest of the shipping plan and submit.
Once Flexport receives the FEFO or recall management enabled products, Flexport associates will start fulfilling based on expiration date and lot codes. To review or track your shipping plan that has been submitted, go to the inventory detail page. The status and inventory count will be recorded and broken down by expiration date and lot code. You will see both expiration date and Lot number if both are enabled.
Steps for stopping fulfillment, request removal or disposal of products
You can request to stop fulfillment, remove or dispose an inventory tracked by expiration date and/or lot number. Once fulfillment is stopped, the inventory is marked in our system as unavailable for order processing, this inventory will appear in the Unavailable column.
- In the Flexport Portal, go to Inventory>Products and select the product you want to stop fulfillment for, request removal or disposal.
- In the Lot tracking table, click the ellipses beside the affected lot.
- Click stop fulfillment, request removal or request disposal and confirm.
- Once confirmed the status will change according to the action requested and the units removed from fulfillment and marked as unavailable.
- (Optional) If fulfillment is stopped temporarily and the units are discovered to be usable, then you can follow steps 1-2 and select Resume fulfilling to put the items back into the system for order processing.
In the event of a recall, merchants can reach out to our Support team to request a report of all orders shipped to customers containing the lot number impacted by the recall. This will allow you to provide more proactive communication to customers and manage recalls more effectively.
Steps for turning off Lot tracking and FEFO
You can turn off Lot tracking and FEFO for SKUs. This would be if FEFO or Lot tracking is no longer needed for these SKUs. Inventory inbounded while Lot tracking and FEFO features are turned off won’t be available for recall management or fulfillment by expiration.
- In the Flexport Portal, go to the Inventory>Products and select the product you want to remove from FEFO fulfillment.
- Under Lot tracking, click Settings. Settings are represented by a cog icon.
- Toggle off Enable fulfillment by expiration date or Enable recall management.
Only expiration date tracking for FEFO
|$0.10 per unit received
Only lot tracking
|$0.10 per unit received
Both Expiration date tracking for FEFO and Lot tracking
|$0.10 per unit received (per unit fee does not increase when combining both services)
Compliance Responsibility and Liability
You understand and agree that Flexport only performs FEFO, Lot Tracking and similar services if and as instructed by you. You agree that Flexport will perform such FEFO, Lot Tracking or other inventory management in compliance with specifications and procedures you provide and you shall bear sole responsibility for all defects or errors in such specifications or procedures provided to Flexport, as well as the work resulting from adherence with those standards. Further, you accept responsibility for confirming the accuracy of any information collected by Flexport on your behalf. Flexport does not assume responsibility for expired products in inventory. It is a merchant responsibility to manage their products by date. Flexport does not assume compliance responsibility regarding recalls or expiration date fulfillment. It remains your obligation to comply with any product recalls, and inform Flexport of any special handling or compliance requirements regarding the products it provides to the network. You agree that you will comply with applicable laws, rules, regulations of governmental authorities, including but not limited to, those of the Food and Drug Administration and Food Safety Modernization Act and will not request that Flexport provide services that would cause, directly or indirectly, a violation of any such laws, rules or regulations. Flexport makes no representations or warranties that any FEFO, Lot Tracking or similar services will be accurate. Flexport will have no liability for any liability, harm, damage or claims arising out of or in connection with the FEFO, Lot Tracking or similar services.
FEFO and Lot tracking can enable your business by:
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. In 2021, the FDA released a plan to increase food safety that specifies that in the event of a recall, merchants should supply a list of customers who received the recalled lot code. Traceability and optimized recall management are important components the Food & Beverage ecommerce supply chain.
- Tech-enabled traceability.
- Smarter tools for prevention and outbreak response.
- New business models and retail modernization.
- Food safety culture.
- Ship fresher products to your customers and avoid expired products in inventory.
- Build trust. With lot tracking, you are able to identify the orders containing a recalled lot code. With this information in hand, direct communication with buyers impacted by a recall is possible. By proactively communicating with the buyers who received a recall lot, you can earn greater trust with their customers.