CNBC says Amazon is shipping expired products from their FBA centers. This has been a problem for years, at least since 2016 where sellers were discussing this on seller central forums. As an online seller, what can you do to stop expired products from shipping to customers?
Eliminate the confusion
Amazon’s guidelines on perishable products aren’t very clear and include some confusing statements. A simple reading of Amazon’s perishable guidelines makes it sound like Amazon tracks expiration for you, but they don’t. At least, they don’t do a very good job.
Expired products can still be shipped to your customers if you don’t take steps to prevent it.
Clearly understand and communicate expiration dates
Make sure expiration dates are clearly understood across your supply chain, starting with your supplier. Anyone who touches your product should be able to clearly understand it’s shelf life.
Clearly communicate expiration dates with easy to read labels. Each stock unit should have the expiration date printed on the outside. Amazon requires this, but you can take it a step further by covering any other dates.
Calculate expiration dates the right way. Calculate dates for items used over time, like snacks or supplements, to account for how long it takes to consume the item. For example, a daily supplement with 120 pills takes 120 days to consume. Account for that when you label your products.
Understand and use your supplier’s lot codes. Supplier’s use lot codes to track the production process of items. Suppliers include useful and important information in lot codes.
Ask your supplier how to read their lot codes, and keep track of the lot codes for your shipments. Reading lot codes helps identify manufacturer-recommended expiration dates when they’re not printed on the items. Recording lot codes for your shipments allows you to act on manufacturer recalls.
Keep on top of stale inventory
One would think Amazon regularly checks expiration dates and ships products first-in first-out, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on that. Take matters into your own hands.
Track expiration dates yourself by creating a new MSKU each time you replenish stock. Once your products are close to expiring, remove or dispose of the remaining stock. As long as you don’t overstock your products you won’t have to worry about expired products at Amazon shipping to your customers.
Avoid commingled inventory
Commingled inventory breaks the chain of accountability. When Amazon ships your product, you want to be sure it’s actually your inventory. While you may be following all the rules, other sellers may not be. Opting out of commingled inventory protects you from bad actors.
Need more advice or guidance on your Amazon supply chain? Contact Logistics Done Right for ideas or advice.