How batches and best before dates affect fulfillment and beyond

von Chiara Di Filippo – 10 min. read time
last updated 22.08.2023

In the world of fulfillment, batches and expiration dates play a crucial role. They affect inventory management, product quality, and customer satisfaction. And keeping track of lot-based stock levels isn’t always easy. This article will discuss the importance of handling batches and expiration dates in fulfillment. Additionally, it will provide guidance on how to manage these aspects effectively.

We’ll reveal the areas where batch storage and best-before dates are especially important, and why adhering to them will impact your business success.

LOT tracking or batch tracking: What is it, and how does it work?

Batches (often also called LOTs) are specific amounts of products that have been manufactured or processed under the same conditions. With batches, you ensure consistent quality and means of identification. Therefore, each batch is given a unique batch number, or LOT number. With it, a product can be traced back to the producer and its ingredients. Especially in the pharmaceutical and food industries as well as in cosmetics, batches are enormously important. Here the traceability of products and the guarantee of product quality are essential. By managing and tracking batches, companies can quickly respond to quality issues, start product recalls, and ensure regulatory compliance.

LOT tracking: What is batch tracking and how does it work?

Lot tracking, or batch tracking, follows the path of a product batch throughout the supply chain – from manufacturing to the consumer. If products are affected by quality issues or recalls, they can then be identified accurately and quickly. In some industries, such as food and cosmetics, there is even a legal obligation for batch tracking.

Batch or LOT numbers usually consist of a letter and individual numbers. The letter represents the month of manufacture. In our example, the letter G stands for the month of July. The other numbers provide information about the production date and the earliest expiry date.

Here, you can see what information about a product you can retrieve from the batch number:

Example of a batch or LOT number with explanation of individual components.

To easily track a batch, there are other legal requirements besides lot numbers that must be followed. These include, for example:

  • Volume and quantity
  • Supplier information (name and address)
  • Identification of raw, auxiliary or operating materials
  • Product details
  • Date of the production period

In case a product needs to be recalled, you can seamlessly track it via inventory management or ERP systems (such as Billbee, Xentral & Co), for example.

Why is lot tracking important in fulfillment?

LOT tracking or batch tracking ensures quality, security and transparency along the supply chain. But not only that – it also has a significant impact on warehousing. Only batch labeling enables the storage of pure batches. But what does that mean? Quite simply, each storage location is only occupied by a specific batch. This requires an efficient warehouse management system. Fulfillment service providers help automate these processes and create transparency for buyers.

Other important aspects of batch tracking in fulfillment include:

  • Quality control: Especially when companies outsource their fulfillment, the quality of packed shipments must be right.
  • Enabling product recalls: Potentially affected batches, as well as associated orders, must be quickly identified here to eliminate potential hazards and quality issues.
  • Efficiency in warehousing: Optimizing processes, resources and systems assures a smooth flow of goods, maximizing the use of available space while minimizing costs.
  • Enhance customer satisfaction: Ensure outstanding product quality to help meet customer needs.

The importance of the minimum shelf life or Best Before Date (BBD)

Another important point in efficient and, above all, safe warehousing is the minimum shelf life of products. Here, too, compliance with some important points is essential. We’ll go through them now.

How are minimum shelf lives defined?

In logistics, the term “best-before date” (BBD) refers to the period of time during which a product retains its quality when stored correctly. The best-before date is usually indicated on perishable products such as food and pharmaceuticals, but also on cosmetics. Laws in the EU and the UK require cosmetics products to be labeled with minimum shelf lives.

Only if you take the best-before date into account during storage and shipping can you ensure that the products reach the buyer in good time before expiry or with the longest possible shelf life. In the logistics processes, products with a shorter best-before date must be prioritized accordingly.

How are shelf lives calculated?

Manufacturers and laboratories perform tests and analyses to calculate the minimum shelf life of products. Various factors are taken into account, such as the composition, the type of ingredients, the storage conditions and the expected shelf life. A distinction must be made here between the best-before date and the use-by date.

When the best-before date has expired, it does not usually mean that a food has spoiled, for example. This is because it only indicates up to when a product retains its properties under appropriate storage. Until this date, a product is therefore optimal. After that, however, it does not necessarily become inedible or hazardous to health.

Similar regulations apply to cosmetic products. This is how cosmetic products are declared with different shelf lives:

  • Less than 30 months shelf life: here the symbol of an hourglass or the wording “best before” with an indication of the date, must be used.
  • More than 30 months shelf life: For a higher shelf life, the symbol of an opened pot of cream is used. This then indicates the usage period after opening. For example, the symbol with the indication of 6 M indicates that this product can be safely used for the first 6 months after opening.

A use-by date is different. This applies, for example, to microbiologically very perishable food. Packaging must bear the inscription “consume by …” because here there is a risk of microbiological risks to human health after the date has expired. What is particularly important here is the specified description of storage, such as the refrigeration temperature.

Cosmetic products in a shopping cart.

Why are best-before dates important in fulfillment?

Minimum shelf life depends on many factors. In order to guarantee this optimally, the correct storage of the products plays an essential role – from production to the end customer.

In fulfillment, you or your service provider must pay attention to the best-before date because:

First, customer satisfaction plays a central role. Fulfillment service providers are responsible for properly processing buyers’ orders and ensuring that they receive high-quality products. By carefully checking adherence to the BBD in fulfillment, you ensure that only flawless products are delivered. This leads to higher customer satisfaction.

Second, companies must comply with legal requirements. In the European Union and the UK, there are regulations that govern the labeling and sale of products with expired shelf life. Stores can avoid legal problems and prevent potential fines or penalties.

Challenges in managing batches and best-before dates

Managing batches and shelf lives involves a number of challenges. To ensure efficient management of batches and best-before dates, we need to implement effective systems and processes. Here, some fulfillment service providers offer smart solutions that break down the complexity of managing batches and shelf lives.

The complexity of batch and BBD-management

Several factors make managing batches and shelf lives very complex. Larger quantities of products must be closely monitored and documented. Likewise, tracking and managing individual batches can be very time-consuming and error-prone. That’s why it takes smooth coordination between different parts of the business, such as seamless communication and effective information flow between purchasing, warehousing, sales and marketing.

Legal requirements for batch and best-before date management also add to the complexity. Efficient inventory management and forecasting capabilities are required to identify expiring products in a timely manner and minimize losses. Employees must be trained to handle expired products appropriately.

Best practices for managing batches and expiration dates in fulfillment

Effectively managing batches and shelf lives in fulfillment is important to ensure product quality and minimize risk. Companies can apply best practices to successfully manage this task, such as:

  • Warehousing: Allocating specific storage areas for products with different batches and minimum shelf lives. This allows for better control and organization of inventory. Without real-time visibility of stock levels, it can be difficult to know exactly how much product you have on hand. This is especially true when it comes to best before date and lot information. You need to know which products are going to expire soon so that you can consider discounting the product to drive sales before the product expires.
  • First in, first out (FIFO) principle: Picking lots in a first-in, first-out (FIFO) logic is crucial in the management of best before date and lot information. This ensures that products with the shortest remaining shelf life are picked and shipped first, reducing the risk of expired products being shipped to customers. This helps ensure that your customers receive products with the longest possible shelf life, improving customer satisfaction and reducing the risk of product recalls.
  • Lagersystem: Using systems to track batches and best-before dates improve reliability. This can be dedicated software or a barcode system to keep track of inventory.
  • Regular stock checks: Regular inventory checks will ensure you identify products with shorter best-before dates and plan sales accordingly.
  • Labeling: Each batch should be clearly labeled to avoid confusion. This includes information such as batch number, date of manufacture and best-before date.
  • Traceability: With a traceability system in place, you can respond quickly and accurately in the event of product recalls or quality issues. Affected batches are identified and appropriate action can be taken. With Alaiko you’ll also have the ability to export all concerned orders to inform respective customers via email, in case you need to quickly inform customers in case of a callback.
  • Blocking lots based on bin locations:: Sometimes, certain lots need to be blocked from the picking process. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as quality control issues or product recalls. Being able to block specific lots from being included in the picking process is helpful. This can also come handy, when you are launching a campaign around a specific edition of a product, so you can be sure that lots are not mixed up.
  • Disposal of expired products: Utilizing an efficient disposal strategy for expired products ensures that products that have already expired are no longer used.

With the Alaiko Logistics Operating System®, you get customized solutions for managing batches and minimum shelf life compliance in fulfillment. These include, for example:

  • Real-time visibility of stock levels, including historic data for stock levels by BBD and lot
  • Filtering capabilities by expiration date to receive information about products soon to expire in the warehouse
  • Automated email alerts about soon-to-expire products
  • Ability to search orders by specific batches
  • Block specific lots to be picked with just one click
  • Easily trace back which lot was used on an order level
  • and much more.

Having to manually go back and forth with your warehouse partner regarding best before date and lot management can be frustrating, especially in the case of urgent product recalls. With the Alaiko Operating System you’ve got peace of mind on your best before date and lot management needs. With real-time visibility of stock levels, easy traceability of lot information, and the ability to block lots from the picking process you’re set up for seamless management without headaches. This means no more worrying about expired products being shipped to customers, and no more time-consuming processes to trace back which lot was used on an order level.

You can learn more in our Success Story with cosmetics brand gitti.

It's not just about fulfillment: What other areas are affected by MHDs and LOTs?

Of course, the consideration of batches and best-before dates does not only extend to fulfillment, but also to, for example:

  1. Product development and marketing: When developing new products or during marketing campaigns, batch and best-before dates must be taken into account. The careful planning of campaigns to ensure that products still have sufficient shelf life during the promotion is one example. On the other hand, marketing campaigns can also be used to sell off products that are about to expire. So the rule is: product availability and shelf life must be well coordinated to avoid customer frustration.
  2. Quality assurance and compliance: Batch and shelf life data play an important role in quality assurance and regulatory compliance. Monitoring and documenting batch and BBD information is critical.
  3. Customer service and complaints: Customer service employees must be trained to appropriately handle inquiries or complaints regarding expired products. Customer service teams should be aware of current expiration dates and offer appropriate solutions, such as refunds or product replacements.

It is important that batch and expiration dates are coordinated across different areas of the business. By integrating this information into the various business processes, you will ensure smooth operations and satisfied buyers.

Batches and best-before dates - a challenge for e-commerce stores

Batches and best-before dates are immensely important information for e-Commerce stores to consider. They not only impact storage and fulfillment, but also quality assurance and customer satisfaction. If you or your service providers work properly here, you will create the highest transparency possible.


What are batches?

Batches (also called LOT) are groups of products that have been manufactured, processed or packaged in a certain period of time with the same production batch or the same batch of raw materials.

What is a LOT number?

A LOT or batch number contains the most important information about a batch, such as the date of manufacture and information about expiring ingredients.

Why is batch tracking important?

Batch tracking (or lot tracking) is important to accurately identify and recall affected products in the event of quality concerns, recalls or other incidents, and to ensure consumer safety and supply chain quality assurance.

What does a best-before date mean?

Best before dates indicate the date until which a product should retain its specific characteristics, such as taste, odor, texture and quality, under recommended storage conditions without posing a health hazard.

How are minimum shelf lives calculated?

Minimum shelf lives are usually determined by laboratory testing and monitoring of product quality over a period of time to determine how long the product will retain its desired properties under appropriate storage conditions.

The cover image is by Chuttersnap on, the other image is by Karolina Grabowska on

Chiara Di Filippo
Working Student Content Marketing

Alaiko Posts