Effective Working Capital Management and Optimal Synchronization of Cash Flows

How do firms choose their operating cycle? How do firms choose their cash conversion cycle? What is the impact of firm’s operating cycle on the size and periodicity of investments in receivables and inventories? How do seasonal and cyclical trends affect firm’s operating cycle, cash conversion cycle and investments in current assets? These strategic policy questions relate to optimal cash flows synchronization and effective working capital management designed to maximize the wealth producing capacity of the enterprise.

In this review, we will examine some pertinent and extant academic literature on effective working capital management and provide some operational guidance to small business enterprises. The shorter the cash conversion cycle, the smaller the size of the firm’s investment in inventories and receivables and consequently the less the firm’s financing needs. Although setting ending cash balances is, to a large extent, judgmental, some analytical rules can be applied to assist effective formulation of better judgments and optimize cash flow management.

As you know, a correlate to cash is net working capital. Net working capital is not cash but the difference between cash advance online same day current assets (what a firm currently owns) and current liabilities (what a firm currently owes). Current assets and current liabilities are firm’s immediate sources and uses of cash, respectively. Clearly, a firm’s ability to meet its current financial obligations (bills due within a year) depends on its ability to manage its current assets and liabilities, efficiently and effectively.

Effective working capital management requires the formulation of optimal working capital policy and the periodic management of cash flows, inventories, account receivables, accruals and account payables. And because poor working capital management can severely damage a firm’s credit worthiness and limit its access to money and capital markets, every effort must be made to minimize business default risk.

The significance of liquidity cannot be overemphasized. In addition, anything that adversely impacts a firm’s financial flexibility degrades its ability to borrow and cope with unexpected financial hardship. A firm must preserve its ability to react to unexpected expenses and investment opportunities. Financial flexibility derives from a firm’s use of leverage as well as cash holdings.

In practice, optimal working capital management includes effective cash conversion cycle, effective operating cycle, the determination of appropriate level of accruals, inventories, and account payables and the attendant funding options. Working capital policy impacts a firm’s balance sheet, financial ratios (current and quick assets) and possibly credit rating. Critical to efficient firm’s working capital management is a good understanding of its cash conversion cycle, or how long it takes for a firm to convert cash invested in operations into cash received.

The cash conversion cycle captures the time passed from the beginning of the production process to collection of cash from the sale of the finished products. Typically, a firm purchases raw materials and creates products. These products go into inventory and then are sold on account. Once the products are sold often on credit then the firm waits to receive payment, at which point the process begins again. Understanding the cash conversion cycle and the age of account receivables is critical to successful working capital management.

As you know, the cash conversion cycle is divided into three parts: the average payment period, the average collection period and the average age of inventory. The firm’s operating cycle is length of time from the receipt of raw materials to the collection of payment for the products sold on account. The operating cycle is therefore the sum of the inventory conversion period (the average time between when raw materials are received into inventory and product is sold) and the receivables conversion period (the average time between a sale and collection of the receipt). Note that the operations of a merchandising enterprise involves purchasing (the purchase of merchandise), sales (the sales of products to customers, and collection (the receipt of cash from customers).

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