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Operating Cycle

The number of days required to receive, sell and receive cash from the sale of inventory

What is an Operating Cycle?

An Operating Cycle (OC) refers to the days required for a business to receive inventory, sell the inventory, and collect cash from the sale of the inventory. The cycle plays a major role in determining the efficiency of a business.

The formula is as follows:

 

Operating Cycle  =  Inventory Period + Accounts Receivable Period

 

where Inventory Period is the amount of time inventory sits in storage and Accounts Receivable Period is the time it takes to collect cash from the sale of the inventory.

 

Operating Cycle

 

Operating Cycle Formula

 

Using the Operating Cycle formula above:

  • The Inventory Period is calculated as follows:
Inventory Period  =  365 / Inventory Turnover

 

Where the formula for Inventory Turnover is:

Inventory Turnover  =  Cost of Goods Sold / Average Inventory

 

  • The Accounts Receivable Period is calculated as follows:
Accounts Receivable Period  =  365 / Receivables Turnover

 

Where the formula for Receivables Turnover is:

Receivables Turnover = Credit Sales / Average Accounts Receivable

 

Therefore, the detailed formula for the OC is:

 

Operating Cycle

 

Sample Calculation

 

Sample Calculation

 

Calculating the OC with the data provided above:

  • Inventory Turnover: $8,500,000 / $2,900,000 = 2.931
  • Inventory Period: 365 / 2.931 = 124.53
  • Receivables Turnover: $13,000,000 / $2,025,000 = 6.419
  • Accounts Receivable Period: 365 / 6.419 = 56.862

 

Operating Cycle = 124.53 + 56.862 = 181.38 = 182 days

 

Importance of the Operating Cycle

The OC offers an insight into a company’s operating efficiency. A shorter cycle is preferred and indicates a more efficient and successful business. A shorter cycle indicates that a company will be able to recover its investment quickly and possesses enough cash to meet obligations. If a company’s OC is long, that indicates a longer time for a company to turn its inventory purchases into cash.

 

A company can reduce its OC in two ways:

  1. Speed up the sale of its inventory: If a company is able to quickly sell its inventory, the OC would decrease.
  2. Reduce the time needed to collect receivables: If a company is able to quickly collect credit sales, the OC would decrease.

 

Net Operating Cycle (Cash Cycle) vs Operating Cycle

The operating cycle (OC) is often confused with the net operating cycle (NOC). The NOC is also known as the cash conversion cycle or cash cycle and indicates how long it takes a company to collect cash from the sale of inventory. To differentiate the two:

The Operating Cycle: The length of time between the purchase of inventory and the cash collected from the sale of inventory.

The Net Operating Cycle: The length of time between paying for inventory and the cash collected from the sale of inventory.

 

Additionally, the formula for the NOC is as follows:

 

Net Operating Cycle  =  Inventory Period + Accounts Receivable Period –  Accounts Payable Period

 

The difference between the two formulas lies in NOC subtracting the accounts payable period. This is done because the NOC is only concerned with the time between paying for inventory to the cash collected from the sale of inventory.

The following image illustrates the difference between the two cycles:

 

Operating Cash Cycle

 

Other Resources

Thank you for reading this guide.  CFI’s mission is to help anyone in the world become a great analyst through the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst designation. To continue learning and advancing your career, these free resources will be helpful:

  • Business Life Cycle
  • Day Sales Inventory
  • Inventory Shrinkage
  • Projecting Balance Sheet Items

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