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Operating Cycle

By Yuriy Smirnov Ph.D.

Definition

An operating cycle is the period of time from the moment raw materials are purchased to when cash is received from customers. This financial ratio measures the performance of working capital management. An increase in the duration of the operating cycle results in more working capital needed. Conversely, a decline of this ratio indicates less working capital needed.

Formula

The formula for determining the operating cycle in days is expressed as follows:

Operating Cycle = Production Cycle + Days of Sales Outstanding

or

Operating Cycle = Days of Sales in Inventory + Days of Sales Outstanding

In turn, the days of sales in inventory (DSI) is calculated as follows:

DSI =  Average Inventory  ×T
COGS

where Average Inventory is the average balance of the Inventory Account during an accounting period, COGS is the cost of goods sold, and T is the number of days in the accounting period (e.g., if a business prepares financial statements annually, T=365).

The formula for days of sales outstanding (DSO) is as follows:

DSO =  Average Accounts Receivable  ×T
Credit Sales

where Average Accounts Receivable is the average balance in Accounts Receivable during an accounting period.

The deeper decomposition of the operating cycle is shown in the figure below.

Decomposition of operating cycle

As we can see, days of sales in inventory can be broken down into three components:

  1. Raw materials holding period
  2. Work in progress period
  3. Finished goods holding period

We can also calculate them as follows:

Raw Materials Holding Period =  Average Raw Materials  ×T
COGS
Work in Progress Period =  Average Work in Progress  ×T
COGS
Finished Goods Holding Period =  Average Finished Goods  ×T
COGS

Duration of operating cycle

The duration of the operating cycle is given in the figure below.

Duration of operating cycle

where

Please note! If the credit policy of a business prohibits any sales of goods on credit, the duration of the operating cycle is equal to the duration of the production cycle or days of sales in inventory.

Calculation example

Information about inventory and accounts receivable of Total SAR in 20X8 financial year is as follows:

US$

The revenue of Total SAR in 20X8 financial year is $5,475,000. All sales were made on credit. The cost of goods sold is $3,285,000 for the same period.

We have to calculate the days of sales in inventory and days of sales outstanding to find the duration of the operating cycle. Let’s put the data available in the formulas mentioned above.

Average Inventory =  $580,000 + $500,000  = $540,000
2
Average Accounts Receivable =  $730,000 + $770,000  = $750,000
2
DSI =  $540,000  × 365 = 60 days
$3,285,000
DSO =  $750,000  × 365 = 50 days
$5,475,000

Thus, the duration of the operating cycle of Total SAR is 110 days.

We can also break down the production cycle of Total SAR.

Average Raw Materials =  $130,000 +$140,000  = $135,000
2
Average Work in Progress =  $240,000 + $210,000  = $225,000
2
Average Finished Goods =  $210,000 + $150,000  = $180,000
2
Raw Materials Holding Period =  $135,000  × 365 = 15 days
$3,285,000
Work in Progress Period =  $225,000  × 365 = 25 days
$3,285,000
Finished Goods Holding Period =  $180,000  × 365 = 20 days
$3,285,000

These calculations confirm that the production cycle of Total SAR is 60 days (15+25+20).