Little has changed in companies’ working capital management over the past year—which means that companies have a huge opportunity for improvement. This is the key take-away from this year’s “2014 U.S. Working Capital Survey” from REL, a division of The Hackett Group.
In this year's iteration of the annual study, REL and CFO Magazine analyzed the 2013 financial statements of the 1,000 largest public companies that have U.S.-based headquarters and are not in the financial services sector (the “REL 1000”). They separated the companies into industry groupings, then organized them into quartiles within each industry in terms of days inventory on hand (DIO), days sales outstanding (DSO), and days payables outstanding (DPO). For every company outside the top quartile in one of these metrics, REL and CFO calculated how much additional cash the organization would have available if it improved efficiency enough in its inventory, accounts receivable, or accounts payable processes to bring the associated metric in line with the level achieved by the top quartile of businesses in its industry.
The other thing top performers are doing to improve payables performance is automating processes. “They’re looking at electronic funds transfer, electronic bill presentment, scanning, those types of technologies, and determining how they can impact their overall payables process, their supplier relationships, and their cash flow,” DeHaro says. “Some are also considering p-cards. All of these things wrap into one another, with tradeoffs between cost and cash flow.”