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The 1,000 largest U.S. companies by sales have as much as $590 billion of excess working capital tied up in unpaid customer invoices, suppliers being paid too early and inventories lying unsold on warehouse shelves, according to a recent 2004 cash flow survey by Purchase, N.Y.-based REL Consultancy Group. And Douglas Swafford, credit and collections manager at truckload carrier U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc., can be thankful that at least his company’s contribution to this massive overhang has been sizably reduced.

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