What is Operating Cycle

Discover what an operating cycle is and how it impacts a company’s efficiency and financial health. Learn how to calculate and manage the operating cycle for improved profitability.

Understanding the Operating Cycle

One of the key metrics for measuring the efficiency of a company’s operations is its operating cycle. The operating cycle is a vital concept in finance and accounting that represents the time it takes for a company to convert its resources into cash flow.

The Components of an Operating Cycle

The operating cycle consists of two main components: the days inventory outstanding (DIO) and the days sales outstanding (DSO).

Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO)

The DIO measures how long it takes for a company to sell its inventory. A lower DIO indicates that a company can move its inventory more quickly, which is usually a positive sign.

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

The DSO represents the average number of days that a company takes to collect payment after making a sale. A lower DSO indicates that a company is collecting its accounts receivable more promptly.

Calculating the Operating Cycle

The formula for calculating the operating cycle is as follows:

  • Operating Cycle = DIO + DSO

By understanding and measuring its operating cycle, a company can evaluate how efficiently it is managing its working capital and identify areas for improvement.

Example of Operating Cycle

Let’s consider an example of a retail company with the following metrics:

  • DIO = 60 days
  • DSO = 30 days

By plugging these values into the formula, we can calculate the operating cycle as follows:

  • Operating Cycle = 60 days (DIO) + 30 days (DSO) = 90 days

This means that it takes the company an average of 90 days to convert its inventory into cash flow, indicating the efficiency of its operational processes.

Importance of Managing the Operating Cycle

Efficient management of the operating cycle is crucial for a company’s financial health. A shorter operating cycle can lead to improved cash flow, reduced reliance on external financing, and increased profitability.


The operating cycle is a vital metric that helps companies understand how effectively they are managing their working capital. By monitoring and optimizing their operating cycle, businesses can improve their operational efficiency and financial performance.

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