A firm should have neither low nor high working capital. Low working capital involves more risk and more returns, high working capital involves less risk and less returns. Risk here refers to technical insolvency while returns refer to increased profits/earnings. The amount of working capital is determined by a wide variety of factors.
1. Nature of business
2. Seasonality of operations
3. Production cycle
4. Production policy
5. Credit Policy
6. Market conditions
7. Conditions of supply
Nature of Business: The working capital requirement of a firm depends on the nature of the business. For example, a firm involved in sale of services rather than manufacturing or a firm is allowing only cash sales. In the first instance, no investment is required in either raw materials or WIP or finished goods, while in the second instance there exists no receivables as there is immediate realization of cash. Hence the requirement of working capital will be lower.
Seasonality of Operations:
If the product of the firm has a seasonal demand like refrigerators, the firms need high working capital in the periods of summer, as the demand for the refrigerators is more and the firm needs low working capital in the periods of winter, as the demand for the product is low.
The term production cycle refers to the time involved in the manufacture of goods. It covers the time span between the procurement of the raw materials and the completion of the manufacturing process leading to the production of goods. As funds are necessarily tied up during the production cycle, the production cycle has a bearing on the quantum of working capital. The longer the time span of production cycle, the larger will be the funds tied up and therefore the larger the working capital needed and vice versa.
The quantum of working capital is also determined by production policy. In case of the firms having seasonal demand of the products like refrigerators, air coolers etc., The production policy of the firm determines the amount of working capital requirement. If the firm has production policy to carry production at a steady level to meet the peak demand, this will result in a large accumulation of finished goods (inventories) during the off-seasons and the abrupt sale during the peak season. The progressive accumulation of finished goods will naturally require an increasing amount of working capital. If the firm has production policy to produce only when there is a demand then the firm needs low working capital during the slack season and high working capital during season.
The level of the working capital is also determined by the credit policy, as the firm’s credit policy determines the amount of receivables. If the firm has a liberal credit policy, then the firm needs high working capital and the firm needs low working capital if the company’s credit policy does not allow it to extend credit to the buyers.
The working capital requirements are also determined by the market conditions. In case of the high degree of competition prevailing in the market the firm has to maintain larger inventories as customers are not inclined to wait for the product. This needs higher working capital requirements. If there is good demand for the product and the competition is weak, a firm can manage with smaller inventory of finished goods, as customers can wait for the product if it is not available in the market. Thus, a firm can manage with low inventory and will need low working capital requirements.
Conditions of Supply:
The availability of raw materials and spares also determine the level of working capital. If there is ready availability of raw materials and spares, a firm can maintain minimum inventory and need less working capital. If the supply of raw materials is unpredictable, then the firm has to acquire stocks as and when they are available for ensuring continuous production. Thus, the firm needs to maintain larger inventory average and needs larger requirement of working capital.