Inventories

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 23rd, 2012

Economics 101

Before a Business Earns any Sales Revenue they have to Spend Cash to Build an Inventory

To sell something a business needs to have it on hand first.  Because when it comes to manufactured goods we rarely custom manufacture things.  No.  When businesses sell something it’s something they already have in their inventories.  So how do they get things into inventory?  With cash.  Businesses buy goods and place them in their inventories.  They exchange some of their cash for the goods they hope to sell at a later date.  And the bigger the inventory they maintain the more cash it will take.  Cash they have to spend before they sell these goods.  Which requires financing.  Each large business, in fact, has a finance department.  That works to raise cash.  So the businesses can buy inventory (and pay their operating and overhead expenses) before they start selling anything.

This is how the retail stores work.  For manufacturers it’s a little different.  They make things.  Out of other things.  Things that go through various stages of production before becoming a finished good.  So to make these things requires different types of inventories.  Raw goods.  Work in process.  And finished goods.  When they pull raw goods out of inventory and begin working with them they become work in process inventory.  When finished goods come off the final production line they enter finished goods inventory.  The finance department secures the cash to buy the raw materials.  And for the equipment and labor used through the stages of production to produce a finished good.  Which enters finished goods inventory until they sell and ship these goods.

Before a business earns any sales revenue they have to spend huge amounts of cash first to move material through these inventories.  Cash they can’t use for anything else.  Like paying their overhead expenses.  Or servicing their debt.  So it’s a delicate balancing act.  You need inventory to produce revenue.  But if you run out of cash you can’t produce any inventory.  Or pay your bills.  A large inventory creates a large variety of things for customers to buy.  But if customers aren’t buying that large inventory will consume cash leaving a business struggling to pay its bills.  If they become so cash-strapped they will cut their prices to unload slow moving inventory.  Cut back on production rates.  Even cut back on expenses.  As in cost-cutting.  And lay-offs.

Good Inventory Management is Crucial for the Financial Health of a Business

A business doesn’t start generating cash until they start selling their finished goods.  Sales numbers may sound high but most sales revenue goes to pay for the costs of producing inventory.  A firm’s accounting department records these revenues.  And matches them to the cost of goods sold.  Which in a retailer is what they paid to bring those goods into inventory.  A manufacturer may use a term like cost of sales.  Which would include all the costs they incurred throughout the stages of production from bringing raw material into the plant.  To the labor to process that material.  To the energy consumed.  Etc.  Everything that was an input in the production process to place a finished good into inventory.  So from their sales revenue they subtract their costs of goods sold (or cost of sales).  The number they arrive at is gross profit.  Which has to pay for everything else.  Rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, non-production salaries and benefits, insurances, taxes, etc.  And, of course, interest on the cash their finance department borrowed to start everything off.

There is a unique relationship between inventories and sales.  There are countless things that happen in a business but what happens between inventories and sales receives particular attention.  A business’ greatest cost is the cost of goods sold.  Or cost of sales.  Everything that falls above gross profit on their income statement (the financial statement that shows a firm’s profitability).  This cost is a function of inventory.  The bigger the inventory the bigger the cost.  The smaller the inventory the smaller the cost.  This is a direct relationship.  You move one the other follows.  Whereas the relationship between sales and inventory is a little different.  The higher the sales revenue the bigger the inventory cost.  Because you have to have inventory to sell inventory.  However, there is no such corresponding relationship for falling sales.  As sales can fall for a variety of reasons.  And they can fall with a falling inventory level.  They can fall with a steady inventory level.  And they can fall with a rising inventory level.

In business sales are everything.  There are few problems healthy sales can’t solve.  It can even overcome some of the worst cost management.  So rising sales revenue is good.  While falling sales revenue is not.  There are many reasons why sales fall.  But the reason that most affects inventories is typically a bad economy.  When people scale back their purchases in response to a bad economy a firm’s sales fall.  And when their sales fall their inventories, of course, rise.  Until management scales back production to reflect the weaker demand.  Because there is no point building things when people aren’t buying.  Those who don’t scale back production will see their sales fall and their inventories rise.  Creating cash problems.  Because sales aren’t creating cash.  And a growing inventory consumes cash.  Making it difficult to meet their daily expenses.  Such as payroll and benefits.  As well as paying interest on their debt.  Which can lead to insolvency.  And bankruptcy.  So good inventory management is crucial for the financial health of a business.

If Retail Sales are Falling and Inventories are Rising Bad Times are Coming

Businesses target specific inventory levels.  During good economic times they increase inventory levels because people are buying more.  During bad economic times they decrease inventory levels because people are buying less.  And they monitor changes in the actual sales and inventory levels continuously.  Adjusting inventory levels to match changes in sales.  To balance the need to have an inventory flush with goods to sell.  While keeping the cost of that inventory to the lowest level possible.  All businesses do this.  And if you track the aggregate of the inventory levels of all businesses you can get a good idea about what’s happening in the economy.

John Maynard Keynes used inventory levels in his macroeconomics formulas.  The ‘big picture’ of the economy.  Looking at inventories tied right into jobs.  If sales are outpacing inventory levels then businesses hire new workers to increase inventory levels.  So sales growing at a greater rate than inventory levels suggest that businesses will be creating new jobs and hiring new workers.  A good thing.  If inventory levels are growing greater than sales it’s a sign of an economic slowdown.  Suggesting businesses will be reducing production and laying off workers.  Not a good thing.

Because of the stages of production changes in finished goods inventories can create or destroy a lot of jobs.  For if the major retailers are cutting back on inventory levels due to weak demand that will ripple all the way through the stages of production back to the extraction of raw materials out of the ground.  Which makes inventory levels a key economic indicator.  And when we combine it with sales you can pretty much learn everything you need to know about the economy.  For if retail sales are falling and inventories are rising bad times are coming.  And a lot of people will probably soon be losing their jobs.  As the economy falls into a recession.  Which won’t end until these economic indicators turn around.  And sales grow faster than inventories.  Which indicates a recovery.  And jobs.  As they ramp up production to increase inventory levels to meet the new growing demand.

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President Obama Speaks to the Chamber of Commerce

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 7th, 2011

Businesses Keep Lots of Cash on their Balance Sheets during Bad Economic Times

Trying to remake his anti-business image, President Obama talks to the Chamber of Commerce (see Obama reaches out to business leaders by Lara Rowland posted 2/7/2011 on The Washington Times).

“Now is the time to invest in America,” Mr. Obama said, adding that U.S. companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets. “Demand has risen more slowly than any of us would like. We’re in this together. But many of your own economists and salespeople are now forecasting a healthy increase in demand, so I just want to encourage you to get in the game.”

This illustrates Obama’s lack of understanding of business.  Let’s explain what’s wrong with his thinking by using an analogy.  During bad economic times, when there are ‘lay-off’ rumors at your workplace, do you spend money?  Or do you save money because you are unsure of the future?  Most people will save their money.  So if they do lose their job, they’ll have some cash to get by on until they can find another job.  The so called ‘saving for a rainy day’.  That rainy day is you without a job.

Businesses aren’t that different from people.  In fact, people run businesses.  So they think like people.  And during bad economic times, when sales are down and you may have to lay people off because you’re not selling anything to pay the bills, do you spend money to hire people?  No, you don’t.  You save your money.  To make sure you have cash to pay your bills when you don’t have the revenue coming in like you once did.

You see, it’s not as easy as President Obama thinks it is.  Businesses can’t create good economic times.  They can only wait for them.  Which is what they’re doing now.  And have been for about 2 years now.

Lower Taxes Stimulate Economic Activity and Create Jobs

Part of the reason why there aren’t good economic times is because of high taxes.  High taxes increase the cost of doing business.  And leaves people with less disposable cash to stimulate economic activity.

“If we’re fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports to help you compete, the benefits can’t just translate into greater profits and bonuses for those at the top,” he said. “We cannot go back to the kind of economy — and culture — we saw in the years leading up to the recession, where growth and gains in productivity just didn’t translate into rising incomes and opportunity for the middle class.”

Interesting.  Whose money is it?  Who made those profits?  Guess it’s a moot point.  Because the president believes it’s his money.  And if he chooses to allow businesses to keep more of it, well, they’ll have to make it worth his while.

But you don’t run business by dictate.  If that worked the Soviet Union would have won the Cold War.  But they didn’t.  Because business doesn’t work that way. When businesses see rising demand and rising revenues, then they hire people.  To meet the rising demand.  So they can make more money.  That’s how you create jobs.  Not because they are told to hire more people than are needed to meet demand.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Again, I refer you to the former Soviet Union.

Excessive Regulation Inhibits Economic Activity

Another reason is for poor economic times are excessive regulations hindering economic activity.

Separately on Monday, the Republican chairman of a House oversight panel released a raft of letters from businesses weighing in on the nation’s biggest regulatory impediments to job growth. Environmental Protection Agency rules were the most often-repeated complaint, according to documents posted by Rep. Darrell Issa of California.

Like higher taxes, excessive regulations increase the cost of doing business.  When you can’t expand your business because the land you want to expand onto has a small depression that holds water after a heavy rain and is classified as a ‘wetland‘ during the permitting process, that hinders economic activity.  They don’t allow the business to expand.  And the mosquitoes get a nice breeding ground during rainy days.  And it’s important to protect their habitat.  So we can spray it later to control the spread of the West Nile Virus.

The most Successful Regulation Shuts Down the Industry it Regulates

The Environmental Protection Agency is pro-environment.  And the best environmental position is no manmade impact on the environment.  That is, no business.  Therefore, the Environmental Protection Agency is anti-business.

This is typical of regulation.  The safest car is one that doesn’t drive.  The cleanest power plant is one that doesn’t produce power.  The safest oil rig is one that doesn’t drill.  You get the idea.  Regulation, in general, is anti-business.  The greatest success these regulations can have is the elimination of the industry they’re regulating.  So it is a tug-of-war.  Business on one side.  And the regulators on the other. 

“There’s no doubt that when you had the financial crisis on Wall Street, the bonus controversies, the battle around health care, the battle around financial reform, and then you had BP — you just had a successive set of issues in which I think business took the message that, well, gosh, it seems like we may be always painted as the bad guy,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “And so I’ve got to take responsibility in terms of making sure that I make clear to the business community, as well as to the country, that the most important thing we can do is to boost and encourage our business sector and make sure that they’re hiring.”

There’s a reason why businesses feel like they’re painted as the bad guy.  Because the Obama administration paints them as the bad guy.  One accident on a BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the Obama administration shuts down all offshore drilling.  Now all the rigs are not drilling.  And the regulators have regulated best.  In their opinion.

We are a Nation that has a Government

There’s a reason why the Obama administration and business don’t have a good relationship.  Business understands business.  Obama doesn’t.  Businesses want a business-friendly environment so they can grow and become prosperous and create jobs.  Obama wants the same thing only without the being prosperous part.  Because any ‘excess profits’ belong to the government to fund their government spending.  For President Obama believes that we are a government that has a nation.  Unlike Ronald Reagan who thought we were a nation that had a government.  Business liked Reagan.  While Barack Obama goes to the Chamber of Congress to persuade business that his anti-business policies aren’t anti-business.

Sorry.  But when you have to persuade people that you’re not anti-business, you’re probably anti-business.

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