Operating and Net Working Capital: What’s the Difference?

What is net operating working capital? Net operating working capital (NOWC) is the difference between a company’s current assets and current non-interest bearing current liabilities. Current assets include cash, accounts receivable and inventories and exclude marketable securities.

Net Working Capital

What is operating working capital?

A company’s current assets are referred to as operating working capital (OWC), which is a measure of the amount of investment required to fund various operating cycle or day-to-day operations. Buying and selling inventory, paying suppliers, and obtaining payments from customers are all part of this process. A company with high operating working capital can frequently pay suppliers in advance to benefit from cash discounts, maintain high inventory levels to meet high demand, and extend customer terms to boost sales volume.

Depending on your needs and industry, there are various formulas for calculating operating working capital. Here is a straightforward and typical formula to determine operating working capital:

OWC = Current assets – non-operating current assets

Cash and short-term debt are excluded from this calculation. Even though cash is a current asset, the operating working capital calculation does not include it because it is regarded as a non-operating asset. Holding cash isnt directly related to operations. Cash becomes an operating asset and is eligible for inclusion in the OWC calculation once it is used to pay for supplies and other items necessary for a business’ operations.

What is net operating working capital?

The difference between a company’s current assets and current, non-interest-bearing liabilities is its net operating working capital (NOWC). Marketable securities are excluded from current assets, which are cash, accounts receivable, and inventories. Current liabilities that do not bear interest are those that must be repaid by a company within the year but do not bear interest themselves. When a company’s cash flow is calculated using NOWC, it can see which current assets it can expect to convert to cash in the next 12 months. One way to calculate NOWC is by using this formula:

NOWC = Current assets – non-interest-bearing current liabilities

What is net working capital?

Working capital, also referred to as net working capital (NWC), is the difference between a company’s total current assets and its liabilities. A key indicator of a company’s liquidity, NWC measures profitability and reflects operational efficiency, including the capacity to meet short-term financial obligations like payroll, rent, and utilities as well as the amount of capital available for investment in revenue-generating activities. NWC provides information on a company’s short-term financial stability.

Net working capital can be calculated using a variety of formulas depending on your needs and industry. To calculate net working capital, use this formula:

NWC = Total current assets – total current liabilities

Your cash assets plus your accounts receivable and inventory make up your total current assets. The money owed to you by your clients for any products or services they have purchased from you is included in your accounts receivable. Accounts payable and accrued expenses are examples of short-term financial obligations that are due within a year and are referred to as current liabilities.

Pros and cons of operating working capital

High and low OWC demonstrate how effectively a business is using and managing its resources. OWC has a direct impact on how much cash a company has available. Because cash was used to fund the company’s operating cycle, a high OWC typically indicates that it has less cash. Stretching supplier terms, increasing inventory turnover, and improving customer payment collection can reduce the OWC while raising cash available, which can increase opportunities to pay down debt, distribute dividends, or invest in new income-generating ventures.

Pros and cons of net working capital

If your net working capital is positive, you can pay your bills as they come due and put money toward other operational needs. An excessive amount of NWC may indicate that your company is not effectively using short-term assets. Because some current assets are difficult to convert into cash, net working capital may not always be an accurate indicator of liquidity. Excessive NWC may also signify under-used resources.

What’s the difference between operating working capital and net working capital?

The specific elements of a company’s finances taken into account when the calculation is made is the main distinction between operating and net working capital. Here are some more specifics about how OWC and NWC differ from one another:

Whats being measured

A more limited measure than net working capital is operating working capital. While net working capital considers all assets and liabilities, operating working capital focuses more on daily operations. Because it reflects the cash and other current assets a company must invest in running and expanding its business, net working capital is more thorough.

Accounts included in the calculations

For each capital, different specific accounts are used in the calculations. Cash and short-term debt are not included in the calculation of operating working capital but are included in the calculation of net working capital.

When to use operating or net working capital

A company should examine its budget sheet to comprehend when to utilize each type of capital. Due to the fact that OWC represents how resources are managed in daily operations, this calculation is helpful in figuring out whether a company can stay solvent. For instance, if a company’s OWC is too low, it runs the risk of not having enough money to cover its debts. In contrast, NWC accounts for all of the company’s assets and liabilities as well as overall profitability. This calculation is helpful for assessing investments to see if they are worth taking on debt for.


What is net operating working capital used for?

Net Working Capital Formula
  1. Net Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities.
  2. Current Assets (less cash) – Current Liabilities (less debt) equals Net Working Capital.
  3. NWC = Accounts Receivable + Inventory – Accounts Payable.

Is working capital the same as operating capital?

The goal with net “operating” working capital is to determine the amount of cash flow that a business can generate from its operations. The “net operating” working capital metric seeks to gauge how effectively a company uses its resources to run its operations.

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