Harvesting Cash from Suppliers is Reaping With a Sharp Sword

The Wall Street Journal today reports that Procter & Gamble is planning to extend its payment terms to suppliers by as much as 30 days — from an average of 45 days to a new target of 75 days.
The Journal reports that P&G was following the lead of many other large companies that were keeping their cash longer to help them fund expansions, investor dividends or other needs.
Of course, payment terms have been and always will be an important part of the total cost of ownership of anything in the supply chain. They are tools like many others. But as one of the sharpest of those tools, payment terms can cut two ways.
You may be comfortable that your tier one supplier can find funds at low interest rates to manage the situation without affecting deliveries to you or the overall health of the supplier. But the fact is, the more likely scenario is that tier ones will extend their own terms to tier two, and so on. Eventually, the shock of the change has to be absorbed.
How well do you know the financial health of every company at every level in your supply chain? Can you be sure there isn’t a service provider in your chain that has to meet a biweekly payroll, or some other upstream company that supplies a critical part on a razor-thin operating margin because it’s a startup or has put everything into an R&D effort? If so, you might be sowing the seeds of disaster at the same time you are harvesting what appears to be an easy source of cash.

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