Logistics / Distribution Financing

Logistics / Distribution Financing

K-WAM Financial Solutions provides alternative finance solutions for Logistics and Distribution including purchase orders, transportation, import and export financing. Read this article to understand the myriad of ways that K-WAM can help your organization.

Purchase Order Finance for Distributors

Published 9/26/2012

Every small to medium sized distributor has aspirations of business growth. Every distributor aims to increase its sales, grow its market share and secure its long-term future with an aggressive growth strategy, one built on identifying and closing on the biggest opportunities its market has to offer. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for small to medium sized distributors to close large volume orders. Why? Simply put, banks and other financial institutions are still reluctant to extend the working capital small and medium sized distributors need to finance their operations, finance their business and most importantly, finance their inventory. However, there is a solution and it includes taking advantage of an asset-based financing option called “purchase order financing.”

This asset-based financing solution allows distributors to use the value of long-term contracts, confirmed purchase orders and existing backlogs in order to establish a line of credit. Instead of turning business away simply because the capital requirements to fulfill customer orders are too large, distributors can use this asset-based financing option to secure the capital needed to fund the purchase of finished goods from their vendor base. So how does purchase order financing compare to conventional financing?

Unfortunately, financing is harder and harder to come by in today’s economy. It’s a reality of managing a business in our global economy, and it’s a problem that affects all businesses, regardless of their makeup, their business model, their size or their industry. However, can an argument be made that financing is a bigger concern for small to medium sized distributors, ones who are just getting started? It most certainly can. The reality is that many small distributors are limited in terms of the opportunities they can pursue simply due to a lack of viable financing options. In essence, a distributor that doesn’t have access to financing is one whose growth potential is at risk.

Small to medium sized distributors and wholesalers must prepay their suppliers, secure financing through a bank, or rely upon securing a letter of credit. Bank financing is hard to come by as most financial institutions insist on distributors providing financial statements, ones that demonstrate consistent profit and strong cash flow over a minimum of three to four years. Unfortunately, new distributors aren’t able to provide that kind of information. A letter of credit is yet another option that is problematic at best. It is incredibly expensive to secure, extremely time-consuming and can often become a drain on a company’s internal resources. There is a window of opportunity with respect to using a letter of credit, and it simply isn’t conducive to dealing with customers rescheduling deliveries or supplier delivery delays.

Purchase Order Financing

This is ultimately why a number of distributors have come to rely upon purchase order financing. When a distributor defines its assets, it often looks to its inventory, its equipment, its real-estate holdings and finally, any current purchase orders and confirmed backlogs. Purchase order financing allows distributors to use the liquidity of their customers’ purchase orders in order to establish a rolling line of credit, one where they can finance their day-to-day operations and one that allows them to prepay their suppliers for finished goods. The distributor secures the financing they need and their customers have the confidence they’ll receive an on time shipment. So how does purchase order financing work and what are the conditions for using this asset-based financing option?

How Does Purchase Order Financing Work?

Once a distributor secures a large volume order, they can immediately use that order to secure the capital they need to finance their inventory requirements. In essence, a financing company advances the distributor the funds they need to prepay their vendors for product. Once the customer pays the invoice, the distributor covers their credit line and pays a fee for the financing services. It allows distributors to pursue all business opportunities, regardless of their size or capital requirements. In essence, small and medium sized distributors no longer have to question whether they should pursue their market’s biggest opportunities.

What are the Benefits of Purchase Order Financing?

Aside from the immediate infusion of capital, there are other benefits to using purchase order financing. First, it allows distributors to secure prepayment discounts from vendors and creditors. In this case, it’s not just about lowering the costs of current purchase orders, but also about reducing the costs on all purchase orders. Second, it allows distributors to increase their gross profit on sales by reducing their financing costs of inventory. In essence, small distributors no longer have to purchase inventory in advance. They can reduce the time it takes to finance their inventory by prepaying for finished goods the moment they’ve secured a purchase order from their own customers. Third, it improves their cash flow, further empowering the distributor to reduce the costs of financing their day-to-day operations.

  • Distributors can secure prepayment discounts for all finished goods.
  • Increase gross profit on sales by reducing inventory financing costs.
  • Improves cash flow and reduces costs to finance operations.

What are the Criteria for Lending?

Contrary to other financing options, purchase order financing companies don’t base their decision to advance funds on the credit rating or history of the distributor. They don’t ask the distributor to provide financials and they aren’t concerned about the company’s current cash position. The decision to advance capital is based on the credit rating and payment history of the distributor’s end-user customer. This makes purchase order financing an ideal solution for new business ventures, ones who have encountered issues collecting on receivables. In fact, in a number of industries, purchase order financing is the preferred financing solution. It has a well-established history in industries where extended payment terms are the norm.

Can Purchase Order Financing be Combined With other Asset-Based Lending Options?

Yes, distributors that use purchase order financing can combine this solution with receivables factoring. On its own, purchase order financing is repaid to the financing company once the distributor’s customer pays their invoice. However, receivables factoring can be combined with purchase order financing in order to reduce costs even further. With receivables factoring, the financing company takes responsibility for collecting on the receivable directly from the distributor’s customer. The best part about receivables factoring is that it is similar to a loan with one important exception; it won’t appear as a loan on the company’s balance sheet.

What Types of Distributors Qualify for Purchase Order Financing?

While purchase order financing is suitable to all businesses, it is especially beneficial to any new distributor just getting their operations off the ground, or any distributor who has had a less than stellar credit rating. It is a financing solution that doesn’t require a review of the distributor’s financial statements. However, there are some essential rules to follow: First, the distributor’s customers must be credit worthy and have a history of paying their receivables on time. They can’t be enterprises that consistently exceed their credit limit and terms. Second, purchase order financing is ideally suited to product lines with healthy gross profit margins on sales. After all, there is a cost to this financing option and it often isn’t conducive to distributors whose products have razor thin gross profit margins. Third, distributors must properly manage their credit lines and cover the transaction fees charged by the financing company.

Do Banks Offer Purchase Order Financing?

Most banks don’t offer purchase order financing and only a select few offer receivables factoring. Banks tend to stick with conventional lending and financing. They measure risk by how well an established enterprise performs over time. If that enterprise has demonstrated a history of performance, has solid financials and a strong cash position, then a bank is likely to advance the company funds. These three criteria are incredibly difficult to meet for small and medium sized distributors, especially ones who are just trying to make inroads within their market.

Purchase Order Financing Funds Future Growth

At the end of the day, purchase order financing works because it provides distributors with an alternative financing option, one that allows them to finance their future growth. Distributors no longer need to be at the mercy of banks and credit unions. They no longer have to worry about their credit history or credit rating. They no longer have to turn business away simply because they lack the ability to finance their inventory. Finally, they no longer have to worry about their ability to remain competitive with larger, more established market leaders.

Financing is a concern shared by a number of small to medium sized distributors and it’s one that can easily put a halt to any enterprise’s growth strategy. In fact, lack of financing could be the reason a company loses out on competitive bids. It’s important that distributors investigate this alternative financing solution. Purchase order financing is an asset-based lending option that will reduce a company’s costs of capital, lower its financing on inventory, improve its cash position, and most importantly, allow it to go toe-to-toe with its market’s biggest competitors.

K-WAM Financial Solutions Provides Factoring to many industries including these:

  • Factoring Government Contracts
  • Factoring Service Providers
  • Factoring Healthcare Providers
  • Factoring Security Guards
  • Factoring Advertising Agencies
  • Factoring Engineers
  • Factoring Oilfield Service
  • Factoring Staffing Agencies
  • Factoring Distributors
  • Construction Factoring Finance
  • Factoring Packaging & Corrugated
  • Factoring Electric Motor Industry
  • Factoring Medical Staffing
  • Factoring for Freight Brokers

Finance & The Supply Chain: Show Me the Money

Innovative supply chain management delivers financial benefits to your bottom line.

During the recent economic downturn, many companies stripped layers of cost from their supply chain operations. These cuts may not have been obvious to target or easy to accomplish. But moving forward, improving your supply chain’s financial performance will mean focusing on risk and relationships. And this focus could transform your supply chain and your organization.

In the old days, businesses focused on logistics internally. “Companies assumed they had to absorb and optimize every challenge thrown at them,” says Jonathan Byrnes, senior lecturer at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and author of Islands of Profit in a Sea of Red Ink. Today, however, companies are looking at logistics processes externally through integrating suppliers and customers. That change positions supply chain professionals as the driving force behind opportunities that can result in better financial performance for their companies.

Between 30 and 40 percent of every company is unprofitable by any measure—accounts, products, lines, transactions, orders. And 20 to 30 percent of every company provides all the reported profit and subsidizes the losses. While a common reaction is to eliminate the unprofitable elements, “You don’t want to fire customers; you want to turn around the unprofitable accounts,” cautions Byrnes. “At the same time, you want to identify and lock in the 20 to 30 percent of elements you can’t live without.”

The traditional view of logistics focused on carefully managing and optimizing functional areas such as warehousing, inventory, order fulfillment, and transportation using mathematical optimization tools. But this new world of externally focused supply chain management presents significant financial opportunities.

Companies are realizing the financial benefits of integrating more with customers and suppliers. “The few who do it well are making a fortune, even in this tough economy,” Byrnes notes.

What fewer companies understand or do well is recognizing the impact a supply chain can have on the customer value proposition. “Supply chain management can have a massive impact on cost, profitability, cash flow, and risk,” Byrnes says. “For many companies, it’s the leading untapped factor in not only tightening costs, but in increasing financial performance.” “Sometimes a supply chain professional can deliver more revenue than a salesperson ever could.” — Jonathan Byrnes, senior lecturer, MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics

One example of this impact is vendor-managed inventory (VMI), a business process where suppliers manage and own selected on-site inventory. Done right, VMI can increase revenues by as much as 30 to 40 percent in the highest penetrated accounts. Companies operating a VMI program design systems and procedures that increase the customer’s profitability, resulting in increased sales and profits. In sales terms, that translates to increased share of wallet and, ultimately, increased market share. “If you select the right customers, figure out how to make them more profitable, and invest in systems, relationships, and resources, they make much more money selling your products,” Byrnes says. “That results in huge sales increases. At the same time, you gain control over your own order pattern variances and substitutions, and get more visibility and better forecasting, which drives down your own costs.

“VMI offers the best of both worlds: your revenues radically increase and your costs go down,” he adds. This is one area where a supply chain professional can deliver more revenue than a salesperson ever could, Byrnes points out. VMI also delivers more cost savings than you can achieve by simply managing the orders coming at you. “VMI is a flow-through system that can be highly forecasted, which helps reduce inventory and improve cash flow,” he adds.

Guess Again

The old approach of looking inward didn’t provide logistics and supply chain managers visibility to where sales were coming from. All they could do was look at the order pattern and guess—then carry enough safety stock.

Byrnes recommends supply chain and sales and marketing departments establish a strong partnership “by defining customer relationships, from arm’s length to highly integrated, with some notches in between,” he says.

He cites one company operating a warehouse where 40 percent of costs are wrapped up in one-off requests from minor customers. “It’s important to standardize customer relationships so you can run an efficient supply chain into each one,” Byrnes explains. “I call this multiple parallel supply chains.” This requires close cooperation between supply chain management and sales and marketing in a process Byrnes labels “market mapping,” which matches customers to the level of relationship that is appropriate—not necessarily what they asked for. Highly integrated, close relationships are reserved for the best customers—not just the largest. And those customers with growth potential could garner a closer relationship than their business volume might suggest. Traditionally, sales sets a goal for moving customers from where they started to where they should be. If you are a low-volume supplier to a customer who has high potential, what does it take to get more of that customer’s business? Sales and marketing can identify customers with potential, but supply chain management can determine which customers have the willingness and ability to manage change and become true partners.

For high-potential customers, get acquainted with their operations team early on. Only then should you start investing the resources that will build a closer relationship. It’s important to know whether the customer is open to the transformation before dedicating resources that could be invested in other customers. Among the qualifying factors, Byrnes cites the operating fit. Some questions to ask are: What can be accomplished if the partnership does everything right? And, are the customer’s operations personnel the type to partner or not?

This is the opposite of the traditional way sales would handle the operations connection—bringing in their own operations team at the end of the sales process for an introduction and a handshake. Using the new approach, operations personnel almost precede sales in building relationships and identifying strong candidates for the closest partnerships.

The benefits of this closer supply chain relationship include smoothing the order cycle, improving forecasting, and increasing profitability for both customer and supplier. The nitty-gritty operations details get ironed out in the process, but resources stay focused on the most productive and highest-potential partnerships. “The market mapping approach provides tremendous value and strategic differentiation, and offers competitive advantage,” says Byrnes. “All the goals companies want to achieve today result from optimizing supply chain management.”

A Global Perspective

These concepts cross from the customer relationship to managing your supplier relationships. When customers are open to forming a closer relationship with key suppliers, they can work together to improve cost, service, and profitability. In a global supply chain, that can lead to lower risk, as well. Place matters. Instability in the Middle East highlights just how quickly apparently stable governments can come under attack. With supply chains extending thousands of miles and sourcing that reaches into emerging economies, the stability of even long-term governments is coming under added scrutiny. Many risk managers are looking at low-cost sourcing countries and asking, “Can instability happen here?”

In Asia, for example, “Never underestimate the Chinese government,” says Chris Holt, CEO of Tiger Medical Group, which sells hospital and medical supplies to institutional healthcare buyers worldwide. Based in Shanghai, Tiger also maintains administrative offices in Hong Kong, where most trading takes place. “The Chinese government is incredibly savvy and organized, and they think 20 years ahead,” Holt says.

As a result, China focused on developing infrastructure to reach inland regions while it concentrated on making its coastal cities prosperous. The obvious value of developing near major ocean ports first was easy access to global trade. But as the country’s growth has continued, it has pushed economic development out to the hinterlands.

China can accomplish this because it spent years developing highways, bridges, canals, and railways to reach inland regions. Now, fewer people need to migrate to the coastal regions for employment as this economic engine drives more domestic growth.

If the government wasn’t taking these steps to develop the economy, says Holt, “you’d have the potential for one billion hungry people rallying to a cause.” Tiger Medical Group’s management team—comprised of about half Chinese and half Westerners—also mirrors its supply chain. This mix helps build supply chain relationships among the company’s largely U.S. and European customer base and mostly Asian suppliers.

Tiger’s market in healthcare products faces some challenges related to its significant growth potential and extended supply chain. As an industry, the medical surgical supply segment has increased the volume of product it sources from Asia to nearly 10 percent, says Holt. That’s a result of many U.S. and European networks that are Tiger’s customers shifting more of their U.S., Mexican, and European factories to facilities or sourcing in Asia.

The move allows suppliers to increase the margin on products that are now sourced in Asia and supplement lower-margin, domestically sourced products. The question then becomes, how do you manage an Asia-based supply chain?

Shifting Roles

The traditional supply chain had senior management, product design, engineering, manufacturing, sourcing, marketing, sales, and logistics all located in the domestic market (see chart, below). The evolving U.S. supply chain may have all manufacturing in Asia, some sourcing, and some logistics in both the United States and Asia. The Asia-based supply chain serving a U.S. market maintains most of its functions in Asia, but splits marketing between Asia and the United States, while keeping the sales function in the United States.

The conventional supply chain managed from the United States with heavy sourcing in Asia faces challenges from the number of intermediaries in that supply chain, a problem Holt says is common to the healthcare industry. In addition, culture, language, time zones, and distance add to lead time and risk. An Asia-based supply chain has the advantage of putting the management function in a similar low-cost geography to the supply chain it manages.

But, Holt notes, much of the existing management team is not likely to jump at this type of opportunity. Most team members will have been born and raised in the same area where they have spent their entire career. Few will have even short-term experience in overseas positions and, with family and other ties, it won’t be easy to move them.

Hedging Risks

Political risk is certainly a factor in any sourcing/supply chain decision, but currency, taxes, duties, and other factors increasingly come into play. Some larger companies hedge currency in their finance department, but, suggests Holt, there’s probably little awareness or involvement at the supply chain management level.

Another type of “hedge” might hit closer to home: forward contracts for raw materials can help guarantee supply and price. This is one way to take some control over a risk and avoid a sudden increase in supplier costs if raw materials prices rise. Another strategy is to take a portfolio approach. “Companies with a wide portfolio of products coming from numerous countries and going to a variety of markets will realize more profit on some products and less on others because of all that variability,” Holt says. The goal is to manage the overall performance of that portfolio of products.

The trap that many companies fall into is creating a supply chain heavily based on one or two currencies and one or two products. “They try to forecast out 14 months in one category, and if any of the variables rise or fall, the process becomes erratic,” says Holt. “They celebrate if the variables move in their favor or blame currencies if the variables go against them.

“Know the variables that are in play, which ones you can manage, and how to handle the rest,” he suggests.

That’s the point behind the currency hedge and forward contracts for raw materials. It also comes into play with capacity and the relationship you maintain with your suppliers. Locating in a tax-friendly geography helps, but you must monitor tax policy changes.

Going Into Labor

Labor is another significant variable. Holt offers an example of wage increases in China. For Honda, which was already paying a higher wage, the increase amounted to 24 percent. But for Chinese technology manufacturer Foxconn, wages rose 70 percent in the same period.

“If you neutralize the riskiest variables a bit, you can withstand more noise in the others,” says Holt. If you allow all the different elements to be risk factors and don’t do anything to control any of them, you face significant risk if they all go against you at the same time.

Holt cites one electronics company that experienced a 100-percent increase in labor costs to assemble its product in China. Its margin on the product was very high. “But where margins are low, you can’t withstand that financial shock,” he says. “You need to employ supply chain techniques to manage risk.”

While sourcing in Asia can be risky, it is still the trend. Managing that global supply chain well could have another payoff as India and China’s domestic markets continue to evolve a strong middle class. About 50 percent of the world’s population is located in the region, and it accounts for 75 percent of world economic growth.

Supply chain management today is about much more than finding a low-cost source. The financial contribution of a well-positioned and well-managed supply chain extends to all key players. While cost controls, optimization, efficiencies, and operational excellence are important to a successful supply chain, relationships and risk management will differentiate the big winners.

Inbound Logistics Magazine

Transportation Financing

If you are in the transportation industry, you know that after a long haul, your business typically has to wait to be paid, at least 30 to 45 days. Market conditions can further delay payments leaving your business short on cash. You may not even have the necessary funds to haul the next load.

Why Wait?

K-WAM Financial Solutions has the resources to keep your trucks rolling. We purchase your commercial accounts receivable for immediate cash. Any size shipper can benefit.

K-WAM’S team of experienced processors convert your verified invoices for immediate cash, up to 92% of the funds, in as little as 24 hours of receipt. Funds can be wired into your account, sent overnight, via regular mail, or even applied to your fuel card account.

Once invoices are paid, K-WAM pays your company the remainder of the funds collected for the invoices, minus a factoring fee. As a company, you control what invoices are factored. There are no long-term contracts, and you can cancel anytime.