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Operating Ratio (OPEX)


The Operating Ratio (OPEX), in financial terms, is a measure of a company’s operational efficiency. It is calculated by dividing the operating expenses of a company by its net sales. A lower ratio indicates higher efficiency, as it shows the company is spending less to generate each dollar of sales.


Operating Ratio can be phonetically transcribed as /ˈɑː.pə.reɪ.tɪŋ ˈreɪ.ʃi.oʊ/.OPEX (which stands for Operating Expense) can be phonetically transcribed as /ˈoʊ.peks/.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Definition: Operating ratio, commonly known as OPEX, is a measure of operational efficiency used by companies. It is calculated by dividing operating expenses by the net sales. A lower ratio implies higher profitability.
  2. Calculation: The operating ratio is a crucial measure of performance and efficiency. It provides shareholders and management a clear picture of how much revenue is being consumed in operating costs. Generally, lower operating ratios are preferred as they indicate a company’s ability to generate profit after covering its cost of goods sold (COGS), administrative expenses, and sales and marketing costs.
  3. Analysis: It is essential for a firm to continuously monitor and manage its operating ratio. An increased operating ratio over time may suggest declining profitability. However, occasional high operating ratio may be acceptable if it is caused by investments aimed at expanding the company or improving productivity for long-term benefits.

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The Operating Ratio (OPEX) is a significant financial metric in business because it measures a company’s operational efficiency and cost management. It is calculated by dividing operating expenses by net sales, then converting the calculation into a percentage format. A lower percentage indicates a higher profitability level as it shows the company is spending less to generate every dollar of revenue. Therefore, closely monitoring OPEX can provide insights into whether the company’s costs are too high, whether its operations are efficient, or if it’s using its resources optimally. This ratio can also be used for benchmarking purposes, comparing the firm’s operational efficiency with that of competitors. A firm with a lower OPEX than its competitors inherently has a competitive edge in the marketplace.


The Operating Ratio (OPEX), used in finance and business, is a critical benchmark that businesses deploy to assess their operational efficiency. Essentially, this metric shows what proportion of a company’s revenue is utilized to cover operational costs like rents, salaries, utilities, etc. The purpose of this is not only to shed light on how effectively the company is allocating its resources, but also to illustrate how successfully it is generating profit relative to its operating expenses.In the finance world, OPEX holds immense importance as it reflects the ability of a company to control its expenses and operate profitably in the long run. By monitoring and managing operating ratios, businesses are better positioned to identify areas that need improvement, develop strategies to lower costs, and overall, improve their financial standing. Investors and financial analysts also value it as a comparative tool to evaluate the operational efficiency and competitiveness of different companies within the same industry. Through this measure, they can make more informed decisions regarding their investments.


1. Amazon: Amazon, as an e-commerce giant, has high operating ratios due to its significant investment in warehousing, logistics, and customer service systems. These are all necessary expenses to guarantee a high level of service and quick, effective delivery, but they increase the company’s operational costs. Of course, Amazon balances this with its high volume of sales, but the ratio provides insight into their ongoing operational efficiency.2. Southwest Airlines: In the airline industry, fuel costs, aircraft maintenance, and crew salaries often make up a significant portion of a company’s OPEX. For a company like Southwest Airlines, a low operating ratio is crucial because airlines operate on very tight margins. Even minor changes in these operating expenses, such as a notable increase in the price of aviation fuel, can significantly impact the operating ratio and the overall profitability of the company.3. McDonald’s: Fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s also have high operating ratios due to the costs associated with running the restaurants – the cost of raw materials (food), employee salaries, maintenance, and utilities contribute to the daily operating expenses. By measuring and working to improve this ratio, McDonald’s can find ways to operate more efficiently, such as buying ingredients in bulk to get discounts or implementing energy-saving measures in their restaurants to save on utilities.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Operating Ratio (OPEX)?

Operating Ratio or OPEX refers to a company’s operating expenses as a percentage of revenue. It indicates the efficiency of a company in producing its goods and services.

What is included in operating expenses?

Operating expenses typically include cost of goods sold (COGS), labor costs, rent, utilities, depreciation, and other overheads related with daily operations of a business.

How is operating ratio calculated?

Operating Ratio is calculated by dividing a company’s operating expense by net sales. The ratio can then be multiplied by 100 to obtain a percentage.

What does a high operating ratio indicate?

A high operating ratio indicates that a company’s cost of producing goods or services is high compared to its revenues. This could be a sign of inefficiency in the business.

What does a low operating ratio indicate?

A low operating ratio indicates that a company is more efficiently generating revenue with fewer operating expenses. This could be a positive sign of financial health and operational efficiency.

How frequently should companies review their operating ratio?

Companies should ideally review their operating ratio regularly, often every quarter, to identify inefficiencies, cost-control issues, or potential areas for improvement.

Can operating ratio be used as a measure of profitability?

No, operating ratio is not a measure of profitability. It measures operational efficiency. Profitability is best measured using ratios like net profit margin or return on investment.

What’s the difference between Operating Ratio and Operating Margin?

Operating Ratio and Operating Margin are closely related but measure different things. While operating Ratio shows the percentage of revenues consumed by operating expenses, Operating Margin shows the percentage of revenues that is operating income.

How can the operating ratio be improved?

The operating ratio can be improved by increasing revenues while keeping operating expenses constant, or by reducing operating expenses while keeping revenues constant, or ideally, doing both.

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