What is the Fixed-Asset Turnover Ratio?

The fixed-asset turnover ratio is, in general, used by analysts to measure operating performance. It is a ratio of net sales to fixed assets. This ratio specifically measures a company's ability to generate net sales from fixed-asset investments, namely property, plant and equipment (PP&E), and net of depreciation. In general, a higher fixed-asset turnover ratio indicates that a company has more effectively utilized investment in fixed assets to generate revenue.

The fixed-asset turnover ratio is calculated as:

Formula for calculating the fixed-asset turnover ratio.

Fixed-Asset Turnover Ratio

Breaking Down Fixed-Asset Turnover Ratio

The fixed-asset turnover ratio is commonly used as a metric in manufacturing industries that make substantial purchases for PP&E in order to drive up output. When a company makes such significant purchases, wise investors closely monitor this ratio in subsequent years to observe the effectiveness of such an investment in fixed assets.

Overall, investments in fixed assets are representative of the sole, largest component of the company’s total assets. The ratio, calculated annually, is constructed in a way that is purposeful in reflecting how efficiently a company, primarily the company’s management team, has used these substantial assets to generate revenue for the firm.

Indications of the Fixed-Asset Turnover Ratio

A higher turnover ratio is indicative of greater efficiency in managing fixed-asset investments, but there is not an exact number or range that dictates whether a company has been efficient at generating revenue from such investments. For this reason, it is important for analysts and investors to compare a company’s most recent ratio to both its historic ratios and ratio values from peer companies and/or industry averages.

Though the fixed-asset turnover ratio is of significant importance in certain industries, an investor or analyst must determine whether the specific company is in the appropriate sector or industry for the ratio to be calculated, before attaching any weight to it. Fixed assets vary drastically from one company to the next. As an example, consider the difference between an Internet company and a manufacturing company. An Internet company, such as Facebook, has a significantly smaller fixed-asset base than a manufacturing giant, such as Caterpillar. Clearly, in this example, Caterpillar’s fixed-asset turnover ratio is of more relevance, and should hold more weight, than that of Facebook’s ratio.

Variations on the Turnover Ratio

Some asset-turnover ratios substitute total assets for fixed assets in the equation. However, the latter acts as a representative of a number of management’s decisions on capital expenditures for their companies, because it is such a significant element in the firm’s balance sheet. A fixed-asset investment is a capital investment, but, more importantly, the results of the capital investment are a greater indicator of performance, more so than that evidenced by total asset turnover.