Activity Based Costing Definition

activity based costing

What we’re trying to do is understand every time we make Product B, what is the cost for one unit of Product B in terms of supplier ordering costs? That’s going be quite difficult to work out because we’ve got loads of supplier ordering going on, and we produce two different products. A cost driver is a reason why in a particular part of the business, we essentially consume resources and therefore spend some money.

activity based costing

The overheads of the business are often referred to as indirect costs. So, if we’re talking about a manufacturing business, the indirect costs would be those costs that aren’t things like direct materials or direct labour. In other words, indirect costs are things that can’t be specifically related to a product which has been produced. Typical examples of this would be things like factory rent rates, supervisors’ salaries, and also costs to do with things like procuring materials, setting up equipment etc. All of these things are indirect costs which can’t be directly related to products being produced.


Under traditional costing, companies are prohibited from excluding any manufacturing costs from products. However, ABC allows these “organization-sustaining” costs to be excluded from product costs.

activity based costing

Activitybased costing systems are more accuratethan traditional costing systems. This is because they provide a more precisebreakdown of indirect costs. The leap from traditionalcosting to activity based costing is difficult. Activity-based costing is a process of calculating the cost of products that accounts for indirect costs.

Cost Estimating

Therefore this model assigns more indirect costs into direct costs compared to conventional costing. Activity-based costing is a costing methodology that assigns costs to activities and then assigns the cost of each activity to the products or services that are generated by that activity. ABC is a more accurate way to assign costs to products and services than traditional methods like job-based or overhead allocation. Note that these rates are lower than those estimated using traditional ABC methods (see again the exhibit “Doing ABC the Traditional Way”). The reason for this difference becomes obvious when we recalculate the quarterly cost of performing the customer service activities. This takes care of the technical drawback of traditional ABC systems we mentioned earlier—the fact that surveyed employees respond as if their practical capacity were always fully utilized.

  • In this way, long-term variable overheads, traditionally considered fixed costs, can be traced to products.
  • Product 124 is a low volume item which requires certain activities such as special engineering, additional testing, and many machine setups because it is ordered in small quantities.
  • With activity-based costing, you assign cost codes to each activity completed based on the resources consumed.
  • This approach can be inaccurate because it does not take into account the resources that are used to produce a unit of product or service.
  • For the activity of running machinery, the driver is likely to be machine operating hours, looking at labor, maintenance, and power cost during the period of machinery activity.
  • For example, allocating PPE to individual products, may lead to discontinuation of products that seem unprofitable after the allocation, even if in fact their discontinuation will negatively affect the bottom line.

Further, it is possible to keep track of the time maintenance people spend cleaning classrooms and labs. The university could assign maintenance costs based on the time spent in history classrooms and in biology classrooms and labs, respectively, to the history and biology departments. The cost driver rate could be the cost per purchase order, for example. Depending on the manufacturing systems or programs that you use, the information you need may not always be readily available. Collecting the data you need may require the use of specific software. Also, the reports you use when collecting this type of data don’t always follow the traditional guidelines for accounting principles, which can make things harder to track for some teams.

Absorption Costing Vs Variable Costing: What’s The Difference?

Gathering the data you need, as long as you have the right resources and team members, can be beneficial. Traditional costing methods don’t always work in certain industries, such as the service industry. However, you can use activity-based costing in these industries since you apply the cost directly to the type of service. This means you can use it to improve results and pricing in industries that are otherwise left out. Some disadvantages for using the ABC method include expensive maintenance of cost pools, lengthy installation time and multi-department data reporting. Generally, activity-based costing is used in the manufacturing industry, as it produces more accurate cost data, generating values that are close to the true cost and can be identified during the production phase. An activity is an event, task, or unit of work with a specific purpose, whether it be designing products, setting up machines, operating machines, or distributing products.

Like manufacturing industries, financial institutions have diverse products and customers, which can cause cross-product, cross-customer subsidies. activity based costing, even though originally developed for manufacturing, may even be a more useful tool for doing this. This will prevent indiscriminate cost-cutting measures that may actually result in worse performance and profitability. This is done by dividing estimated overhead costs for each activity by the estimated cost driver activity. If actual overhead costs are lower than applied overhead, the resulting overappliedoverhead is closed with a debit to manufacturing overhead and a credit to cost of goods sold. If actual overhead costs are higher than applied overhead, the resulting underappliedoverhead is closed with a debit to cost of goods sold and a credit to manufacturing overhead.

  • Under traditional costing, overhead costs are assigned to products using a plant-wide, predetermined overhead rate.
  • Activity-based costing is a method of assigning overhead and indirect costs—such as salaries and utilities—to products and services.
  • Assign each cost pool activity cost drivers, such as hours or units.
  • The cost driver is a factor that creates or drives the cost of the activity.
  • Businesses may need to assign a team to this specific task, but they may also choose to outsource it.

The formula for activity-based costing is the cost pool total divided by cost driver, which yields the cost driver rate. The cost driver rate is used in activity-based costing to calculate the amount of overhead and indirect costs related to a particular activity.

How To Calculate Activity

Comment on the differences between the results of the two approaches. Notice that the total activity levels presented here match the estimated activity levels presented in step 4. This was done to avoid complicating the example with overapplied and underapplied overhead. However, a more realistic scenario would provide actual activity levels that are different than estimated activity levels, thereby creating overapplied and underapplied overhead for each activity. We described the disposition of overapplied and underapplied overhead in Chapter 2 “How Is Job Costing Used to Track Production Costs?”.

  • Activity based costing recognizes that the special engineering, special testing, machine setups, and others are activities that cause costs—they cause the company to consume resources.
  • CIMA Official Terminology describes activity-based costing as an approach to the costing and monitoring of activities, which involves tracing resource consumption and costing final outputs.
  • The ABC system assigns costs to each activity that goes into production, such as workers testing a product.
  • It also enables improved product and customer profitability analysis.

Department A had estimated overhead of $2,000,000 and used 20,000 machine hours. High Challenge has decided to allocate overhead on the basis of machine hours. Absorption-costing refers to equally assigning the value of overhead costs across all inventory.

Variable Cost Vs Fixed Cost: What’s The Difference?

For example, if the customer service department gets a new database system, the reps may be able to perform a standard credit check in 20 minutes rather than 50 minutes. To accommodate the improvement, just change the unit time estimate to 20 minutes, and the new cost-driver rate automatically becomes $16 per credit check (down from $40). Of course, you then have to add back in the cost impact of purchasing the new database system by updating the cost per time unit estimate, so the final figure may be somewhat higher than $16. The cost-driver rates can now be calculated by multiplying the two input variables we have just estimated. For our customer service department, we obtain cost-driver rates of $6.40 (8 multiplied by $0.80) for processing customer orders, $35.20 (44 by $0.80) for handling inquiries, and $40 (50 by $0.80) for performing credit checks. Once you have calculated these standard rates, you can apply them in real time to assign costs to individual customers as transactions occur.

activity based costing

In a business organization, Activity-Based Costing is a method of assigning the organization’s resource costs through activities to the products and services provided to its customers. It is generally used as a tool for understanding product and customer cost and profitability.

Traditionally, in a job order cost system and process cost system, overhead is allocated to a job or function based on direct labor hours, machine hours, or direct labor dollars. In such companies, activity‐based costing is used to allocate overhead costs to jobs or functions. Activity‐based costing assumes that the steps or activities that must be followed to manufacture a product are what determine the overhead costs incurred. Each overhead cost, whether variable or fixed, is assigned to a category of costs.

Show excess capacity (i.e. cost) if say the purchasing department costs were not 95% consumed as a consequence of purchasing activity required. What it does is prorate overhead and support cost incurred to produce a product or service ore precisely. In this system it is assumed that there is a causal link between the products and the accompanying costs. Activity Based Costing is especially interesting for companies that, in the light of bad corporate results or strategic considerations , need to achieve an important cost reduction. Robert Kaplan is regarded as the founder of the theoretical principles of activity based costing within the cost management knowledge area. Facility support activities are necessary for development and production to take place. These costs are administrative in nature and include building depreciation, property taxes, plant security, insurance, accounting, outside landscape and maintenance, and plant management’s and support staff’s salaries.

Unreliability Of Reporting Unused Time

In this way, ABC often identifies areas of high overhead costs per unit and so directs attention to finding ways to reduce the costs or to charge more for costly products. Activity-based costing takes into account the resources that are used to produce a product or service.

Product 124 is a low volume item which requires certain activities such as special engineering, additional testing, and many machine setups because it is ordered in small quantities. A similar product, Product 366, is a high volume product—running continuously—and requires little attention and no special activities. If this company used traditional costing, it might allocate or “spread” all of its overhead to products based on the number of machine hours.

It can help to avoid a large number of cost pools, to reduce the complexity of the ABC system. Activity-based costing is a methodology for more precisely allocating overhead costs by assigning them to activities. Once costs are assigned to activities, the costs can be assigned to the cost objects that use those activities. The system can be employed for the targeted reduction of overhead costs. ABC works best in complex environments, where there are many machines and products, and tangled processes that are not easy to sort out. Conversely, it is of less use in a streamlined environment where production processes are abbreviated, so that costs are easy to assign. The cost driver rate, which is the cost pool total divided by cost driver, is used to calculate the amount of overhead and indirect costs related to a particular activity.

However, there may be options available to help streamline the process for a more efficient and cost-effective process. Businesses may need to assign a team to this specific task, but they may also choose to outsource it. This can be a better method as this process usually requires a team of management-level employees. Additionally, when you outsource this task to a team that specifically focuses on activity-based costing, the team is usually already familiar with the programs. An ABC system provides valuable information, but requires the use of quite a few cost pools, making the system more expensive to maintain.

Activity Based Costing Costing Vs Traditional Costing

The typical company uses a variety of distribution channels to sell its products, such as retail, Internet, distributors, and mail order catalogs. Authors note that activity-based costing system is introspective and focuses on a level of analysis which is too low. On the other hand, they underscore the importance to consider the cost of capital in order to bring strategy back into performance measures. Recently, Mocciaro Li Destri, Picone & Minà proposed a performance and cost measurement system that integrates the economic value added criteria with process based costing . At CCH Tagetik, we are continuously updating our performance management software with innovations based on input from our customers to improve the customer experience. That’s why our customers rank us high in independent customer satisfaction surveys.

It’s mostly used in manufacturing, as it’s much easier to work out the cost of all the activities required to make a certain product in this industry. The main objective of this study is to investigate the defects and problems of the ABC system and to offer a modern costing method called BBC system that is free from ABC problems. In the present study, 20 of the most important shortcomings of the ABC system based on previous research are listed. BBC system uses several techniques in order to solve these problems. First, instead of classification of overhead costs based on activity, it separates them based on their behavior (fixed, variable and semi-variable).

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