Activity Based Costing

what is activity based costing

Given the highly competitive nature of the health care insurance industry and the need to minimize costs, BCBSF’s management decided to implement an activity-based costing system. Management’s primary concern was how to allocate administrative costs totaling $588,000,000 to the products and services the organization provides. This is done by dividing estimated overhead costs for each activity by the estimated cost driver activity. For the activity meeting with customers, this calculation results in a rate per hour of meeting time. For the activity reviewing customer applications, the calculation results in a rate per application reviewed, and for running credit reports, a rate per credit report run. As we have seen, the introduction of ABC has implications for the cost per unit, price and profit margin.

The approach has proven useful in many service industry areas including healthcare, construction, financial services, governments, and other industries. When a company asks its employees to report on the time spent on various activities, they have a strong tendency to make sure that the reported amounts equal 100% of their time. However, there is a large amount of slack time in anyone’s work day that may involve breaks, administrative meetings, playing games on the Internet, and so forth. Employees usually mask these activities by apportioning more time to other activities. These inflated numbers represent misallocations of costs in the ABC system, sometimes by quite substantial amounts. Management may not authorize funding for additional ABC projects later on, so ABC tends to be “done” once and then discarded. Clearly, there are many valuable uses for the information provided by an ABC system.

Similarly, calculate the ABC Cost Formula for all the cost pool activities. The same five steps used in manufacturing organizations can also be used in service organizations. Recall from that the manufacturing overhead account is closed to cost of goods sold at the end of the period.

what is activity based costing

A cost element refers to an account which receives and accumulates costs over a period of time. It also includes the revenue accounts that receive and accumulate revenues over a period of time.

Service Organization Example Of Abm

Thus, cost driver is a factor or an event which results in consequential change in the total cost of the object. The ever increasing and severe market competition due to globalisation has increased the necessity of more accurate product costs in order what is activity based costing to avoid the disadvantages of under-costing and over-costing. The traditional absorption costing does not render any valuable assistance to multi-product concerns in making decisions regarding process technology, product-mix, product pricing etc.

  • As the activity dictionary expands—either to reflect more detail about activities or to expand the scope of the model to the entire enterprise—the demands on the computer programs used to store and process the data escalate.
  • During this time the Consortium for Advanced Management-International (CAM-I), provided a formative role for studying and formalising the principles that have become more formally known as Activity-Based Costing.
  • Identification of cost during activities and their causes not only help in computation of more accurate cost of a product or a job but also eliminate non-value added activities.
  • For example, a product with few set-ups, material movements or inspections will have lower costs under ABC than traditional absorption costing.
  • Activity-based costing records the costs that traditional cost accounting does not do.
  • Such expansion has caused ABC systems to exceed the capacity of generic spreadsheet tools, such as Microsoft Excel, and even many ABC software packages.

The potential problem with ABC, like other cost allocation approaches, is that it essentially treats fixed costs as if they were variable. This can, without proper understanding, give some people an inaccurate understanding which can then lead to poor decision making. 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. It is usually quite easy to segregate overhead costs at the plant-wide level, so you can compare the costs of production between different facilities. This can lead to the reapportionment of production work to those facilities incurring lower overhead costs, and possibly the shut-down of unusually high-cost facilities. With proper overhead allocation from an ABC system, you can determine the margins of various products, product lines, and entire subsidiaries.

You will then look at the £1 million, and create “cost pools” explaining how that money was spent. While you create different cost pools, you will also need to determine how you will measure them. Over a period of time, the ABC will tend to standardise the cost of activities related to a particular product or process. But in practice there will be differences in set-up time, production run, and meeting a delivery order for the product or process, as well as for different products. A cost pool is a collection of overhead costs that are logically related to the tasks being performed. Cost pool is like a Cost centre or activity centre around which costs are accumulated.

What Is Activity Based Costing?

Unfortunately, the difficulties of implementing and maintaining traditional ABC systems have prevented them from being adopted on any significant scale. Time-driven ABC has overcome these difficulties, offering a transparent, scalable methodology that is easy to implement and update. It draws on existing databases to incorporate specific features for particular orders, processes, suppliers, and customers. Activity-based costing is no longer a complex, expensive financial-systems implementation; the time-driven ABC innovation provides managers with meaningful cost and profitability information, quickly and inexpensively. We will assume that a company has annual manufacturing overhead costs of $2,000,000—of which $200,000 is directly involved in setting up the production machines.

what is activity based costing

In a more competitive environment, companies must be able to assess product profitability realistically. ABC facilitates a good understanding of what drives overhead costs. Support overheads are charged to products on the basis of their usage of the factor causing the overheads. Apply activity costs to products using the appropriate cost-driver rate. Under the activity-based approach, the unit cost card gives different unit product costs for each product. Once all of these costs are determined and noted, the information must be input into a computer application.

What Are The Five Steps Of Activity

Volume or quantity of production is not primary driving force for the consumption of overhead resources. As some products are produced in large batches and some in small batches.

It is up to you how you want to conduct these interviews, but the main purpose of this is to identify how the money is spread throughout the activities. For instance, if you have an employee who works in customer service as well as order processing, you can ask them how much time he/she spends on each activity. Once you have created a list of your cost pools and how you will measure them, you will need to spread the £1 million between them. This is an estimate of how much of the £1 million is used for each cost pool. To identify this estimate, you will need to interview employees to get an idea of how much time is spent on each activity.

Objectives Of Activity Based Costing

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.

  • This can be done by estimating the amount of resources used by each product or service, or by using actual data from past projects.
  • In the past, labor costs represented 50% of total product costs, followed by raw materials at 35% and overhead costs of 15%.
  • Before an ABC system can be implemented, management must analyse the organisation’s activities, determine the extent of their occurrence and establish the relationships between activities, products/services and their cost.
  • Ensuring that all lines are accounted for can be very time-consuming and practically impossible for medium and large manufacturers.
  • A unit or output is used to calculate the cost of each activity consumed during any given period of time.

Again, that was probably a safe assumption to make in traditional manufacturing businesses that typically made a small range of products. However, in modern manufacturing environments we typically see such diverse product ranges that they all place very, very different demands on the business. If you think about modern electronics manufacturers like Apple, just think about all the different products they produce all the way from tiny MP3 players to really complex personal computers. Nowadays, it just simply isn’t the case that if something’s produced in a larger volume, it necessarily places bigger demands on the business in every single area of the production process. Traditional absorption costing just cannot deal with that complexity, whereas Activity Based Costing does a much better job with this. However, once again, it’s the case that in a modern manufacturing environment, the production process is so complex, that we’ve got loads of overheads; but not all of them are fixed, certainly not over the medium to long term.

It Provides Benefits In Industries That Other Methods Don’t Work

This will eventually lead to a drop in cost, in theory, as efforts will be made to reduce the costs on the bulk of the products. Efficiency is paramount to success and growth within a company and that is why activity based costing is an effective way to allocate indirect costs within a company to products.

CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, defines ABC as an approach to the costing and monitoring of activities which involves tracing resource consumption and costing final outputs. Resources are assigned to activities, and activities to cost objects based on consumption estimates. The latter utilize cost drivers to attach activity costs to outputs. Second, it creates new bases for assigning overhead costs to items such that costs are allocated based on the activities that generate costs instead of on volume measures, such as machine hours or direct labor costs. 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. ABC accounts for the costs based on what activities caused them to occur. By determining the actual activities that occur in various departments it is then possible to more accurately relate these costs to customers, products and services.

Drawbacks Of An Abc System

Conventional costing systems are built on the assumption that product drives the costs directly. ABC system drives indirect and support expenses, first to the activities and processes and then to products, services, and customers, giving managers a clearer pic­ture of economics of their operations and services.

A trade-off will be required between the accuracy and time spent on replacing the existing system with the ABC. Better Reporting – ABC system provides better reporting of cost of activities and their performance which will help in taking suitable decision and in improving efficiency.

Discover the activity-based costing formula and learn how to calculate it using examples. Some measure of cost apportionment may still be required at the cost pooling stage for items like rent, rates and building depreciation. Calculate the cost per unit, absorbing all the overheads on the basis of labour hours. So in total, we’ve got 280 batches across two different product lines.

Traditional Costing Method

Traditional absorption costing tends to focus on volume-related drivers, such as labour hours, while activity-based costing also uses transaction-based drivers, such as number of orders received. In this way, long-term variable overheads, traditionally considered fixed costs, can be traced to products.

Activity-based costing is a costing method that assigns overhead and indirect costs to related products and services. This accounting method of costing recognizes the relationship between costs, overhead activities, and manufactured products, assigning indirect costs to products less arbitrarily than traditional costing methods.

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