abc costing vs traditional costing

Calculating an accurate manufacturing cost for each product is a vital piece of information for a company’s decision-making. For example, knowing the cost to produce Accounting Periods and Methods a unit of product affects not only how a business budgets to manufacture that product, but it is often the starting point in determining the sales price.

Even though this system is more costly, it provides better information that will enable managers to make more profitable decisions in the long-term. Accountants created the ABC method to solve the problems of inaccuracy that result from the traditional costing approach. Managers needed more accurate costing methods to determine which profits were actually profitable and which were not. ABC was developed by German Engineers in Germany and specifically applied to manufacturing. If you have a chart of accounts broken into cost centers you are using elements of ABC. It can be applied in production but it can also be applied in a general sense.

A cost driver is something that controls changes in the cost of an activity. Examples of cost drivers include units, labor or machine hours, and parts. Traditional costing applies an average overhead rate to direct production costs based on a cost driver (e.g., hours or volume). The allocation bases (i.e., measures of activity) often differ from those used in traditional allocation. Multiple cost pools allow management to group costs being influenced by similar drivers and to consider cost drivers beyond the typical labor or machine hour. Traditional costing method is easy to implement as a single cost driver is set for all activities and overheads are simply divided into fixed and variable overheads. Activity based costing is difficult to implement because it involves choosing a suitable basis of absorption and absorbing overheads on that same basis is a complicated and time-consuming exercise.

  • Let’s discuss activity based costing by looking at two products manufactured by the same company.
  • There are some steps to be followed for activity-based costing.
  • It should go without saying – all of the percentages need to add up to 100%.
  • Installing activity-based costing requires teamwork among accountants, production managers, marketing managers, and other non-accounting people.
  • A cost driver, also known as an activity driver, is used to refer to an allocation base.

Different costing systems result in different measurements of profitability. But, it is a far cry more accurate than a traditional GAAP costing system. GAAP costing is designed to be uniform across many different types of industries. Activity-based costing, however, takes one step in the direction of customized costing.


The CGMA designation is built on extensive global research to maintain the highest relevance with employers and develop the competencies most in demand. CGMA designation holders qualify through rigorous education, exam and experience requirements. Applied overhead is a fixed charge assigned to a specific production job or department within a business. All cost system users believe their products and production process are a little more complex than the midpoint. No causal relationship between the way overhead is allocated and actual production process. To use this costing system, you need to understand the process of assigning costs to activities.

abc costing vs traditional costing

Fixed costs are lumped together and must be covered by the products’ contribution margin. May undercost complex products or products that rely on low usage of allocation base. May overcost simple products or products that rely on high usage of allocation base. Save money and don’t sacrifice features you need for your business.

Accounting For Managers

We use Activity-based costing to allocate costs to finished goods based on their utilization of a particular activity. Contrast this with a typical costing system that allocates only some indirect costs. Contrast this with a typical costing system that allocates only some indirect costs by a simple method such as direct labor hours.

abc costing vs traditional costing

Cumulatively, this will increase the accuracy of the eventual product costs. In this example, the overhead charged to the hollow ball using ABC is $0.52 and much higher than the $0.35 calculated under the traditional method. Accounting Periods and Methods The $0.52 is a more accurate cost for making decisions about pricing and production. For the solid center ball, the overhead calculated is $0.44 per unit using the ABC method and $0.53 per unit using the traditional method.

However, In some settings, traditional costing gives notoriously misleading estimates of these costs. Many turn instead to Activity Based Costing for costing accuracy. ABC finds different indirect costs per unit for each product.

Under the ABC system, an activity can also be considered as any transaction or event that is a cost driver. A cost driver, also known as an activity driver, is used to refer to an allocation base. Examples of cost drivers include machine setups, maintenance requests, consumed power, purchase orders, quality inspections, or production orders. The survey results reported that out of the 130 companies surveyed, 46 use traditional cost systems, 11 use ABC systems, 39 use both traditional and ABC cost systems , and 34 use variable-cost and TOC systems.

You may also use traditional costing for reporting externally (e.g., to investors) and activity-based costing for reporting internally (e.g., to managers). So, the overheads will be allocated at a rate of $2.9 per machine hour spent, $6.5 per labor hour and $50 per production set up. Activity-based costing provides more detailed measures of costs than traditional allocation methods. Times whenoverhead is lowcompared to the direct costs, because this is when it will be the most accurate. This works well when there are a large number of similar items being produced. Internal use, because decision-makers will be able to see all relevant spending and can document all indirect costs accurately.

This is essential for managers to monitor trends on costs and profit margins as operational processes and sales volume mix change. In contrast, standard costing is typically developed one time for each fiscal year. However most companies are not able to allocate their costs effectively. While it is simple and easy to assign and allocate direct costs to products and customers, allocating the indirect costs requires using activity based costing. Both methods estimate overhead costsrelated to productionand then assign these costs to products based on a cost-driver rate. The differences are in the accuracy and complexity of the two methods.

Discussions from answering questions lead to actions and decisions. But current technologies enable these rates to be updated on a more frequent basis, which, if using BAP, now renders these values as being more meaningful.

Fewer allocation bases, ease of use, and a direct correlation to production volume. The extra time for changeovers to clean out allergens used in certain ice cream products could now be accurately assigned to those products. The model also captured the extra packaging costs for special promotions and customer-specific labels and promotions. Kemps, headquartered in Minneapolis, is a full-line dairy, that produces milk, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream products. Its customers are retailers and distributors as large as SuperValu and Target and as small as convenience stores.

The ABC system is advantageous since it helps in simplifying the decision making process and it makes management concepts become clear and target -oriented. It also helps in evaluating performances and sets standards which can help the manager to use this information for comparison purposes.

Difference Between Absorption Costing And Marginal Costing With Table

Your choice should depend on the purpose of the reporting and who will see the information. Managers need accurate product costs and prefer to use an activity-based accounting system.

Assign each cost pool activity cost drivers, such as hours or units. For example, the machines used to receive and process customer orders are necessary because product orders must be abc costing vs traditional costing taken, but their costs are not allocated to particular products. Table 6A, moreover, shows the number of CD units used for product A, while Table 6B shows these figures for product B.

abc costing vs traditional costing

Activity-based costing can help you to set an accurate budget that breaks down exactly where your money is going—and which products are the most profitable. Using an ABC method to better assign unit-level, batch-level, product-level, and factory-level costs can increase the per-unit costs of the low-volume products and decrease the per-unit costs of the high-volume products. Therefore, for every labor hour spent, a cost of $6.7 or for every machine hour spent a cost of $10 would be added to the cost of drink. Installing activity-based costing requires teamwork among accountants, production managers, marketing managers, and other non-accounting people. Both forms of costing have various benefits as well as disadvantages.

Traditional Costing Definition

The Activity cost per measure will later be taken times the Item quantities from the Activity Metric Breakdown section on the Item Information worksheet in order to determine a Total allocated cost for each item. Another difference between traditional and activity-based cost­ing is the historical orientation. It is not unusual for an organization to use actual historical cost as the basis for developing manufacturing cost standards. These historical costs often include rework, duplication, waste, redundancy, and inefficiency. (See the exhibit “Profitable Decisions at Banta Foods.”) Its performance has led to the distinction of being named “Innovator of the Year” by the industry journal, Institutional Distributor. Managers can add complexity to the model by simply adding new elements to the time equations, which places less strain on Hunter’s accounting system than incorporating new activities would.

Together, these costs allows businesses to estimate the total cost of manufacturing a product. When the total cost is predicted, the company is able to determine how much profit they can expect to see. This is done in traditional costing by dividing total cost of products by the amount of direct labor costs that will be required to produce the finished product. These levels include batch-level activity, unit-level activity, customer-level activity, organization-sustaining activity, and product-level activity. The primary focus of traditional costing is the apportionment of overhead costs to the activities of production. Irrespective of the specific allocation of resources, traditional costing sets a single metric for every activity involved in production and allocates costs based on the consumption of that metric. Although, activity based costing is also used for cost allocation but it adopts a different approach.

The company’s cost accountants will also find cost totals for the period’s production support activities. In traditional cost accounting, these costs areknown as overhead or indirect costs, as Table 3 shows. ABC pursues these objectives primarily by making direct costs out of many of the expenses that traditional cost accounting treats as indirect costs.

Accountants calculate individual product profitability as a gross margin based on product revenues and total product production costs. The Activity Based costing analyst aims to understand product costs accurately, and then understand individual product profitability accurately. The aim, in other words, is to find the true gross profit margins for individual products.

To manage costs, production managers learn to manage the activities that cause costs. Times whenoverhead is high, because small changes in each product cost can make a large difference overall.

Accounting Methods For Overhead Calculation

Once costs of the activities have been identified, the cost of each activity is attributed to each product to the extent that the product uses the activity. 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 more costly products. Activities consume overhead resources and are considered cost objects. A cost pool is a group of individual costs associated with an activity. You can create cost pools by identifying the activities that go into creating a product. Once you’ve grouped your costs into a pool, find the total overhead.

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. ABC focuses attention on cost drivers, the activities that cause costs to increase.

Author: Loren Fogelman

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