Activity-Based Costing: Pros, Cons, and Examples


Some ABC systems rank activities by the degree to which they add value to the organization or its outputs. It encourages management to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of program activities. The purchase requisition note is not raised in the purchasing department where most of the costs relating to procurement or purchase are incurred.

  1. It would also include the number of parts or materials that are purchased.
  2. (v) Accuracy in Product Cost – ABC system ascertains accurate product cost due to better understanding of the cost behaviour.
  3. But in Activity-based costing system, overheads are related or assigned to activities or grouped into cost pools before they are related to cost objects i.e., products or services.
  4. It is not a single answer but merely one of the many tools that can be used to improve strategic and operational decisions and enhance the managerial performance of an organization.
  5. Activity based budgeting is especially useful in case of budgeting of indirect costs.

This article intends to provide a step-by-step and comprehensive guide for implementing the ABC system of accounting. We’ll keep gathering details required to complete the process in a flow. Many companies discover process improvements that can be made after analysing their abcosting ABC figures. Most shop floor procedures can be redesigned to increase efficiency or reduce costs. For each product, you’re working out how much its activity consumption costs. Let’s define all the individual terms you need to understand the ABC accounting method.

ABC System refined costing system by focusing on individual activities as the fundamental cost objects. By giving a detailed breakdown of costs and the activities that drive them, the accounting system can help you make more informed decisions about pricing, production, and process improvements. Activity-based costing is a useful costing method in specific business situations. (v) Accuracy in Product Cost – ABC system ascertains accurate product cost due to better understanding of the cost behaviour. Of course the apportionment of indirect cost to cost objectives is required. ABC provides more reliable data relating to activity driving costs which helps managers to improve product and process value.

Explanation of Activity-Based Costing

With its bid price based on manufacturing overhead of $0.40—but a true cost of $0.46—the company may end up doing lots of production for little or no profit. Activity based costing (ABC) is an accounting methodology that assigns costs to activities rather than products or services. This enables resources and overhead costs to be more accurately assigned to the products and the services that consume them. ABC is a systematic, cause-and-effect method of assigning the cost of activities of products, services, customers, or any cost object. Pricing your products optimally requires an acute and accurate understanding of your costs of production.

Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. Take your learning and productivity to the next level with our Premium Templates. Access and download collection of free Templates to help power your productivity and performance. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more.

Overview: What is activity-based costing?

These costs are termed ‘business sustaining’ and are not assigned to products and customers because there is no meaningful method. This lump of unallocated overhead costs must nevertheless be met by contributions from each of the products, but it is not as large as the overhead costs before ABC is employed. 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. Under ABC, the company will calculate the cost of the resources used in each of these activities.

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However dealing with him may lead to open up new markets and thus be profitable for the business as a whole. It is a system to improve strategic and operational decisions in an organization. It is not a single answer but merely one of the many tools that can be used to improve strategic and operational decisions and enhance the managerial performance of an organization. (c) It leads to more accurate cost information because of easy traceability of cost according to activities cost driver.

This approach is likely to be an over-simplification, but it has the merit of being relatively quick and easy. Typically, it is assumed that variable costs vary with the number of units of output (and that these costs are proportional to the output level) whereas fixed costs do not vary with output. For example, variable costs per unit often increase at high levels of production where overtime premiums might have to be paid or when material becomes scarce.

(b) Accurate product cost due to understanding of the cost behaviour. Different products are using different activities and consume different resources. (e) Once processes are re-engineered, then the new costs must be tabulated.

In traditional absorption costing, overheads are first assigned or related to cost centers, (production and service centers) and then to cost objects i.e., products or services. Activity-based costing is a costing method that identifies activities in an organization and assigns the cost of each activity to all products and services according to the actual consumption by each. The company uses ABC costing to allocate manufacturing overhead costs to each product line based on the activities consuming those costs.

It uses activities as the basis for determining the costs of products or services. On the other hand, the cost driver is an activity that leads to changes in the cost of an activity. For instance, an increase in MRN leads to an increase in the total cost of the purchasing department (in terms of cost allocation). Perhaps this isn’t something you want to adopt forever, but you are interested in analysing your overheads and indirect costs and how they’re reflected in your pricing. A useful broad perspective on this is – activities consume resources (and might be called ‘cost objects’ by your accountant); products, customers and manufacturing channels consume activities. If you look at the comparison of the full cost per unit in the spreadsheet above, you will see that the ABC approach substantially increases the cost of making a Deluxe unit.

ABC has helped enterprises in answering the market need of better quality products at competitive prices. Ascertaining the product profitability and customer profitability, the ABC method has contributed effectively for the top management’s decision-making process. The Activity Based Management (ABM) system provides information and data on activity performance.

The traditional approach to fixed overhead absorption has the merit of being simple to calculate and apply. However, simplicity does not justify the production and use of information that might be wrong or misleading. Step 4 then requires us to use the costs per unit of cost driver to absorb costs into each product based on how much the product uses of the driver.

This method shows you exactly where all overhead costs are being spent and what is causing them. As a business owner, you have the opportunity to analyse all of these specific costs and their drivers to see if efficiencies can be made. What we want to do is to get a more accurate estimate of what each unit costs to produce, and to do this we have to examine what activities are necessary to produce each unit, because activities usually have a cost attached.

Most small business accounting software applications do not offer the capability to automatically calculate product costs using the ABC method of costing. However, they are equipped to provide you with the financial information necessary in order to use this costing method for your business. Moreover, Activity-Based Costing (ABC) has been developed as a more modern absorption costing method to overcome the problems of under-costing and over-costing and to produce more accurate product costs. Nevertheless, since there are usually more activities than cost centers and often cost driver rates are more justifiable than the rates used by absorption costing, an ABC system, most of the times, produces more accurate results.


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