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Activity-Based Costing: Definition, Formula & Examples Video & Lesson Transcript

activity based costing definition

These categories are called cost pools, which will be identified by the activity that consumes the costs. The Cost PoolsA cost pool is a strategy to identify the company’s individual departments or service sector costs incurred. It determines the total expenses incurred in manufacturing goods and allocates them to different departments or service sectors based on valid identifiers known as cost drivers. The Chinese electricity company Xu Ji used ABC to capture direct costs and variable overheads, which were lacking in the state-owned enterprise’s traditional costing systems. The ABC experience has successfully induced standardisation in their working practices and processes. Standardisation was not a common notion in Chinese culture or in place in many Chinese companies.

What is activity-based costing with example?

Examples include square footage that is used per product, and the same would be used to allocate the rent of the factory as well as the maintenance cost of the firm; similarly, the number of purchase orders (i.e., PO) used to allocate the purchasing expenses of the purchasing department.

Hunter’s time-driven ABC model requires only two people working two days per month to load, calculate, validate, and report findings, compared with the ten-person team and three weeks that were necessary to maintain the previous model. Employees now spend time generating profits from the information rather than just updating and maintaining it.


Pricing products can be one of the most difficult decisions you make in business. With ABC, enterprises are able to improve their efficiency and reduce costs without sacrificing the value for the customer. Many companies also use ABC as a basis for implementation of a target costing concept.

  • This provides the overhead rate calculations for the Company for each activity.
  • And now we know across the production of both product lines, we’re going to make 360 supplier orders (200 for A + 160 for B).
  • A cost driver is an activity that controls the amount of costs incurred.
  • Calculate the cost activity rates for each pool identified in #1 using the cost drivers in #2.
  • By analyzing multiple business sectors and related companies over multiple time periods, it is possible to make reasonable approximations of such costs.
  • In addition, the order may be entered into the system either manually or electronically, and it may be either a standard or an expedited transaction.

The ABC method of cost accounting pertains to a company’s resource-consuming activities that create costs. It uses physical, monetary and non-monetary indicators to measure these costs and assumes a split variation of the total cost model, which imputes and distributes all of the costs among the company’s products.

Examples of the Activity-Based Costing Formula

Activity-based costing benefits the costing process by expanding the number of cost pools that can be used to analyze overhead costs and by making indirect costs traceable to certain activities. As an activity-based costing example, consider Company ABC that has a $50,000 per year electricity bill. The number of labor hours has a direct impact on the electric bill. For the year, there were 2,500 labor hours worked, which in this example is the cost driver. Calculating the cost driver rate is done by dividing the $50,000 a year electric bill by the 2,500 hours, yielding a cost driver rate of $20. During 1980’s, the limitations of absorption costing system were felt with severity. Companies were looking for a system that could reflect true product cost in order to fight competition.

  • However, activity-based management is focusing on enhance the use of ABC from product costing to a comprehensive management tool that concentrate on decreasing the costs and concurrently improving processes and decision making.
  • The main focus is on activities performed on a particular product during its production.
  • 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.
  • These numbers can be obtained through interviews with employees or by direct observation.
  • For example, the capacity of a warehouse or vehicle would be measured by space provided, while memory storage would be measured by megabytes supplied.

Identification of organizational activities –Organization undertakes a detailed analysis and find out all the operating processes conducted by each responsibility centre. 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.

Comparison of Results Under Both Costing Methods

ABC also acts as a catalyst to Xu Ji’s IT developments – first accounting and office computerisation, then ERP implementation. ABC focuses attention on cost drivers, the activities that cause costs to increase. 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. 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. Resources are assigned to activities and activities to cost objects.

  • Once it is known how to calculate activity rate, then costs can be allocated to all products using the cost allocation formula.
  • Cost pool – a grouping of individual indirect cost items with the same allocation base to simplify the allocation of indirect costs to cost objects.
  • For example the total costs of all set ups might constitute one cost centre for all setup related costs.
  • In the case of our customer service department, the traditional ABC survey produced a work distribution of 70%, 10%, and 20% of the employees’ time performing the department’s three activities.
  • Hence the reported application for production tasks do not appear as a favorized scenario.

If the customer were new, 15 more minutes would be required to set up the customer in the company’s computer system. Activity Based Costing is an internationally recognised system in which staff timings and costs are produced by breaking down each activity what is activity based costing into its constituent parts to determine the work effort required. This enables staff costs to be attributed to all activities within an organisation and provides a measure of the amount of resource used to undertake a specific element of work.

Explore related CPD resources on the CGMA Store

Inductors of intensity, which measure resource consumption every time an activity is performed. So, we can take that $76,000 divided by the 80,000 units that we think are going to be produced and that will give us $0.95 per unit. We can now use this to charge our supplier ordering costs to our product lines.

Who should use activity-based costing?

Manufacturers use activity-based costing when overhead costs make up a significant percentage of overall expenses. Manufacturers also use it when they produce product lines of varying quantity and complexity or produce a broad array of products requiring various service support levels.

Traditional costing methods allocate costs based on the number of units produced but do not take into account the resources used to produce them. Properly assigning indirect costs is extremely important for management, especially in the case of downsizing or outsourcing.

What are the Steps of Activity-Based Costing?

Traditional costing systems are simple, but can result in over-costing or under-costing, as the manufacture of products is generally complex and influenced by more than one cost driver. Labor and materials costs are considered direct costs if they are incurred during the manufacture of a product and can be directly allocated to that product. Manufacturing overhead includes all other expenses incurred during the manufacture of a product that cannot be directly allocated to that product. This might include factory rent, payroll taxes on direct labor wages, and machine maintenance. Manufacturing overhead must be accurately allocated to a product’s cost for manufacturing companies to set product sales prices and determine if products are producing profits. The final step in the activity-based costing system is to assign the activity costs to products.

activity based costing definition

When people understand and accept the reasons why an activity is classified as non-value added or value added then the clarity and understanding between value-added and non-value-added activities are achieved. • There are some costs that cannot be assigned to a specific activity within the organization (Ex- Chief Executive’s salary).

This is a continuous improvement process in terms of analysing the cost, to reduce or eliminate the non-value-added activities and to achieve an overall efficiency. It may become apparent that costs are not driven solely by output volumes, and, therefore the focus on managerial attention may be significantly broadened.

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. Create a cost and operational flow diagram – How resources and activities are related to products and services.

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