Conversely, it is of less use in a streamlined environment where production processes are abbreviated, so that costs are easy to assign. Activity-based costing (ABC) 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. Therefore, this model assigns more indirect costs (overhead) into direct costs compared to conventional costing. To get more accurate figures for the product cost, activity-based costing – ABC system is followed to allocate the overhead cost fairly between different products. The use of the ABC costing system requires us to identify the activities used in the production process and allocate the total fixed overhead based on the usage of activities by individual products.

  • You can meet GAAP requirements with activity-based costing, but most companies find that approach way too cumbersome to be practical.
  • That means you can more accurately analyze your spending—and price your products.
  • Activity based costing (ABC) is an account­ing methodology that assigns costs to activities rather than products or services.
  • Management will be more aware of the link between activity and cost behaviour, and will have more incentive to focus on the relationships between these two variables.
  • These (production) departmental overhead expenses are finally assigned, or charged, to products on a suitable basis.

ABC is used to get a better grasp on costs, allowing companies to form a more appropriate pricing strategy. Further, the resources required for implementing the ABC may be costly as it’s a complex process. This article intends to provide a step-by-step and comprehensive guide for implementing the ABC system of accounting.

Step 6. Charge Costs to Cost Objects

If companies base their selling prices on costs, a company not using an ABC approach might lose the large batch work to a competitor who bids a lower price based on the lower, more accurate overhead cost of $0.37. It’s also possible that a company not using ABC may find itself being the low bidder for manufacturing small batches of product, since its $0.40 is lower than the ABC model of $0.46 for a batch size of 5,000 units. 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. The activity based costing or ABC first introduced by Kaplan and Cooper in the 1980s. This model focuses on the indirect costs of production, in contrast to the absorption cost allocation method of traditional costing.

  • Businesses that use generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, use the absorption-costing formula to figure out how much they’re spending on production processes and individual products.
  • It’s important to note that the use of traditional or ABC systems is only about allocating the overheads, and other items of the product cost remain unaffected.
  • It means using Activity Based Cost information (ABC) for “doing things right”.
  • An ABC system may require data input from multiple departments, and each of those departments may have greater priorities than the ABC system.

Consequently, when multiple products share common costs, there is a danger of one product subsidizing another. 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. Activity-based costing allows you to allocate your overhead costs more precisely than just assigning them to hours of labor. Under absorption costing, two products that take the same amount of time to make absorb the same costs but not with ABC.

Activity based costing System has developed basically on account of the limitations of the traditional absorption costing system. In contrast, Activity based costing (ABC) systems focus on activities required to produce each product or provide each service based on each product’s or service’s consumption of the activities. Activity-based costing incorporates in its costing system the basic and vital role of different activities.

Activity-Based Costing (ABC) – Definition

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). Manufacturing businesses with high overhead costs use activity-based costing to get a clearer picture of where money is going. Because ABC gives specific production cost breakdowns, you can see which products are actually profitable.

The 4 types of activity-based costing activities

The performance measures may relate to quality of the product, production cycle time, productivity of workers or satisfaction of customers etc. Duration drivers determine the duration of time required to perform an activity. Activities can be perceived as consumers of resources in production of materials, services, events, or information.

What is Activity Based Costing (ABC)?

ABC helps managers to identify and control the cost of unused capacity. ABC has also enabled enterprises to model the impact of cost reduction and subsequently confirm the savings achieved. With ABC, any enterprise will have a built-in competitive cost advantage and can continuously add value to both its stakeholders and customers. Identification of non-value adding activities helps the management to control cost. It facilitates the preparation of an activity-based budget by providing the management with a clear view on the details of various activities. Hence, there is a need for more systematic and accurate system for cost ascertainment and cost control.


An activity may be a single activity or combination of several activities. Cost-benefit analysis of each and every activity may be undertaken to judge the worthiness of activity. Different products are using different activities and consume different resources. (e) Once processes are re-engineered, then the new costs must be tabulated. As some products are produced in large batches and some in small batches.

Difference Between Traditional Costing and Activity-Based Costing

The ABC system shows you how you use overhead costs, which helps you determine whether certain activities are necessary for production. Traditional costing is simpler but less specific than activity-based costing. You might consider going with traditional costing if you only make a few products.

Unlike the traditional costing method, which allocates overhead costs based on broad categories, the ABC system offers a more accurate understanding of how you use resources and incur different types of costs. 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. However, as the percentages of indirect or overhead costs rose, this technique became increasingly inaccurate, because indirect costs were not caused equally by all products.

Most shop floor procedures can be redesigned to increase efficiency or reduce costs. Our writing and editorial staff are a team of experts holding advanced financial designations and have written for most major financial media publications. Our work has been directly cited by organizations including Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Investopedia, Forbes, CNBC, and many others. This team of experts helps Finance Strategists maintain the highest level of accuracy and professionalism possible. When employees understand the activities they perform, they can better understand the costs involved.

Every product we use or see has a price tag (cost + margin), that pricing decision can be the difference between a product being successful or flop. In traditional costing the variable costs are spread across the products line uniformly irrespective of the product consuming that cost or not. However different products require different tools, skills, and time duration (labor hours) to produce. While the fixed costs remain the same, the overhead costs vary, which in turn makes the total cost different for each product produced under the same facility line. The focus of the activity-based costing method is on those activities which increase the variable/overhead cost of the product.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *