Jan 17, 2018

Discuss the four possible capacity levels a firm must evaluate when deciding how to set budgeted fixed manufacturing cost rates

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Discuss the four possible capacity levels a firm must evaluate when deciding
how to set budgeted fixed manufacturing cost rates, including the pros and cons
of selecting each capacity level. Explain the potential impact this decision
would have on firm profitability.

this week’s lecture
, discuss the concept
of relevant cost for decision making, incorporating both quantitative and
qualitative data concepts into the relevancy discussion. Indicate if and how
opportunity costs should be considered in this decision-making process.


When a manager needs to make a decision
about something, anything really, the manager is primarily interested in the
information that will change among the various alternatives. If the data does
not change, then it is not relevant to the particular decision at hand. This is called differential analysis. As such, only information that actually may
help change our decision is relevant information. For example, If we paid $800,000 for some
equipment one year ago, and some new equipment comes out that will run twice as
fast with half the labor requirement, then the cost of the old equipment
($800,000 in this example) becomes irrelevant (because it is a sunk cost) to
the decision of whether we should upgrade to the new equipment or not. The
factors that are relevant are the cost of the new machine, the number of pieces
of product the new machine will produce compared to the old machine
(difference), the difference in labor cost between running the old machine and the
new machine on a per unit basis, and any utility savings that may incur. We would also consider any tax implications
we may encounter and any disposal value related to the old machine.

the following video: Part 1 – Relevant Costs for Decision Making: Sunk and
Differential Costs

So where can we use this logic we are
covering? Well, full cost and special
order pricing come to mind. Under full
cost pricing of a product we calculate the variable and fixed cost on a per
unit basis and then apply this to the new product. This sounds reasonable, right? We do have to cover all costs in order to
make a profit. However, if the fixed
costs are present whether or not we produce and sell this product, then the
fixed costs become irrelevant to our decision.
Why? Because, if we do not
produce this product, then those fixed costs will be reallocated among the
remaining products. So, how is this
useful to us? Well, when a customer
approaches us about a special price for a bulk order of our product this information
will come in handy. In theory, any price
for our product that is over and above the product per unit variable cost
should be considered assuming excess production capacity exists and the special
pricing will not be known or utilized in markets in which we already have

is a short video that demonstrates this concept: Part 5 – Relevant Costs for
Decision Making: Special Order

Another offshoot of this discussion
would be a make or buy decision. This
type of decision also uses differential costs to determine if a product should
be made internally or purchased from a supplier. While the cost analysis is relatively
straight forward, the item most frequently ignored in this type of analysis
relates to qualitative rather than quantitative factors. Qualitative concerns would be things like the
firm’s ability to ensure a steady product supply and the quality of the product
or part being purchased, among other things.

Take a look at this short video relating
to make or buy decisions, keeping in mind that there are some things you cannot
put a dollar figure to (like piece of mind when you control your own destiny,
for example): Decision Making & Relevant Information: Make-or-Buy, Part 1 –
Accounting Video.

This same sort of analysis also applies
to a decision to keep a product line or drop it: Part 3 – Relevant Costs for
Decision Making: Drop or Retain

Now that we have relevant costs firmly
fixed in our mind, we take up the topic of cost estimation. Why use an
estimate, you say? Well, for one, we may
not know exactly which component we will ultimately use in a product if
research is still being conducted, but we still may need a rough cost figure to
work with to determine if the end cost of a potential product is anywhere in
the ballpark with the market pricing of this product. Cost accountants and
other managers conduct all sorts of “what if” type analysis when looking to the
future, and there are usually unknowns that need some assumptions to be made to
create an estimate to be used for the analysis.

Certainly it is necessary to know how a
cost behaves when conducting any sort of analysis. Categorizing costs as fixed or variable is
usually necessary. Then a determination
about what sort of estimate to use is required.
Estimates could be an engineering estimate, where time and motion
studies are conducted, and a detailed analysis and consideration of components
and their cost drivers.

Another estimate that is sometimes used
is the account analysis. With this approach, the accountant analyzes each
account utilized in an existing activity and compares the type of costs (fixed
or variable) and the impact each cost has on the overall cost of producing a
fixed number of items. The resulting
cost formula is: TC=FC + VX where TC is
Total Cost, FC is Fixed Cost, V is variable cost and X is volume.

While engineering estimates and account
analysis have their place, each has some limitations that can require some
additional work to validate the results.
A third method that overcomes many of the limitations of the other
methods is Statistical Cost Estimation. Within some defined relevant range of
activity this method, though based on historical information, can create a very
practical way to estimate future costs.
To make this comparison more representative, variables can be adjusted
for known changes, like an expected inflationary increase percentage for
purchase price of materials, for example.

One statistical method often used is
called the High/Low cost estimation.
Under this approach the variable cost per unit is derived utilizing the
formula: (Cost at highest activity level – Cost at lowest activity
level)/(Highest activity level – Lowest activity level). Then we take the total cost at either
activity level and subtract the variable cost to get the fixed cost. Finally, we apply the figures to our cost
formula previously postulated where TC=FC + VC.

Here is a short video with an example:
Cost Analysis Part 2 – The High Low Method: Management Accounting

Another statistical method used is called
regression analysis. With spreadsheets
and statistical calculators today, this method becomes much less tedious than
in periods past. This is a short video
you might find useful for a better understanding of this concept: Cost Analysis Part 4 – Least Squares
Regression Method in Excel: Management Accounting.

the value of a customer-profitability analysis in making management decisions
about future operations. Are there times when a company would be better off
without a particular customer? If so,
explain the scenario and indicate how you might approach a customer that fits
that category to address the issue.

this week’s lecture, explain in your own words and give a numerical example of
the allocation of multiple support departments to a production department
utilizing the direct, step down, and reciprocal methods. In addition, explain what impact the
allocation method might have on management decision making.


We have seen how various costing issues are handled in our
previous work. Now it is time to see how the results are applied and used
by management to make decisions about running the business. Previously we
studied activity based costing. Now we take that information and apply it
to what we call activity based management.

Now that we have identified the costs and what drives them, we can
take that information and use it to try and reduce costs to improve the firm’s
profitability. This requires changing activities, since that is what
drives costs. So the focus has shifted from studying the costs themselves to
studying the activities that drive the costs, which intuitively makes a lot of
sense, don’t you think? If a firm has extra steps involved in the
manufacturing process, or in the design process of a product, that costs money.
If we eliminate those extra steps, the costs are also typically eliminated. We
call this eliminating non-value added costs. Examples of non-value added
processes, in general terms, are those that involve storing, moving, waiting,
or other such activities in the production process. In a retail environment, it
would be cheaper for a bank if customers did their banking online or via a cash
machine, right? That would eliminate unnecessary labor. See where
we are going with this? Take a few minutes and check out this video that
deals with activity based management to get a better handle on what we are
talking about.

Capacity is a separate issue, but related to activity based
management because capacity is activity (volume) based. Does excess
capacity have a cost? Sure it does…lost revenue is an opportunity cost,
right? So a manager who is faced with excess capacity needs to find a way to
utilize this capacity productively to generate a return on the
investment. It seems to make sense when we look at lost revenue. In
addition, quality has a cost component as well, so the cost of quality is
directly related to the activity put into insuring a quality product is being

Take a look at this 2 minute summary:.youtube.com/watch?v=cwczIW-8-2E”>Quality Cost

So, now that we are in the cost mode, let’s look at service
department cost allocations. What are service departments? Well,
they are departments that serve others, like accounting, human resource, data processing,
or maintenance, for example. Why must we allocate them?
Because they would not exist unless others need their services. No
company can function long without some HR individuals, right (could be internal
or could be outsourced, but there is cost either way)? User
departments would be a department like a production department, or, in many
cases, another service department (the accounting department also uses HR
services). There are multiple methods used for this allocation, but the
primary ones are the direct method, the step method, and the reciprocal
method. While each works a little differently, the basic concepts are

THAT I AM USING IS: Horngren, C. T., Datar, S. M., & Rajan, M. V.(2015).
Cost accounting: A managerial emphasis (15th ed.). Boston: Pearson

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