Activity-Based Costing (ABC)

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Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is an accounting method used to identify, describe, and allocate indirect costs to specific activities within an organization.

Activity-Based Costing (ABC) Explained

Activity-Based Costing (ABC) is an accounting method used to assign overhead and indirect costs to related products and services.

In traditional costing, overhead costs are usually allocated based on a single factor, like labor hours or machine time. However, this conventional approach often results in inaccurate costing. Enter ABC, a system that provides a more precise allocation by linking costs to the actual activities that consume resources.

In the ABC methodology, each activity gets its own separate “cost pool,” which collects all the overhead expenses associated with that activity.

The expenses are then allocated to various products, services, or projects based on how much of each activity they use.

The two main steps in ABC are activity identification and cost allocation

The first involves pinpointing the various activities that take place in an organization, like procurement, manufacturing, and distribution. The second entails assigning costs to these activities based on actual resource consumption.

Why ABC? ABC provides a more nuanced view of overhead costs, allowing for more accurate product pricing, cost analysis, and profitability assessment.

This makes it invaluable for businesses seeking a true picture of product or service costs.

If you’re grappling with how to allocate overhead costs accurately or struggling to understand product profitability, adopting ABC could be a game-changer.

Its granular approach gives organizations the insight needed to make data-driven decisions.

Key Insights

  • Better Accuracy: ABC offers a more accurate representation of true costs compared to traditional costing methods.
  • Resource-Intensive: Be warned, implementing ABC requires significant time and effort. It’s not a quick solution but offers valuable insights once set up.
  • Decision-Making: ABC significantly impacts both operational and strategic decisions, including pricing, outsourcing, and process optimization.

An Example Of Activity-Based Costing (ABC)

Let’s consider Company Y, a maker of electronic gadgets. Using traditional costing, the company allocated overheads based on the number of units produced. However, they soon realized this led to inaccuracies.

Switching to ABC, Company Y identified various activities like R&D, assembly, and quality testing. They allocated costs to each activity based on resource consumption—like the amount of time engineers spent on R&D or the electricity consumed during assembly.

By using ABC, Company Y could more accurately price its products and also identify which activities were resource-intensive and ripe for optimization.


What’s the difference between ABC and traditional costing?

ABC allocates overhead based on multiple activities and their resource consumption. Traditional costing typically uses just one or two cost drivers like labor or machine hours.

Is ABC suitable for all industries?

ABC is especially useful in industries with diverse products and complex production processes. However, its complexity might not suit all types of businesses.

How does ABC impact profitability?

ABC provides a more accurate cost structure, helping companies set appropriate pricing strategies, thereby potentially improving profitability.

Is ABC only about cost allocation?

No, ABC also offers insights into process efficiency and can identify non-value-adding activities, providing a roadmap for operational improvements.