I am a member of the Linked In group ‘FSN’. It is comprised of accounting and finance professionals from all over the world. How amazing that a Controller in South Africa may be struggling with the same problems a controller in Georgia struggles with.
So, let’s talk about one of the most challenging topics of all. ‘What is my real true cost of product ‘x’?’ There have been thousands of pages, posts, classes, books written on costing. Job costing software is challenging but if not set up properly is a waste of time and money.
Don’t forget that the true cost of the products and services you sell must be defined in order for selling decisions to be made, especially in industries with very fluid markets. Cost really matters. Many of these industries sell commodities like food, where the market moves several times a day. Knowing the real cost is critical to measuring profits. The question is HOW DO WE ARRIVE AT THAT NUMBER? How would I?
- Remember, accounting is as much art as it is science. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be arguing as much as we do on how to get to the correct numbers. There are many and varied philosophies about the proper method of cost accounting.
- Legacy systems and costing methods may be outdated, especially if you inherited it. If you did not develop the system, you need to understand how costs are applied. Perform your own due diligence on the cost system and methods.
- Form a ‘Cost Advisory’ group which includes your staff accountant(s) and managers from the production side and put them to work exploring whether costs make sense. The advisory group must become experts on cost. Have them review Monthly Costing reports to be sure the costs make sense. Next week’s topic will be ‘Sales Exception Reporting’ . With Sales Exception reports you can isolate where products were sold for less than their cost or whatever criteria you designate (less than 0% Gross Margin, etc).
- Do you have the option for Transactional Posting? Some companies do not post by transaction. But transactional posting is the life blood of cost analysis. Without it, you are looking into a barrel of costs, none identifiable.
- Consistency is the key to meaningful cost reporting. Maybe I should have put this as #1 but if your cost methods apply freight cost inconsistently you have a really big problem. (I am referring to inbound freight). For example, companies that own their own trucks might not apply freight cost to product their trucks deliver to their inventory point. The only freight added is when a third party carrier is paid. I run into this from time to time and I can assure you, this is the wrong method.
- You must get into agreement with management on what costs will form the building blocks of your net cost by product. Generally speaking, it is the indirect costs of overhead that are the sticking point.
- Finally, make sure you confer with your outside accounting firm and involve them in these conversations prior to making any major changes.
My recommendations to you are based on how I would approach a consulting project with a client who needs help determining his real costs. Inspect the template I imaged for this post to further understand the vital need to know your cost. And remember, “one man’s true cost can be another man’s garbage”.