Activity-Based Costing


What is Activity-Based Costing (ABC)?

Activity-based costing (ABC) is a cost management reporting system that identifies the activities in an organization and assigns costs to each activity based on its use of resources. This method of costing is used to determine the true cost of products or services and helps organizations to make informed decisions about pricing, product mix, and resource allocation.

Cost Activity

A cost activity is any action or process that consumes resources within an organization. These activities can be divided into two categories: value-added and non-value-added. Value-added activities are those that directly contribute to the creation or delivery of a product or service, while non-value-added activities do not add value but still consume resources.


Costs are the expenses incurred by an organization to produce a product or provide a service. These costs can be either direct or indirect. Direct costs are those that are directly linked to a specific product or service, while indirect costs are those that cannot be easily attributed to a specific product or service.

Costing Based on Activities

Activity-based costing assigns costs to each activity based on the resources consumed by that activity. By doing so, it provides a more accurate picture of the true cost of products or services. This information is then used to make informed decisions about pricing, product mix, and resource allocation.

The benefits of activity-based costing (ABC)

Implementing ABC can provide numerous benefits for businesses, including:

1. Improved Cost Accuracy

ABC provides a more precise method for assigning costs to activities and products, which can result in more accurate cost estimates. This enables businesses to make better decisions regarding pricing, product development, and investment opportunities.

2. Better Resource Allocation

By clearly identifying the activities that drive costs, ABC helps businesses optimize their resource allocation. This means that resources can be focused on the activities that generate the most value, resulting in increased efficiency and profitability.

3. Increased Transparency

ABC provides greater transparency into the cost drivers of a business, allowing managers to more easily identify areas where costs can be reduced. By understanding the true cost of each activity, businesses can implement cost-saving measures and strategic improvements that increase their bottom line.

4. Enhanced Decision-Making

With the more accurate data provided by ABC, business leaders can make more informed decisions that are grounded in data-driven insights. This results in better strategic planning, improved budgeting, and more effective resource allocation.

5. Improved Product and Service Quality

By identifying the specific activities that drive costs in their operations, businesses can improve the quality of their products or services. This helps them stay competitive in their markets, as they can offer high-quality products at a lower cost than their competitors.

6. More Accurate Product Pricing 

By understanding your true costs, you can set more accurate prices for your products and services.

Requirements for Activity-Based Costing (ABC)

Activity-based costing (ABC) is based on the assumption that activities, rather than products or services, consume resources and incur costs in an organization.

Identification of Activities

The first step in implementing ABC is identifying all the activities that take place in your organization. These activities can be divided into two categories: value-added activities and non-value-added activities. Value-added activities are those activities that directly contribute to the creation of a product or service, while non-value-added activities are those activities that do not add any value to the final product or service.

Cost Drivers

Once the activities have been identified, the next step is to determine the cost drivers associated with each activity. A cost driver is a factor that causes the cost of an activity to increase or decrease. For example, the number of units produced may be a cost driver for the activity of producing a product.

Measurement of Activity Costs

The third requirement is the measurement of activity costs. This involves determining the cost of each activity by allocating the costs of resources consumed by the activity. The resources may include direct materials, labor, and overhead costs such as rent or utilities.

Assignment of Costs to Products/Services

The fourth requirement is the assignment of activity costs to products or services. This involves allocating the costs of each activity to the products or services that were produced using that activity. This helps businesses determine the true cost of each product or service.

Reporting and Analysis

The final requirement for successful implementation of ABC is reporting and analysis. This involves preparing reports that show the costs of each activity, the cost drivers associated with each activity, and the costs assigned to each product or service. The reports can then be used for analysis and decision-making purposes.

Activity Based Costing in Project Management

Project management involves a lot of planning and execution, and the cost of the project is one of the essential factors to consider. To ensure that the project is completed within the budget, it is crucial to use the right costing method.

One such method is Activity-Based Costing (ABC), which is a cost allocation technique based on activities performed during the project execution. ABC helps in identifying the activities that contribute to the cost of the project and allocates costs accordingly.

How Does Activity-Based Costing Work in Project Management?

ABC involves dividing the project into various activities and identifying the resources required for each activity. The resources include labor, equipment, materials, and other indirect costs like overheads. Once the resources are identified, project managers assign costs to each resource.

For example, in a construction project, the activities might include excavation, foundation laying, framing, roofing, and finishing. Each activity requires different resources like labor, equipment, and materials. The project manager assigns costs to each resource based on the amount of time required for each task or the equipment or materials used.

Once the costs are assigned to each activity, project managers can identify the critical activities that contribute more to the project’s total cost. They can then focus on reducing the costs of those specific activities by finding ways to optimize the resources or eliminating unnecessary steps.

Benefits of Activity-Based Costing in Project Management

ABC offers several benefits when used in project management. Some of the significant benefits include:

Accurate Cost Estimation: ABC provides a more accurate estimation of the project’s total cost as it identifies all the activities and their respective costs.

Identification of Cost Drivers: ABC helps in identifying the activities that drive the project’s cost and allows project managers to focus on reducing the costs of those activities.

Optimization of Resources: With ABC, project managers can optimize the use of resources like labor, equipment, and materials, reducing the overall project cost.

Better Decision Making: ABC provides project managers with a better understanding of the project’s cost structure, enabling them to make informed decisions about the project’s direction and scope.

Discovering Minimum Price Points: Understanding Costing Based on Activity Costs

When it comes to making financial decisions, understanding the costing of an activity is crucial. Whether you are a business owner or a consumer, finding the minimum price points can be challenging. 

How do Activity Costs Impact Pricing?

Understanding activity costs is important because they directly impact pricing. If you are a business owner, knowing your activity costs will help you determine the minimum price point for your products or services. You will need to ensure that your selling price covers all your activity costs, including direct and indirect costs, and still leaves room for profit.

As a consumer, understanding activity costs can help you make informed purchasing decisions. For example, if you are comparing two products with similar features but different prices, you can look at the activity costs associated with each product. A higher-priced product may have higher activity costs, such as better-quality materials or more advanced manufacturing processes, which justify the higher price point.

Factors Affecting Activity Costs

Several factors can affect activity costs, including the size of the operation, the level of automation, the skill level of employees, and the availability of raw materials. For example, a small business with fewer employees may have lower labor costs but higher indirect costs, such as rent and utilities, due to a smaller space. Similarly, a highly automated operation may have higher equipment costs but lower labor costs.

Differences between ABC Costing and Traditional Costing Systems

Costing is a critical aspect of any business, and it involves analyzing the expenses incurred in producing goods or services. Traditional costing systems have been used for many years, but lately, Activity-Based Costing (ABC) has gained popularity. Here are some significant differences between the two:

1. Cost Activity

The traditional costing system bases its cost activity on the volume of production. This implies that fixed and variable costs do not vary with changes in production levels. On the other hand, ABC considers the complexity of activities performed to produce goods or services. Thus, it identifies the correct cost drivers by breaking down each activity into its components.

2. Costs

Traditional costing systems only consider direct materials, direct labor, and overhead costs. Overhead costs are allocated based on pre-determined rates. However, ABC considers all costs related to an activity, including non-production costs like marketing and customer service costs. These additional costs give a clearer picture of product costs leading to better decision making.

3. Costing Based

Traditional costing systems allocate indirect costs based on a single, predetermined rate. In contrast, ABC uses various cost drivers such as machine hours, number of setups, or orders processed to allocate costs to products. Consequently, ABC provides more accurate product costs, which can improve management decisions.

The limitations of Activity-Based Costing

Despite its many advantages, ABC has several limitations that need to be considered before implementing it in a business setting. Below are some of the main limitations of activity-based costing:

1. Implementation Costs

One of the significant limitations of ABC is the cost of implementation. Implementing an ABC system can be expensive, as it involves significant time and resources to gather data, analyze it, and set up the new cost structure. For small businesses with limited resources, this cost may be too high, making the adoption of the system impractical.

2. Complexity

Another limitation of ABC is its complexity. The method requires extensive data collection and analysis, which can lead to confusion and errors. Without proper training and expertise, employees may not understand how to use the system effectively, leading to inaccurate results.

3. Maintenance Costs

Maintaining the ABC system can also be costly. The process requires ongoing data collection and analysis to ensure that the cost structure remains accurate and up-to-date. This maintenance cost can be a burden for businesses that lack the necessary resources to support it.

4. Time-Consuming Process

ABC can also be a time-consuming process. Collecting and analyzing data takes time, and if the data is not managed correctly, it can slow down the decision-making process. This delay can impact a business’s ability to respond quickly to changes in its market, leading to missed opportunities.

5. Limited Applicability

Finally, ABC may not be applicable for all businesses. Some companies may have straightforward cost structures that do not require the in-depth analysis provided by ABC. In such cases, implementing an ABC system may be a waste of resources.

Activity based costing software

Activity Based Costing (ABC) software such as Finoko is a powerful tool that helps businesses calculate the cost of an activity in relation to its resources. Finoko ABC software analyzes activities and assigns costs based on the consumption of resources, such as time and materials. By using Finoko, businesses can accurately evaluate their operations, identify inefficiencies, and make informed decisions to improve their profitability.

How does Activity Based Costing Software Work?

ABC software uses a three-step process to identify, analyze and allocate costs based on activity:

Identify Activities: The first step is to identify all activities within a business, from manufacturing processes to administrative tasks.

Analyze Activities: Once activities have been identified, ABC software analyzes the resources consumed by each activity, including labor, materials, and overhead costs.

Allocate Costs: Finally, ABC software using ETL system allocates costs to each activity based on the resource consumption identified in the analysis. This information is then used to create cost reports and financial statements.

Understanding activity costs is crucial for companies as it helps them plan and budget for projects accurately. Accurate cost estimation ensures that a project is completed within the given budget, reducing the risk of financial losses.

Moreover, by knowing the activity costs, developers can identify areas where they can reduce costs without compromising on the quality of the products. This, in turn, can help them deliver a better product at a lower cost.


Activity-based costing (ABC) is a powerful tool that can help businesses determine the true cost of their products and services. By identifying activities, determining cost drivers, measuring activity costs, assigning costs to products/services, and reporting and analyzing the results, businesses can gain valuable insights into their operations and make informed decisions that can lead to increased profitability.

Transitioning to Automated ABC using the right software such as Finoko can provide significant benefits for organizations looking to improve their costing methods. With increased efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings, it’s worth considering for any business looking to gain a competitive advantage.

Finoko soft systems

Web based solution and mobile application for management accounting, budgeting, corporate performance management, cash flow management and KPI dash boards.


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