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Sunday, December 30, 2012

DESIGN JOB COSTS


Costing a Design Job

Fixed Cost


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In economics, fixed costs are business expenses that are not dependent on the level of goods or services produced by the business. They tend to be time-related, such as salaries or rents being paid per month, and are often referred to as overhead costs. This is in contrast to variable costs, which are volume-related (and are paid per quantity produced).

In management accounting, fixed costs are defined as expenses that do not change as a function of the activity of a business, within the relevant period. For example, a retailer must pay rent and utility bills irrespective of sales.

In marketing, it is necessary to know how costs divide between variable and fixed. This distinction is crucial in forecasting the earnings generated by various changes in unit sales and thus the financial impact of proposed marketing campaigns. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 60 percent responded that they found the "variable and fixed costs" metric very useful.

Areas of Confusion

Fixed costs are not permanently fixed; they will change over time, but are fixed in relation to the quantity of production for the relevant period. For example, a company may have unexpected and unpredictable expenses unrelated to production; and warehouse costs and the like are fixed only over the time period of the lease.

By definition, there are no fixed costs in the long run. Investments in facilities, equipment, and the basic organization that can't be significantly reduced in a short period of time are referred to as committed fixed costs. Discretionary fixed costs usually arise from annual decisions by management to spend on certain fixed cost items. Examples of discretionary costs are advertising, machine maintenance, and research & development expenditures. Discretionary fixed costs can be expensive.

In business planning and management accounting, usage of the terms fixed costs, variable costs and others will often differ from usage in economics, and may depend on the intended use. Some cost accounting practices such as activity-based costing will allocate fixed costs to business activities, in effect treating them as variable costs. This can simplify decision-making, but can be confusing and controversial.
In accounting terminology, fixed costs will broadly include almost all costs (expenses) which are not included in cost of goods sold, and variable costs are those captured in costs of goods sold. The implicit assumption required to make the equivalence between the accounting and economics terminology is that the accounting period is equal to the period in which fixed costs do not vary in relation to production. In practice, this equivalence does not always hold, and depending on the period under consideration by management, some overhead expenses (e.g., sales, general and administrative expenses) can be adjusted by management, and the specific allocation of each expense to each category will be decided under cost accounting.


Capital costs

Capital costs are fixed, one-time expenses incurred on the purchase of landbuildingsconstruction, and equipment used in the production of goods or in the rendering of services. Put simply, it is the total cost needed to bring a project to a commercially operable status. Whether a particular cost is capital or not depend on many factors such as accounting, tax, and materiality.

Capital costs include expenses for tangible goods such as the purchase of plants and machinery, as well as expenses for intangibles assets such as trademarks and software development.

Capital costs are not limited to the initial construction of a factory or other business. Namely, the purchase of a new machine to increase production and last for years is a capital cost. Capital costs do not include labour costs (they do include construction labour). Unlike operating costs, capital costs are one-time expenses but payment may be spread out over many years in financial reports and tax returns. Capital costs are fixed and are therefore independent of the level of output.

For example, a fossil fuel power plant's capital costs include the following:

  • Purchase of the land upon which the plant is built
  • Permits and legal costs
  • Equipment needed to run the plant
  • Costs involving the construction of the plant
  • Financing and commissioning the plant (prior to commercial operation)
They do not include the cost of the natural gasfuel oil or coal used once the plant enters commercial operation or any taxes on the electricity that is produced. They also do not include the labour used to run the plant or the labour and supplies needed for maintenance.

Government generally provides subsidies through investments and partnerships in the initial capital costs of research and manufacturing infrastructure that cannot be matched by investor-owned companies.


Variable Costs

Variable costs are expenses that change in proportion to the activity of a business. Variable cost is the sum of marginal costs over all units produced. It can also be considered normal costs. Fixed costs and variable costs make up the two components of total costDirect Costs, however, are costs that can easily be associated with a particular cost object. However, not all variable costs are direct costs. For example, variable manufacturing overhead costs are variable costs that are indirect costs, not direct costs. Variable costs are sometimes called unit-level costs as they vary with the number of units produced.

Direct labour and overhead are often called conversion cost, while direct material and direct labour are often referred to as prime cost. In marketing, it is necessary to know how costs divide between variable and fixed. This distinction is crucial in forecasting the earnings generated by various changes in unit sales and thus the financial impact of proposed marketing campaigns. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 60 percent responded that they found the "variable and fixed costs" metric very useful.

For example, a firm pays for raw materials. When activity is decreased, less raw material is used, and so the spending for raw materials falls. When activity is increased, more raw material is used and spending therefore rises. Note that the changes in expenses happen with little or no need for managerial intervention. These costs are variable costs.

A company will pay for line rental and maintenance fees each period regardless of how much power gets used. And some electrical equipment (air conditioning or lighting) may be kept running even in periods of low activity. These expenses can be regarded as fixed. But beyond this, the company will use electricity to run plant and machinery as required. The busier the company, the more the plant will be run, and so the more electricity gets used. This extra spending can therefore be regarded as variable.

In retail the cost of goods is almost entirely a variable cost; this is not true of manufacturing where many fixed costs, such as depreciation, are included in the cost of goods.

Although taxation usually varies with profit, which in turn varies with sales volume, it is not normally considered a variable cost.

For some employees, salary is paid on monthly rates, independent of how many hours the employees work. This is a fixed cost. On the other hand, the hours of hourly employees can often be varied, so this type of labour cost is a variable cost.



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