Owen P. Hall, Jr. Pepperdine University Charles. J. McPeak Pepperdine University
Small-to-medium size enterprises (SME) are under increasing pressure to remain competitive in today’s global economy. There are a number of strategies for smaller organizations to achieve world-class levels of cost savings, market response, and efficiency. These include embracing provensupply chain management (SCM) strategies and enhanced accounting systems. This article summarizes some of the challenges—managerial and technical—associated with transitioning to an activity-based costing (ABC) model. The primary objective of the article is to introduce the rationale and mechanics behind ABC and to explore the advantages of ABC vis-a-vis traditional accounting using a case studyapproach. INTRODUCTION Activity-based costing (ABC) was first introduced in the United States during the 1980s (Cooper, 1988). Instead of budgeting overhead using direct cost drivers, ABC splits overhead into activity cost drivers, leading to a more tangible assignment of costs. This recognition should allow for more effective budget planning and product/service pricing. Three basic differencesbetween ABC and traditional cost accounting (TCA) are: 1) ABC is process-oriented while TCA is structure- oriented, 2) ABC uses drivers at various component levels whereas TCA generally uses an allocation procedure based on volume, and 3) ABC acknowledges that cost objects consume activities while TCA assumes that cost objects consume resources. As a result, with TCA the organization lacks the abilityto evaluate the internal efficiency, quality and profitability per product or service line (Narong, 2009). Early adoption of ABC was slow because of the “newness” of the approach and the higher costs associated with implementing and maintaining the ABC system (Kaplan, 2004). Even today, over 20 years since ABC was first introduced, a majority of firms still employ traditional accounting methods(Fei, 2010; Maelah, 2007; Hughes S., 2003). In small-to-medium size enterprises (SME) adoption of ABC has been even slower (Carenzo, 2010; Hughes, A., 2005). SMEs are constrained by capital, both human and financial, as they operate in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Furthermore, the infrastructure for manufacturing, distribution, information technology, and customer service is severelylimited. The intrinsic nature of such companies is that they do not have economies of scale to be competitive from a cost point of view and seldom have access to the full range of information they need to operate at maximum efficiency. A deeper analysis of the situation indicates that the SMEs tend to be cash flow-strapped because of inventory in the supply chain—both outbound and inbound—and sufferfrom extended accounts receivables, often as a result of
Journal of Accounting and Finance vol. 11(4) 2011
retailers taking advantage of their small size (Hong, 2006). The economic burden of inventory in the supply chain is arguably the most severe hardship for an SME. The business system infrastructure required to trade with suppliers and customers is often a critical handicap. Anotherserious impediment is the access to retail shelf—very often, exorbitant fees called “slotting allowances” are a pre-requisite for presenting the product to the consumers. The challenges of forecasting demand and replenishment and achieving perfect orders and timely and accurate shipments cannot be overstated. Finally, the operating philosophy and practices of resource-constrained SMEs can becounter-productive for those aspiring to achieve global growth (Macpherson, 2005). Nevertheless, SMEs may take practical steps to implement desirable growth paths through management practices that utilize appropriate intra- and interorganizational capabilities (Jin, 2007). More specifically, could ABC assist SMEs in enhancing efficiency and innovation through improved pricing and better planning?...