7 9 possible causes of a favorable direct materials

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7-9 Possible causes of a favorable direct materials price variance are: purchasing officer negotiated more skillfully than was planned in the budget, purchasing manager bought in larger lot sizes than budgeted, thus obtaining quantity discounts, materials prices decreased unexpectedly due to, say, industry oversupply, budgeted purchase prices were set without careful analysis of the market, and purchasing manager received unfavorable terms on nonpurchase price factors (such as lower quality materials). 7-10 Some possible reasons for an unfavorable direct manufacturing labor efficiency variance are the hiring and use of underskilled workers; inefficient scheduling of work so that the workforce was not optimally occupied; poor maintenance of machines resulting in a high proportion of non-value-added labor; unrealistic time standards. Each of these factors would result in actual direct manufacturing labor-hours being higher than indicated by the standard work rate. 7-11 Variance analysis, by providing information about actual performance relative to standards, can form the basis of continuous operational improvement. The underlying causes of unfavorable variances are identified, and corrective action taken where possible. Favorable variances can also provide information if the organization can identify why a favorable variance occurred. Steps can often be taken to replicate those conditions more often. As the easier changes are made, and perhaps some standards tightened, the harder issues will be revealed for the organization to act on—this is continuous improvement. 7-12 An individual business function, such as production, is interdependent with other business functions. Factors outside of production can explain why variances arise in the production area. For example: poor design of products or processes can lead to a sizable number of defects, marketing personnel making promises for delivery times that require a large number of rush orders can create production-scheduling difficulties, and purchase of poor-quality materials by the purchasing manager can result in defects and waste. 13. The plant supervisor likely has good grounds for complaint if the plant accountant puts excessive emphasis on using variances to pin blame. The key value of variances is to help understand why actual results differ from budgeted amounts and then to use that knowledge to promote learning and continuous improvement. 14. Variances can be calculated at the activity level as well as at the company level. For example, a price variance and an efficiency variance can be computed for an activity area. 15. Evidence on the costs of other companies is one input managers can use in setting the performance measure for next year. However, caution should be taken before choosing such an amount as next year's performance measure. It is important to understand why cost differences across companies exist and whether these differences can be eliminated. It is also important to examine when planned changes (in, say, technology) next year make even the current low-cost producer not a demanding enough hurdle. 7- 2

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