8.4 Advantages and Disadvantages of Standard Costing

Advantages and disadvantages of using standard costs

Five of the benefits that result from a business using a standard cost system are:

  • Improved cost control.
  • More useful information for managerial planning and decision making.
  • More reasonable and easier inventory measurements.
  • Cost savings in record-keeping.
  • Possible reductions in production costs.

Improved cost control Companies can gain greater cost control by setting standards for each type of cost incurred and then highlighting exceptions or variances—instances where things did not go as planned. Variances provide a starting point for judging the effectiveness of managers in controlling the costs for which they are held responsible.

Assume, for example, that in a production center, actual direct materials costs of $ 52,015 exceeded standard costs by $ 6,015. Knowing that actual direct materials costs exceeded standard costs by $ 6,015 is more useful than merely knowing the actual direct materials costs amounted to $ 52,015. Now the firm can investigate the cause of the excess of actual costs over standard costs and take action.

Further investigation should reveal whether the exception or variance was caused by the inefficient use of materials or resulted from higher prices due to inflation or inefficient purchasing. In either case, the standard cost system acts as an early warning system by highlighting a potential hazard for management.

More useful information for managerial planning and decision making When management develops appropriate cost standards and succeeds in controlling production costs, future actual costs should be close to the standard. As a result, management can use standard costs in preparing more accurate budgets and in estimating costs for bidding on jobs. A standard cost system can be valuable for top management in planning and decision making.

More reasonable and easier inventory measurements A standard cost system provides easier inventory valuation than an actual cost system. Under an actual cost system, unit costs for batches of identical products may differ widely. For example, this variation can occur because of a machine malfunction during the production of a given batch that increases the labor and overhead charged to that batch. Under a standard cost system, the company would not include such unusual costs in inventory. Rather, it would charge these excess costs to variance accounts after comparing actual costs to standard costs.

Thus, in a standard cost system, a company assumes that all units of a given product produced during a particular time period have the same unit cost. Logically, identical physical units produced in a given time period should be recorded at the same cost.

Cost savings in record-keeping Although a standard cost system may seem to require more detailed record-keeping during the accounting period than an actual cost system, the reverse is true. For example, a system that accumulates only actual costs shows cost flows between inventory accounts and eventually into cost of goods sold. It records these varying amounts of actual unit costs that must be calculated during the period. In a standard cost system, a company shows the cost flows between inventory accounts and into cost of goods sold at consistent standard amounts during the period. It needs no special calculations to determine actual unit costs during the period. Instead, companies may print standard cost sheets in advance showing standard quantities and standard unit costs for the materials, labor, and overhead needed to produce a certain product.

Possible reductions in production costs A standard cost system may lead to cost savings. The use of standard costs may cause employees to become more cost conscious and to seek improved methods of completing their tasks. Only when employees become active in reducing costs can companies really become successful in cost control.

Three of the disadvantages that result from a business using standard costs are:

  • Controversial materiality limits for variances.
  • Nonreporting of certain variances.
  • Low morale for some workers.

Controversial materiality limits for variances Determining the materiality limits of the variances may be controversial. The management of each business has the responsibility for determining what constitutes a material or unusual variance. Because materiality involves individual judgment, many problems or conflicts may arise in setting materiality limits.

Nonreporting of certain variances Workers do not always report all exceptions or variances. If management only investigates unusual variances, workers may not report negative exceptions to the budget or may try to minimize these exceptions to conceal inefficiency. Workers who succeed in hiding variances diminish the effectiveness of budgeting.

Low morale for some workers The management by exception approach focuses on the unusual variances. Management often focuses on unfavorable variances while ignoring favorable variances. Workers might believe that poor performance gets attention while good performance is ignored. As a result, the morale of these workers may suffer.


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