The biggest challenge to analyzing and computing costs is the allocation of

The biggest challenge to analyzing and computing costs is the allocation of overhead. Imagine that you are building a new home. When meeting with the contractor, he or she will give you an approximate price to build the home. That price is based on the builder’s cost to build the house as well as the profit expected for the contractor. Based on the home plans and supplier relationships, the builder can easily calculate the cost of materials and labor of subcontractors who would carry out the day-to-day construction.

It gets complicated when it comes to the other costs the builder incurs. These costs, known as overheads, need to be recovered, but they are not directly tied to the cost of your home. Examples of such costs would be advertising, gasoline for trucks used by supervisors to drive between construction sites, salaries for secretaries and support staff in the office, and any other cost of the sort. How can a builder take these costs and allocate them fairly across all projects? In this module, you will explore job-order costing systems—one method commonly used to allocate overheads and estimate costs of a project provided to a customer.

Cost management analysts work very closely with other management colleagues to put together cost management systems that coincide with the overall decision-making strategies of the organization. One important component of the cost management system is the product costing system that accumulates all production costs and assigns them to the appropriate products. The most commonly used product costing systems are job-order costing and process costing.

When job-order costing is implemented, each separate job is treated as a separate unit of output and costs are assigned as the resources are used up. A job is defined as a single product or small group of similar products. Job-order costing is useful for identifying which types of jobs will be most profitable for a company, predicting future costs, managing costs, contract renegotiations, and financial reporting. When process costing is used, all units produced during the time period are considered output. The costs are not separated and broken down for each individual unit as they are with job-order costing.