FLEXIBLE BUDGETS, DIRECT-COST VARIANCES, AND
Management by exception is the practice of concentrating on areas not operating as expected and giving less attention to areas operating as expected. Variance analysis helps managers identify areas not operating as expected. The larger the variance, the more likely an area is not operating as expected.
2. Two sources of information about budgeted amounts are (a) past amounts and (b) detailed engineering studies.
3. A favorable variance––denoted F––is a variance that has the effect of increasing operating income relative to the budgeted amount. An unfavorable variance––denoted U––is a variance that has the effect of decreasing operating income relative to the budgeted amount.
4. The key difference is the output level used to set the budget. A static budget is based on the level of output planned at the start of the budget period. A flexible budget is developed using budgeted revenues or cost amounts based on the actual output level in the budget period. The actual level of output is not known until the end of the budget period.
A Level 2 flexible-budget analysis enables a manager to distinguish how much of the difference between an actual result and a budgeted amount is due to (a) the difference between actual and budgeted output levels, and (b) the difference between actual and budgeted selling prices, variable costs, and fixed costs.
The steps in developing a flexible budget are:
Identify the actual quantity of output.
Calculate the flexible budget for revenues based on budgeted selling price and actual quantity of output. Step 3:
Calculate the flexible budget for costs based on budgeted variable cost per output unit, actual quantity of output, and budgeted fixed costs.
Four reasons for using standard costs are:
budgetary planning and control, and
financial statement preparation.
A manager should subdivide the flexible-budget variance for direct materials into a price variance (that reflects the difference between actual and budgeted prices of direct materials) and an efficiency variance (that reflects the difference between the actual and budgeted quantities of direct materials used to produce actual output). The individual causes of these variances can then be investigated, recognizing possible interdependencies across these individual causes.
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).
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.
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...
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