Throughput Accounting

Welcome to Synergy Resources’ Continual Improvement in Manufacturing (CIM) Journal. Over the next several months, we will be exploring here a variety of techniques that can be used to continually improve manufacturing operations. We strongly encourage you to post questions and leave feedback.

The greatest benefits come from addressing problems in fundamental areas. An important element in continually improving is the ability to accurately predict the benefits that an improvement will bring to the company. To accomplish this, we recommend a school of thought known as Throughput Accounting.
Managerial accounting is the process of gathering and analyzing data for the use of managers in making decisions. Throughput accounting is a school of thought put forth by Dr Eli Goldratt (1948-2011), author of “The Goal” and several other excellent books. Dr. Goldratt invented Throughput Accounting to replace the more traditional Cost Accounting approach that had been in use since the early part of the 20th century and which had begun to fail managers. The purpose of the measurements called for in Throughput Accounting is to give managers clarity: to predict the effect of proposed actions on the profitability and health of the company.
A primary measurement in Throughput Accounting is called “Throughput (T)”. If we think of the company as a money generating machine, T measures the amount of money that the company generates through sales. It is not the same as the sales of the company. The throughput value of what is sold is the selling price less the “Truly Variable Cost (TVC)” that was incurred in order to make what was sold. TVC includes costs of materials, purchased components, sub-contracted services and sales commissions paid for what was sold. TVC does not include any labor that was paid for by the hour or salary nor does it include any costs associated with running the company that cost accounting typically call “overhead”.
In essence then, T measures the value that was added to the elements needed to accomplish the sales that were paid for with a unit price.
Here is some data about Alpha Bravo Manufacturing Company (ABM):

Sales value of orders to be shipped this month $33,000.00
TVC for orders to be shipped this month $10,000.00
Expected Throughput this month $23,000.00
Cost to operate plant each month $21,500.00
Expected pre-tax profit $1,500.00
Capacity hours per month $688.00
Cost per capacity hour $31.25

Let’s suppose that we are managers at ABM and we are in a meeting on the first day of our month. We are being asked to decide whether or not we should take an order. This order will increase our monthly sales by $3,500. The material will cost $1,600. Manufacturing the order will take 68 hours of capacity which will not cause any of our resources to be overloaded.
Traditional managerial accounting would look at the cost to make the order and compare the cost to the sales value. In this case, 68 hours of capacity would equal $2,125 in manufacturing cost. Add to this the $1,600 in TVC (material) and the total cost of manufacturing would be $3,725. Comparing this number to the sales value of $3,500 would lead us to decide to not accept the order since accepting the order would cause us to lose $225. Better to leave the resources idle than to lose money!
But wait: it costs us $21,500 to operate the plant whether it produces or not. We do not expect to have our workers to take unpaid time off on days there is not a full day of work for them to do. Let us look at this question through the lens of Throughput.
An order bring $3,500 in sales that uses $1,600 material would generate $1,900 in Throughput. Our new expected T number for the month becomes $24,900. Manufacturing this order does not increase our cost of operation. We will only use capacity that otherwise would have been idle. Therefore our expected pre-tax profit would increase be $3,400, an increase of $1,900. The entire increase in T brought on by this order would be profit! By accepting this order, we would not lose money; rather we would more than double our profit!
This example is only a brief glimpse into the power of Throughput Accounting. Please come back for next week’s blog post to learn more.