Memorandum To: Mike Lewis From: Overseas Consulting Group Date: December 9th 1990 Subject: Manifolds Retention vs. Outsourcing Analysis Our team of financial analysts has taken an in depth look at the consultant’s recommendation to potentially outsource the manifold production line.
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Through our analysis it becomes clear that the decision to retain the manifold production line will be more financially beneficial to the company. We will begin with some of the assumptions of our analysis, and the conclusions from our various analyses of Bridgeton Industries Costs. Please refer to the attached excel file for detailed analysis of the numbers. We know that Bridgeton uses an absorption costing system which does not easily distinguish between fixed and variable costs.
The problem with that system makes it very challenging to forecast appropriately the cost of excess capacity and furthermore the impact of outsourcing the manifold production line. Therefore the reported costs are not appropriate for this type of analysis. Our team began our own analysis of the costs to evaluate the recommendation. We began by calculating gross margin for each product, by first identifying how much overhead should be allocated to each category. We broke out the overhead by using Direct Labor (DL) as a % since most of the overhead accounts are labor related.
As a result, overhead allocation for each product in 1987 is the following: Fuel Tanks 17%, Manifolds 24%, Doors 11%, Muffler/Exhausts 23%, and Oil Pans 26% for 1987. Muffler/Exhausts, manifolds and Oil Pans are both labor intensive, so under this method, they bear a higher percentage of the overhead costs. Now that Bridgeton stopped producing Muffler/Exhausts and Oil Pans, the manifold line carries an even greater proportion of the overhead costs of 46%. Therefore, the cost per manifold goes up because of the larger share of overhead it has to absorb.
Please refer to the analysis file, tab 2 for 1991 forecasts. We assumed the sales and costs for each category would increase close to the same percentage as previous year. The overhead forecast required greater detailed analysis. The question is how to anticipate how much overhead would go down due to discontinuation of manifolds. In 1989, DL and direct material (DM) went down 46% and 47% respectively from the outsourcing of the other production lines. If manifolds were to be outsourced and all DL and DM were eliminated, then we are looking at approximately 44% decrease in DL and 49% decrease in DM.
We assumed for the purpose of our analysis, that the reductions in DL and DM for these two year are comparable. Thus, we applied the same percentage of overhead reduction in each account to the 1989 to the 1991 overhead accounts. Once we established these overhead accounts, we then analyzed how the costs are allocated across the remaining lines. As you can see in detailed spreadsheet, the most profitable product, the fuel tanks, now has to absorb 61% of the overhead cost and its gross margin is down to 33% from 43%. The doors’ gross margin also went south from 27% to 17%.
Clearly the fixed costs, which weren’t removed with the outsourcing, have eroded the profitability of all of the remaining products. The consultant’s suggestion to outsource production is actually not a good option after all. Fix costs embedded in the cost per unit won’t go away because less profitable parts are outsourced. If Bridgeton industries wants to seriously considering outsourcing the manifold line or any other some significant overhead restructuring is necessary to try and reduce the fixed cost profitability dilution. Changes to cost structure
As we mentioned previously Bridgeton currently uses a single overhead pool for the entire plant that allocates costs based on direct labor hours. Since the production process of the various product lines vary greatly, this causes the overhead allocation to be inaccurate. The products have different levels of automation and manual work (refer to descriptions in exhibit 1). While one product line may be diligently working to reduce costs, another product line can simply reduce production and receive the same relative decrease in overhead costs.
Also, the overhead percentage is calculated only once a year at budget time and is used throughout the entire model year. With an annual calculation, there is little to no incentive for employees to continuously reduce their costs month to month. Bridgeton should recalculate the overhead percentages on a monthly basis to be more accurate if possible. We recommend creating multiple overhead pools by taking the overhead cost elements and assigning them to the product lines that are truly driving those expenses (basically link overhead to the product).
Having a product specific allocation of OH expenses will allow management to have better visibility to the product cost reduction efforts of the employees. Variable Costs, Fixed Costs & Excess Capacity Ultimately the problem Bridgeton is facing is related to fixed costs due to excess capacity. Once production lines are outsourced, the remaining fixed costs in OH which are not outsourced represent the excess capacity. This is a cost problem for the company as the other products must absorb this. The two obvious solutions to this problem are to cut these costs as much as possible.
Through restricting initiatives this can be made possible. The other solution would be to increase demand of existing product lines. In the case of Bridgeton industries there is a need for a strategic shift to increase that demand. Continuing cost reduction initiatives are necessary, but a strategy to differentiate Bridgeton’s products through quality, reliability, service, etc. could help increase demand and furthermore reduce the impact of excess capacity costs. Additionally if new overhead pools are created, as we recommended above, management should set standards for the activity on each product line.
This will help control variable costs and keep the lines accountable for their own expenses. Supplies and small tools should only be purchased as need and overtime hours should be kept to a minimum. Fixed costs are absorbed evenly by each line, but can still be reevaluated by management. For example, a fixed asset audit can be performed to ensure that all assets that are being depreciated are truly in-service. Calculate the OH Rates The 1987 overhead rate used in the study was 435% of direct labor dollar costs. Bridgeton’s actual rate was 437% that year.
Overhead rates for the remaining years are calculated below (OH / DL): As you can see the overhead rate for 199, which would be 752% without manifolds, is severely detrimental to the company financially. Clearly the consulting firm did not factor in the fixed costs associated with production when recommending the outsourcing of the manifold production line. Our conclusion is to continue producing manifolds going forward, and to adjust our cost reporting structure to better be able to analyze future strategic shifts such as outsourcing a product line.
As a company if Bridgeton does not do a better job to understand the costs of the business, it will be very challenging to make the best business decisions in the long run
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