Production factor

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Labor as a factor of production: workers in the Wela plants (June 1955)

In business administration and economics, the production factor refers to the material and immaterial goods used in production whose use ( English input ) is necessary for the production of other goods or services for technical or economic reasons.


Since the objects of knowledge are different in business administration and economics, the content and scope of the terms of production factors also differ in the two individual sciences . Therefore, for example, the definition of the production factor labor is not congruent in both disciplines:

Factors of production
in economics
Production factors
in business administration
job dispositive work
performing work
ground Materials ( raw materials , consumables and supplies )
Capital (in economics not money ,
but means of production )

The economic classification of production factors was not adopted by business administration because , according to Wolfgang Kilger , it is inexpedient for dealing with microeconomic problems. Factors of production are also an object of trade , namely on the factor market , where their market price is called the factor price . Their procurement on the factor market caused the demand factor costs .

Factors of Production in Economics

Classical economics has known the factors labor , capital and land since Adam Smith , especially since David Ricardo . In 1845 Jean-Baptiste Say added “entrepreneurial activity” to this system of factors. Recently, knowledge ( human capital ) or energy have also been identified as an independent production factor. Since these production factors are scarce , they have a price in classical economics which is called wages for labor , rent for land, and interest for capital .

The term soil originally included arable land , but was initially expanded to include this in the course of the exploitation of mineral resources. In view of the increasing scarcity of means of production such as air and water , economics now also speak of the production factor nature or the environment .

The bearer of the labor factor is the income -generating activity of people . The production of all goods starts with the materials of nature, but nature does not offer any goods ready for use, it only offers raw materials or energy sources that humans first have to obtain or develop. For this he has to put in work. This production factor has a quantitative side (the number of workers ) and a qualitative side (the level of training of the workers).

The factor capital is that part of the output of previous periods that contributes to production in the period under consideration. In other words, physical capital is the physical result of work done in the past. The economist differentiates physical capital, also called real capital, and money capital . Real capital is produced means of production , for example buildings , machines and tools . Money capital is understood to mean money that can be converted into physical capital as a general medium of exchange through investments or, alternatively, used for consumption purposes .

The production factors can regularly be substituted to a limited extent (replaceable). The formation of capital can e.g. B. Increase the productivity of work. Due to the high elasticity of the production factor energy, there is a high economic pressure to replace the factor work with the couple energy and capital within the framework of the technical and organizational boundary conditions.

Production factors in business administration

The individual farm consideration requires a more precise differentiation of the terms for the production factors. A classic distinction was made by Erich Gutenberg and has prevailed almost unchanged to this day. It is supplemented by the two terms repetition factors and potential factors from Edmund Heinen , which have been integrated into the following illustration.

Production factors (after Gutenberg)
Elementary factors dispositive factors
Repeating factors Potential factors
Materials Resources Execution
(human work on the object)
management planning organization control
raw materials Auxiliary materials Supplies material resources intangible assets
original factors derivative factors

Elementary and dispositive factors

Erich Gutenberg established the top division of production factors. He divides human work into object-related work ( execution , work on the product) and dispositive work ( management , supported by planning , organization and control ).

Gutenberg calls human work as well as the factors operating equipment and materials elementary factors of the operational production process .

The dispositive factor complements the elementary factors according Gutenberg to a productive unit. The dispositive factor is important with regard to the optimal combination of factors and depicts the planning and strategic-operational use of elementary factors in the company. So it is an immaterial good that can only be substituted to a limited extent .

Repetition factors and potential factors

The elementary factors are further differentiated according to their use. If the factor is used directly or physically or chemically converted in the process of generating the service , one speaks of repetition factors (according to Heinen) or consumption factors (according to Gutenberg). In order to be able to guarantee continuous production, these goods have to be constantly procured.

Factors that are only indirectly consumed or needed for the provision of services are referred to as potential or inventory factors. As a rule, they are not divisible.


The group of equipment has a special position in this scheme, as it can be assigned to the repetition and potential factors. Resources that are used for use belong to the potential factors and can be divided into tangible (land, buildings, facilities, funds) and intangible resources (rights, licenses, patents, knowledge, information). In addition, there is a delimitation of the resources that are consumed, to which the so-called operating materials (energy, fuel, lubricants and cleaning materials) belong.

If the division into repetition and potential factors is dispensed with, the operating materials can be completely assigned to the materials. A subordination that is also widely recognized and accepted.


In addition to the option of operating materials , the group of materials is divided into the groups of auxiliary and raw materials. In this case, raw materials are an essential part of the final product, such as B. the wood for a wooden chair. Auxiliary materials are not an essential part of the product, like the wood glue for the wooden chair.

Original and derivative factors

The original factors include the elementary factors as well as the part of human work that decides on the combination and use of the elementary factors in operations and management ( management ).

The management is supported by the derivative (derived) factors such as planning , organization and control .

In the attempt to grasp and analyze the basic business problems of creating an optimal balance of goods and services, the provision of production factors plays a decisive role. In the phase of providing the elementary factors, the main thing is to provide the production factors in the required type, quality and quantity in good time and in the right place for the combination process. In accordance with the economic principle, it must be ensured that the provision costs are minimized.

The deployment has two tasks: First, the technical task of deployment planning . That means for trouble-free production, adherence to manufacturing deadlines, compliance with quality standards and the like. Ä. To take care. Second, the economic task, which can be derived from the company's success targets.

Further development and new factors

The system developed by Gutenberg is primarily designed for production and industrial operations. With the increasing importance of the tertiary sector , i. H. With the advancement of the service sector, the importance of customer participation in the provision of services and their integration increased. Rudolf Maleri coined the term external factor for the contribution (active or passive) of other service providers that is absolutely necessary for the provision of services.

The time factor plays a special role in retail . In accordance with the nature of trading companies , which usually do not use any materials, the terms productive factors or performance factors are often preferred to the term production factor . In addition to the primary performance factors of work, goods, space and material resources, trading companies use secondary performance factors; The latter includes the time factor, also known as the quasi-production factor. The best possible use of time is not only to be considered for the individual performance factors, but also in all four markets of the trading company (procurement, sales, competitive and internal markets). Schenk has put together no fewer than 66 fields in which time problems have to be solved because of their direct influence on the operational performance and cost situation and time management has to be carried out. They range from process organization to inventory differences, customer run studies, shop opening times, inventory turnover or discount interest to time discounts or time price differentiations.

Hans-Dieter Deppe completed Gutenberg's system of production factors in banking management by adding the monetary factor with its two components, "liability performance" and "payment performance". In his work Banking Operations Growth (1969) he also describes production functions for the monetary factor.

Walther Busse von Colbe and Gert Laßmann introduce the public services of the state , the municipalities , municipal associations , credit institutions and insurance companies as a supplement to Gutenberg . In 1980, Helmut Kurt Weber specified this connection and included the legal system, which was previously seen as part of the production factor capital, as an independent category in the factor system.

Knowledge is increasingly establishing itself as a fourth independent production factor, although it is already at least partially covered in Gutenberg's dispositive factor. Information is used as a resource in the service creation process. This can result in additional knowledge (see knowledge management ). This applies at least to the information that is "consumed" after it enters production, i.e. H. lose their economic value. However, it is controversial whether other types of information can also be considered a factor of production.

Production factors in cost and performance accounting

The main task of cost and performance accounting (KLR) is to provide evidence of the depletion of economic production factors related to the value chain in an accounting period. The use of production factors causes costs (factor costs) that have to be redeemed by the service provided on the market.

In most companies, one of the production factors plays the most important role, which can be seen in the profit and loss account from the corresponding cost type . After that, the companies based on the predominant production factor are labor-intensive ( labor costs ), asset-intensive ( write-offs ), capital-intensive ( interest expense , dividends ), material-intensive ( cost of materials ), energy-intensive ( energy costs ), and information-intensive (cost of information technology ) companies divided. In labor-intensive companies, employment risks and wage increases play an important role, in material-intensive companies there is a great dependency on suppliers and usually a low level of vertical integration .

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Hans Andreas Werner, written exam training in general business studies, economics for specialist economists , 2008, p. 62
  2. Wolfgang Kilger, The factor work in the system of production factors , in: Work and wages as a research object of business administration, 1962, p. 45
  3. ^ Jean-Baptiste Say, Comprehensive Textbook of Practical Economics , German translation, 1845, p. 121.
  4. Olaf Katenkamp, Quo vadis knowledge management , in: Journal of Labor Research, work design and labor policies, No. 1/2003, p. 19
  5. Dietmar Lindenberger, Reiner Kümmel : Energy and the state of nations (PDF; 548 kB). EWI Working Paper, No 11/2011.
  6. Erich Gutenberg, Fundamentals of Business Administration , Volume 1: Die Produktion , 1951, pp. 3 ff.
  7. ^ Sönke Peters / Rolf Brühl / Johannes N. Stelling, Betriebswirtschaftslehre: Introduction , 2005, p. 122.
  8. Günter Wöhe , Introduction to General Business Administration , 19th edition, 1996. P. 93.
  9. Hans-Otto Schenk , Marktwirtschaftslehre des Handels , Wiesbaden 1991, pp. 277–279.
  10. Heinz Kußmaul, Business Administration for Existence Founders, 2008, p. 11 .