Process cost accounting

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The process costing (PKR) is a modeling method of controlling that a generalization of the accumulation provides cost of a plurality of types, and instances. The instrument maps the costs of the indirect service areas (e.g. procurement, marketing, sales and logistics ) and enables these overheads to be distributed in accordance with the requirements . It is based on a native of the USA Activity Based Costing (ABC by Robert S. Kaplan , however), but differs in the point that they are not the individual activities (Engl. Activities has) as a basis, but composed of activities processes .

The PKR is a full cost accounting that differentiates between variable (so-called service volume-induced costs ) and fixed costs (service volume-neutral ). Both variable and fixed costs are charged to the cost units. For calculation and decision-making, however, it only makes sense to consider the variable, process-dependent costs. The PKR analyzes the indirect service areas on which the overhead costs are based and looks at the provision of services from a different perspective: away from the cost center allocation of costs to a cross-cost center perspective. The PKR can not completely replace the flexible marginal cost accounting and is not an independent cost accounting system; it rather supplements the traditional systems with an improved distribution of overheads.

Causes of development

The overhead cost block has risen steadily in recent years, for example due to a greater variety of variants and more complex products and production methods and the resulting higher costs for planning and controlling production. The conventional cost accounting systems have offset the overhead costs via surcharge rates on the direct costs (e.g. hourly wages) on the cost units (usually the products to be sold). As long as the overhead costs only make up a small proportion of the total costs (as a rule of thumb, a share of less than 50% of the overhead costs in the total costs is currently mentioned), this type of offsetting is economical, but with very high surcharges the product costs determined in this way are of limited significance. which can lead to operational and strategic wrong decisions.


At Siemens AG , a first approach to process-oriented cost accounting was developed as early as 1975, but this was limited to this company. Ten years later, J. G. Miller and T. E. Vollman looked at the problem of rising overhead surcharges in an essay for the Harvard Business Review entitled The hidden factory . In the USA, surcharge rates of 1000% on the individual costs were not unusual at the time, which was due, among other things, to the widespread simple full cost accounting . In Germany, marginal cost accounting was the most widespread cost accounting system and although the surcharge rates rose here too, the ratio of individual to overhead costs was not as unbalanced as in the USA. Three years after Miller and Vollman, R. Cooper and RS Kaplan also began in the Harvard Business Review with an essay that questioned the cost accounting systems that had been common up until then. Cooper and Kaplan were significantly involved in the development of Activity Based Costing (see also Activity Based Management ) and are considered to be the ones who owe this new view of operational cost accounting.

In Germany, Péter Horváth and Reinhold Mayer at the University of Stuttgart took up this idea and developed a system that was tailored to the specifics of the German situation.


The aim of process cost accounting is a more appropriate allocation of the overhead costs of a company. The overhead costs are no longer distributed to the individual cost centers by percentage surcharge rates, as is customary in internal accounting, where they are then assigned to the cost objects ( internal accounting ).

Instead, it tries to allocate overhead costs to running processes, through the quantitative use of sub-processes (see also stress principle ). A complete elimination of the overhead rates is hardly feasible, since a remainder of overhead costs that cannot be allocated remain even when process costing is used. The individual costs are not the subject of process cost accounting, as they can be assigned directly to the cost objects.

Determination of processes and allocation of costs

To this end, important processes in a company are first identified and separated from other processes. Examples of main processes are order processing, processing damage reports or looking after suppliers . For a more precise delimitation from other cost units (cost centers or processes), main processes are sometimes very differentiated into sub-processes.

The sub-processes are assigned their respective (process) individual costs. The process cost rate is determined from the sum of the (process) direct costs. The process cost rate indicates the costs per one-time execution of the sub-process. The sub-process costs of the main process cost rate are the product of the number of sub-processes required for the one-time execution of the main process and their sub-process cost rates.

Determination of the cost drivers

The particular advantage of process costing lies in the improved possibilities of the so-called "overhead cost coding". Unlike direct costs, overhead costs cannot be assigned directly to a cost unit. Examples of overhead costs are costs from general administrative or warehouse tasks. In classic cost accounting, these costs are not mapped very meaningfully, either not taken into account or distributed as a percentage according to the assigned individual costs per cost unit. However, this generally means that the overhead costs are not allocated according to the causation principle. So it often makes more sense to calculate storage costs with the help of cost drivers, e.g. B. to be measured according to the size or weight of the object to be stored than according to its purchase value (as attributable individual costs).

Litigation cost rates

The overhead costs are broken down in process cost accounting using appropriate units (e.g. cubic meters, energy consumption, time intensity). In this way, the so-called “ process cost rate ” is obtained. The respective (sub) processes are then assigned, depending on the process delimitation, different overhead costs, broken down over the named units.

The direct and overhead costs of a cost center together form the (partial) process costs, which may be put together in several stages (including several cost centers) to form the costs of main processes.

In this way, statements can be made about the costs of average order processing or average claims processing, for example.


  1. Definition of main processes (HP) in the company or per cost center
  2. Division of HP into sub-processes and activities
  3. Recording of times for each sub-process (e.g. by timing or questioning)
  4. Definition of whether the sub-process is performance quantity-induced (lmi) or performance quantity-neutral (lmn)
  5. Record cost drivers of the lmi processes
  6. Determine the distribution of costs and process costs
  7. Create a price list for the processes
  8. Billing of orders, depending on which sub-processes they have gone through

Process cost accounting with EDP

With the help of modern data processing systems, not only information can be provided for standardized processes or averages, but process-oriented actual costs are mapped, which allow precise statements about the actual value contribution of one or more "core processes". In information technology (IT) z. B. Processes (via so-called service level agreements ) can be examined to what extent, for example, outsourcing makes sense from a business perspective. The prerequisite for this is the linking of a quantity structure (number of process transactions per period) with financial data (unit cost rates of the processes, etc.), which mostly come from ERP systems (e.g. Microsoft Dynamics AX , SAP R / 3 ). The process developments per period are usually automatically counted in the IT system from the inventory and transaction data using a process-identifying set of rules.

The unit cost rates of the processes have the character of standard costs and are determined in a preliminary calculation. Here z. B. In a resource estimate, the effort per sub-process is estimated. The standard unit costs are then determined in a division calculation (reference quantity planned quantity structure).

For small and medium-sized companies, the company accounting sheet can be set up with the help of spreadsheet programs. Attention must be paid to the strict division of the types of costs into overheads and individual costs and the division of the cost centers according to direct costs and overheads. Today, even simple bookkeeping programs offer the possibility of setting up an operating accounting sheet.


Process cost accounting is part of a company's cost and performance accounting . The focus here is on the allocation of costs according to the cause. To evaluate the efficiency of processes, however, either a comparison of the company-specific processes with other processes with the same performance (e.g. benchmarking ) or a performance evaluation tool is required.

A differentiated instrument for comparing key figures, which records both costs and services of a company (and thus also serves to assess efficiency), is the balanced scorecard , for example .

The unreflected application of the results of process costing without being accompanied by an appropriate performance appraisal system can jeopardize the success of the business, as the apparently unprofitable processes disproportionately strengthen customer loyalty, secure purchasing advantages, generate employee satisfaction or trigger other interactions that cannot be captured by a purely monetary analysis of operational sub-processes can. Only a design of the comparison between costs and services that integrates non-monetary key figures can be promising in the long term.

Process cost accounting (PKR) is an instrument that maps the costs of the indirect service areas (e.g. procurement, marketing, sales and logistics) and enables these overhead costs to be distributed more appropriately. However, it is based on a native of the USA Activity Based Costing (ABC), but differs in the point that they are not the activities (Engl. Activities has) as a basis, but which constituent of activity processes.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. JG Miller, TE Vollman: The hidden factory . In: Harvard Business Review . September / October, 1985, p. 142-150 .
  2. ^ R. Cooper, RS Kaplan: Measure Costs Right. Make the right decisions . In: Harvard Business Review . September / October, 1988, p. 96-103 .
  3. Process cost accounting on logistik-info-net