IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

ABC at Insteel Industries

Listed author(s):
  • V.G. Narayanan
  • Ratna G. Sarkar
Registered author(s):

    In this paper, we seek to provide empirical documentation of the effect of Activity-Based Costing (ABC) information on product and customer-related decisions made by managers in a company. Proponents of ABC argue that when an entity implements ABC, it reaps at least two important benefits: process improvements that promote more efficient use of resources and hence reduce costs, and a set of overhead cost numbers that, relative to traditional volume-based methods of costing, better represent the consumption of shared resources by the firm's products, and enable the firm to target a more profitable mix of products and customers. While there is much anecdotal evidence about the efficacy of ABC and ABM (Activity Based Management), there has been no systematic, statistical investigation of whether ABC really influences managerial decisions. An ABC analysis may not have any impact on a firm for two reasons. (1) It may not reveal any new information to the managers who intuitively know already what an ABC system formally captures. (2) Key managers may reject the ABC numbers and be unwilling to weather the organizational change and upheaval often required for effective ABM. In this study, we conduct a statistical analysis of firm-level data in order to shed light on whether ABC provides new information to managers and whether ABM significantly impacts product and customer-related decisions. We supplement this analysis with interviews with top managers in the company on whether and to what extent the ABC analysis influenced managerial decision making. We do not find much support for the hypothesis that product prices reflect all costs even when a company does not have ABC information. We find that after the ABC analysis, Insteel displayed a higher propensity to discontinue or increase prices of products that were found unprofitable in the ABC study and to discontinue customers that were found unprofitable in the ABC. The changes to the portfolio of customers served were similar but not as striking as the product mix and pricing decisions. This finding is consistent with senior managers' intuition that product level decisions can be made faster than customer level decisions.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7270.

    in new window

    Date of creation: Jul 1999
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7270
    Note: PR
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Foster, George & Gupta, Mahendra, 1990. "Manufacturing overhead cost driver analysis," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1-3), pages 309-337, January.
    2. Banker, Rajiv D. & Potter, Gordon & Schroeder, Roger G., 1995. "An empirical analysis of manufacturing overhead cost drivers," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 115-137, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7270. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.