Activity-Based-Costing (ABC)

The last several decades have been a turbulent period for management accounting in the United States. Many U.S. businesses failed in the international market, and the management accounting profession recognized that some of the blame rests upon shortcomings in the information provided to managers. A continuous flow of articles dating back to the mid-1980's such as Kaplan (1986) or Chalos and Bader (1986) has criticized contemporary management accounting systems. On the other hand, Reider and Saunders (1988) offered a defense of contemporary management accounting methods asserting that the methods are adequate but have not been used appropriately.

Management accounting plays a crucial role in manufacturing competitiveness by supplying relevant information which guides and facilitates management planning and control, decision making, and performance evaluation (Amenkhienan. and Green, 1990). Until recently, management accounting has been heavily criticized for failing to provide timely and accurate information, and for not keeping pace with the new manufacturing environment and technologies (Johnson and Kaplan, 1988). Other criticisms suggest that management accounting reports are of little help to operating managers and that the system fails to provide accurate product costs.

In response, firms have adopted new costing techniques including the most common, Activity-Based-Costing (ABC). Yet even advocates of ABC have criticized its use (Johnson, 1992). The response to the criticism is that individuals do not understand this accounting method and, therefore, misuse its techniques (Kaplan, 1992). This is similar to the defense of the traditional accounting techniques. Both claim that the techniques are appropriate, but i ...
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