Accounting Information

Accurate cost data are required for the successful implementation of the integrated physical distribution management concept using total cost analysis, for the management and control of physical distribution operations, and to aid in setting selling prices and in justifying price differentials.

As the cost of physical distribution increases, the need for accurate accounting for the costs becomes increasingly critical. Since the physical distribution function is relatively more energy intensive and labor intensive than other areas of the firm, its ratio of costs to total company costs has been steadily increasing. Efficient and effective distribution policies cannot be determined until the costs related to separate functional areas and their interaction are made available to distribution decision makers.

The quality of the accounting data will influence management’s ability to exploit new markets, take advantage of innovative transportation systems, make changes in packaging, choose between common carriers and private trucking, increase deliveries or increase inventories, and determine to what extent the order-processing system should be automated.

The accounting system must be capable of providing information to answer the following questions:

a)        What are the impacts of physical distribution costs on contribution by product, by territory, by customer, and by salesperson?

b)        What are the costs associated with providing additional levels of customer service? What trade-offs are necessary and what are the incremental benefits or losses?

c)        What is the optimal amount of inventory? How sensitive is the inventory level to changes in warehousing patterns or to changes in customer service levels? How much does it cost to hold inventory?

d)        What mix of transportation modes and carriers should be used?

e)        How many field warehouses should be used and where should they be located?

f)          How many production set-ups are required? Which plants will be used to produce each product?

g)        To what extent should the order-processing system be automated?

To answer these and other questions requires knowledge of the costs and revenues that will change if the physical distribution system changes. That is, determination of a product’s contribution should be based on how corporate revenues, expenses, and hence profitability would change if the product line were dropped. Any costs or revenues that are unaffected by the decision are irrelevant to the problem. For example, a relevant cost woul be public warehouse handling charges associated with a product’s sales; a non-relevant cost would be the overhead costs associated with the firm’s private trucking fleet.

Implementation of this approach to deceision making is severely hampered by the lack of availability of the right accounting data or the inability to use the data when they are available. The best and most sophisticated models are only as good as the accounting input, and a number of recent studies attest to the gross inadequacies of distribution cost data.

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