How to Calculate Overhead Cost Per Unit

by Bradley James Bryant ; Updated September 26, 2017
Calculate overhead cost per unit

Pricing is one of the most important factors in competition. Those companies with a better business model have an automatic advantage over the competition. The ability to create an equivalent product at a lower cost provides greater operational flexibility as well. You can pass these cost savings on to your clients, purchase higher quality materials, pay your workforce higher wages, pay your investors a higher return, pay down debts faster, etc. No matter what, being able to cut your costs without sacrificing quality is a worthy cause in the business world. Understanding how to calculate your fixed costs, specifically overhead costs per unit, is the first step toward cost reduction.

Define overhead costs and expenses. These are all costs associated with direct labor and materials. Overhead expenses include accounting, depreciation, interest, legal fees, rent, telephone, taxes and utilities. Basically, anything cost that doesn't change with changes in production output is considered overhead.

Determine average hourly wage. Each employee's contribution should be classified as either direct or indirect labor. Direct labor works directly with product, whereas indirect labor supports direct labor, i.e., accounting or other corporate functions. You are only interested in salaried direct labor and indirect labor.

Estimate the number of workdays available in a given calendar year. Subtract the average number of days labor will not be working (holidays, weekends, vacations, sick leave, etc.) from 365.

Multiply the number of workdays available for labor by eight (for an eight-hour work day). This gives you an estimate for the total number of labor hours worked.

Multiply number of total labor hours by average labor wage determined in Step 2.

Add all overhead expenses, as defined in Step 1, to the dollar amount in Step 5. This is your total overhead cost.

Look up the average number of units sold per month and multiply by 12.

Divide total overhead costs by average number of units. This is your overhead cost per unit.

About the Author

Working as a full-time freelance writer/editor for the past two years, Bradley James Bryant has over 1500 publications on eHow, LIVESTRONG.com and other sites. She has worked for JPMorganChase, SunTrust Investment Bank, Intel Corporation and Harvard University. Bryant has a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in finance from Florida A&M University.

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