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Management article
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Reference no. SMR4116
Authors: Joseph Fisher
Published by: MIT Sloan School of Management
Published in: "MIT Sloan Management Review", 1999
Length: 12 pages

Abstract

Faced with increasing global competition, many firms are finding that price-based or target costing is emerging as a key strategic tool. The target cost is a financial goal for the full cost of a product, derived from estimates of selling price and desired profit (which top management sets on the basis of firm strategy and financial goals). Product selling price is constrained by the marketplace and is determined by analysis along the entire industry value chain and across all functions in a firm. Common to most target-cost applications is a belief that large-scale cost planning and reduction must occur early in the product life cycle. However, Shank and Fisher believe there is no conceptual reason the methodology cannot be a value-added exercise applied to existing products during manufacturing. They posit that if managers were to believe that, during manufacturing, only incremental (ie, slight) change is possible (through kaizen costing or controlling costs with standard-cost systems), firms would likely miss significant strategic opportunities. Shank and Fisher present a case study that demonstrates the relevance of target- costing techniques for a process-industry plant built in the 1890s that had been making largely the same products for fifty years. The firm''s managers, who had used a standard-cost system for many years, might have concluded that kaizen costing was most appropriate for this plant. However, competitive realities necessi-tated a major strategic change that employed target costing as an important ingredient in cost-reduction efforts leading to strategic revitalization. At the beginning of this field study, plant managers focused too much attention on standard cost versus actual cost. There was heavy pressure to move standard cost toward actual cost in order to minimize unfavorable variances for public financial reporting. Managers focused too little attention on ideal manufacturing cost, and target costing received no attention. At the end of the field study, the most useful cost-management tool focused on ideal manufacturing cost versus target cost in relation to actual cost. The standard cost concept essentially dropped out of the picture. Target costing forced managers to rewrite the rules of the game by changing the way the mill delivered value to the customer. Because standard costing accepts the existing game rules and the existing value chain, the authors believe that fundamental cost breakthroughs are much more probable when using target costing.

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Abstract

Faced with increasing global competition, many firms are finding that price-based or target costing is emerging as a key strategic tool. The target cost is a financial goal for the full cost of a product, derived from estimates of selling price and desired profit (which top management sets on the basis of firm strategy and financial goals). Product selling price is constrained by the marketplace and is determined by analysis along the entire industry value chain and across all functions in a firm. Common to most target-cost applications is a belief that large-scale cost planning and reduction must occur early in the product life cycle. However, Shank and Fisher believe there is no conceptual reason the methodology cannot be a value-added exercise applied to existing products during manufacturing. They posit that if managers were to believe that, during manufacturing, only incremental (ie, slight) change is possible (through kaizen costing or controlling costs with standard-cost systems), firms would likely miss significant strategic opportunities. Shank and Fisher present a case study that demonstrates the relevance of target- costing techniques for a process-industry plant built in the 1890s that had been making largely the same products for fifty years. The firm''s managers, who had used a standard-cost system for many years, might have concluded that kaizen costing was most appropriate for this plant. However, competitive realities necessi-tated a major strategic change that employed target costing as an important ingredient in cost-reduction efforts leading to strategic revitalization. At the beginning of this field study, plant managers focused too much attention on standard cost versus actual cost. There was heavy pressure to move standard cost toward actual cost in order to minimize unfavorable variances for public financial reporting. Managers focused too little attention on ideal manufacturing cost, and target costing received no attention. At the end of the field study, the most useful cost-management tool focused on ideal manufacturing cost versus target cost in relation to actual cost. The standard cost concept essentially dropped out of the picture. Target costing forced managers to rewrite the rules of the game by changing the way the mill delivered value to the customer. Because standard costing accepts the existing game rules and the existing value chain, the authors believe that fundamental cost breakthroughs are much more probable when using target costing.

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