A company’s manufacturing overhead costs are all costs other than direct material, direct labor, or selling and administrative costs. Once a company has determined the overhead, it must establish how to allocate the cost. This allocation can come in the form of the traditional overhead allocation method or activity-based costing.. Further, the company uses direct labor hours to assign manufacturing overhead costs to products. As per the budget, the company will require 150,000 direct labor hours during the forthcoming year.

While it may become more complex to have different rates for each department, it is still considered more accurate and helpful because the level of efficiency and precision increases.

As a result, management would likely view labor hours as the activity base when applying overhead costs. XYZ Inc. estimates that its total manufacturing overhead costs for the upcoming year will be $500,000. They also estimate that they will have a total of 10,000 direct labor hours for the same period. A plantwide overhead rate is a single predetermined overhead rate that a company uses to allocate all of its manufacturing overhead costs to its products or services.

Example of a Plantwide Overhead Rate

For example, the recipe for shea butter has easily identifiable quantities of shea nuts and other ingredients. Based on the manufacturing process, it is also easy to determine the direct labor cost. But determining the exact overhead costs is not easy, as the cost of electricity needed to dry, crush, and roast the nuts changes depending on the moisture content of the nuts upon arrival. The predetermined overhead rate is used to price new products and to calculate variances in overhead costs. These include energy usage, wages for production and shipping personnel, and materials. Each product will use a different amount of these resources, but you can use a grand total for each direct cost as your plant-wide figure.

The production hasn’t taken place and is completely based on forecasts or previous accounting records, and the actual overheads incurred could turn out to be way different than the estimate. Different businesses have different ways of costing; some use the single rate, others use multiple rates, and the rest use activity-based costing. Company B wants a predetermined rate for a new product that it will be launching soon.

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Another approach to calculating a single or plantwide overhead rate uses direct cost as a basis, rather than direct labor hours. In these situations, a direct cost (labor) has been replaced by an overhead cost (e.g., depreciation on equipment). Because of this decrease in reliance on labor and/or changes in the types of production complexity and methods, the traditional method of overhead allocation becomes less effective in certain production environments.

It’s called “plantwide” because it applies to the entire plant’s production activities rather than specific departments or activities. A portion of these indirect costs, such as rent, utilities and office expenses, must be allocated to each unit of production to arrive at an accurate estimate of the total cost of the unit. When a plantwide overhead rate is used, all items produced are allocated a share of the overhead based on a single parameter. A predetermined overhead rate is calculated at the start of the accounting period by dividing the estimated manufacturing overhead by the estimated activity base. The predetermined overhead rate is then applied to production to facilitate determining a standard cost for a product. Overhead costs are then allocated to production according to the use of that activity, such as the number of machine setups needed.

The estimated total overhead costs are then divided by the estimated total of the allocation base. Let us take the example of ort GHJ Ltd which has prepared the budget for next year. The company estimates a gross profit of $100 million on total estimated revenue of $250 million.

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In this example, if the direct cost of one unit of a product is $80, multiplying $80 by 0.6 gives an overhead cost allocation of $48. You also need the total number of direct labor hours and the direct labor hours required to produce each product the plant manufactures. Per unit labor hours can be calculated by dividing the total labor hours used to manufacture each product by the number of units manufactured. First, find the total of all operational costs other than the direct cost of production for the period you are measuring.

Plantwide Overhead Rate

In contrast, the traditional allocation method commonly uses cost drivers, such as direct labor or machine hours, as the single activity. The plantwide overhead rate is a single overhead rate that a company uses to allocate all of its manufacturing overhead costs to products or cost objects. This is a simplified approach to cost allocation that works well in smaller and simpler businesses. This assumption may not hold true if a company produces a variety of products with different production processes, complexities, or volumes. For example, the total direct labor hours estimated for the solo product is 350,000 direct labor hours. With $2.00 of overhead per direct hour, the Solo product is estimated to have $700,000 of overhead applied.

Adkins holds master’s degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, handr block, turbotax glitch may impact some stimulus checks from the irs and consultant for more than 25 years. The articles and research support materials available on this site are educational and are not intended to be investment or tax advice.


Direct labor standard rate, machine hours standard rate, and direct labor hours standard rate are some methods of factory overhead absorption. Small companies tend to use activity-based costing, whereas in larger companies, each department in which different processes of production take place typically computes its own predetermined overhead rate. Hence, the overhead incurred in the actual production process will differ from this estimate.

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