How Do You Calculate Prime Costs? Overview, Formula, and Examples

Prime cost is the sum of direct costs incurred in the production, including raw materials and labor. Therefore, all direct costs are included in the calculation of prime cost, not indirect costs. Prime cost is calculated by totaling all raw material used during production and all direct costs incurred during the production process.

  • However, there is still room for adjustment if there are any fluctuate in price during the construction time.
  • Some costs, notably labor, are included in each, so adding them together would overstate manufacturing cost.
  • For example, direct materials include raw materials, supplies, and any other component that becomes part of the finished product.
  • Direct costs do not include indirect expenses, such as advertising and administrative costs.

Businesses in the restaurant industry need to strike a balance between profitability and the need to create unique, mouth-watering meals with high-quality ingredients. In this industry, the various food and beverage items that a restaurant uses to build its menu are its raw materials. Other than this, direct labor also includes any commission paid to the salesperson who acts as the middle-man between the producer and customer. For example, a manufacturing company may require plastic, lumber, chemicals, paint, or clothe as raw materials.

Examples of Prime Costs

Self-employed individuals often use prime costs to ensure that they are making their desired hourly wage while also profiting from every product they have made. Still, the prime cost formula only considers the variable expenses, which are directly connected to the production of each item. As a business owner, you can use the prime cost information to identify which products are profitable and which ones are not. You could then raise or lower the prices of unprofitable products, or discontinue production altogether. Additionally, you can also use prime cost figures to negotiate better deals with your suppliers and reduce your overall production costs.

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  • The conversion cost takes labor and overhead expenses into account, but not the cost of materials.

Businesses use prime cost to measure the total cost of production inputs needed to create a given output. Compared to direct costs, indirect costs are not included in the calculation of prime costs. Any materials or labor whose direct association in the production process cannot be established must be excluded from the prime costs.

Components of Prime Cost:

The production process is separated into main three such as electronic assembly, interior, battery, and windshield assembly. Prime cost is the expense which the company spends directly on the specific product. Prime cost is a significant part of management costing and allows the management to make decisions regarding the production of goods. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. Our writing and editorial staff are a team of experts holding advanced financial designations and have written for most major financial media publications.

Direct labor examples might include assembly line workers, welders, carpenters, glass workers, painters, and cooks. As another example, if the cost object is a sales region, prime costs may also include the cost of maintaining distribution warehouses in that region. The main difference between prime cost and variable cost is that prime cost includes all of the company’s fixed expenses, while variable cost only includes the costs that fluctuate with production. Additionally, prime cost is more stable and easier to predict than variable cost.

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Direct labor includes the wages paid to employees who produce finished products. These employees can be welders, machinists, painters, or any other person who directly contributes to the production of a product. Then, you will also need to know the total direct labor incurred and directly contributing to the products. To calculate the prime cost of the product, you will know the total direct material that directly contributes to the products. They need to calculate the prime cost of every product they have manufactured to generate a profit.

However, commissions paid to salespeople who act as intermediaries between the manufacturer and the consumer are included in the prime cost equation. The major two components of prime cost are direct materials and direct labor; totaling accrual accounting & prepayments the two figures results in the calculation of prime cost. Prime cost includes all costs directly attributed to the production of output, and consists of expenses like direct material, direct labor, and other direct expenses.

It refers to the main costs of production that have a huge impact on the final product. Some costs, notably labor, are included in each, so adding them together would overstate manufacturing cost. Management can also use these costs to establish selling prices for their products. Based on the costs, management can calculate the minimum break even selling price.

Prime cost only takes into account the direct cost, which will show a high variance compared to the total cost. If management makes the decision base on this information, it will impact the overall business strategy, such as selling price and so on. The manufacturing sector analyses both prime costs and conversion costs to measure efficiency in the production of a product. It excludes indirect costs such as rent, utilities, and administrative expenses. By excluding indirect costs, prime cost provides a more accurate picture of the direct costs of producing goods. To make the products, the company might need to rent the warehouse and office.

Conversion costs are also used as a measure to gauge the efficiencies in production processes but take into account the overhead expenses left out of prime cost calculations. Operations managers also use conversion costs to determine where there may be waste within the manufacturing process. Conversions costs and prime costs can be used together to help calculate the minimum profit needed when determining prices to charge customers. Prime cost is the manufacturing cost, which consists of both direct material and direct labor. It is the major factor for calculating contribution margin which is present the product’s ability to cover the fixed cost.

Businesses use prime costs as a way of measuring the total cost of the production inputs needed to create a given output. By analyzing its prime costs, a company can set prices that yield desired profits. By lowering its prime costs, a company can increase its profit or undercut its competitors’ prices.

What is the difference between prime cost and variable cost?

Conversion costs include the direct labor and overhead expenses incurred as raw materials are transformed into finished products. However, prime costs do not include overhead costs, so they are not good at calculating prices that ensure long-term profitability. It excludes all indirect expenses such as advertising and administrative costs. Prime costs are the direct costs involved in production, including raw materials and labor. By contrast, overhead costs refer to costs that are indirectly related to production, which include electricity, rent, or salaries, among others. A prime cost is the total direct costs, which may be fixed or variable, of manufacturing an item for sale.

However, in construction, the prime cost is the supply of labour, equipment and material which provide by the contractors and bare by the client. This cost will be excluded from the profit mark up by the supplier or contractor. Prime cost refers to all the expenses incurred directly in the production process, including the labor and materials. The indirect manufacturing costs (manufacturing overhead) are not part of the product’s prime cost. These employees are involved in the creation of the product and the day-to-day operation of the business. Moreover, commissions paid to salespeople who work as intermediaries between the manufacturer and the consumer also come under direct labor.


These costs are the crucial ingredient required to calculate the contribution margin, determine prices, forecast sales and profits, and make decisions. These are workers who apply their skills, during the manufacturing process, to the raw materials to convert it into finished goods. It consists of the staff that is part of the daily operations during the production of the goods. In management accounting, it is very important to identify prime cost as it helps to determine the selling price, prepare sales budget and profit to support management decisions. Prime Cost excludes the other indirect material and labor, which will consider as the overhead.

What Is the Difference Between Prime Costs and Conversion Costs?

Workers or employees directly involved in the production of a particular product. Direct laborers apply their skills during the production process to produce the finished goods. For example, sugar and strawberry pulp are direct materials used for the manufacture of strawberry jam.

Each cost object has different costs that management can use to analyze processes. The contribution margin earned is then used to set off indirect expenses. After the deduction of indirect costs, the leftover contribution margin refers to the marginal profit earned by the company that year. On the other hand, indirect costs like factory rent and supervisors’ salaries are not directly attributable to the production of finished goods and hence are not a part of prime cost. The calculation for conversion costs includes direct labor in addition to overhead expenses.

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