# 4.4: The Weighted Average Method

Skills to Develop

• Use four steps to assign costs to products using the weighted average method.

Most companies use either the weighted average or first-in-first-out (FIFO) method to assign costs to inventory in a process costing environment. The weighted average method5 includes costs in beginning inventory and current period costs to establish an average cost per unit. The first-in-first-out (FIFO)6 method keeps beginning inventory costs separate from current period costs and assumes that beginning inventory units are completed and transferred out before the units started during the current period are completed and transferred out. We focus on the weighted average approach here and leave the discussion of the FIFO method to more advanced cost accounting textbooks.

Question: The primary goal stated in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, and continued in this chapter, is to assign product costs to products. In a process costing system, cost per equivalent unit7 is the term used to describe the average unit cost for each product. How is the concept of cost per equivalent unit used to assign costs to (1) completed units transferred out and (2) units still in work-in-process (WIP) inventory at the end of the period?

Costs are assigned to completed units transferred out and units in ending WIP inventory using a four-step process. We list the four steps in the following and then explain them in detail. Review these steps carefully.

### The Four Key Steps of Assigning Costs

Recall that Desk Products, Inc., has two departments—Assembly and Finishing. Although this chapter focuses on the Assembly department, the Finishing department would also use the four steps to determine product costs for completed units transferred out and ending WIP inventory. Table 4.2 presents information for the Assembly department at Desk Products for the month of May. Review this information carefully as it will be used to illustrate the four key steps.

Table 4.2 - Production Information for Desk Products’ Assembly Department
Assembly Department—Month of May
The company had 3,000 units in beginning WIP inventory; all were completed and transferred out during May.

During May, 6,000 units were started. Of the 6,000 units started:

• 1,000 units were completed and transferred out to the Finishing department (100 percent complete with respect to direct materials, direct labor, and overhead); thus 1,000 units were started and completed during May.
• 5,000 units were partially completed and remained in ending WIP inventory on May 31 (60 percent complete for direct materials, 30 percent complete for direct labor, and 30 percent complete for overhead, which is applied based on direct labor hours).
Costs in beginning WIP inventory totaled $161,000 (=$95,000 in direct materials + $40,000 in direct labor +$26,000 in overhead).
Costs incurred during May totaled $225,000 (=$115,000 in direct materials + $70,000 in direct labor +$40,000 in overhead).

###### Step 3. Calculate the cost per equivalent unit.

Question: We now have the costs (Figure 4.5) and equivalent units (Figure 4.4) needed to determine the cost per equivalent unit for direct materials, direct labor, and overhead. How do we use this information to calculate the cost per equivalent unit?

The formula to calculate the cost per equivalent unit using the weighted average method is as follows:

$$\text{Cost per equivalent unit} = \frac{\text{Costs in beginning WIP + Current period costs}}{\text{Equivalent units completed and transferred out + Equivalent units in ending WIP}}$$

In summary, the same formula is as follows:

$$\text{Cost per equivalent unit} = \frac{\text{Total costs to be accounted for*}}{\text{Total equivalent units accounted for**}}$$

*From the bottom of Figure 4.5.

**From the bottom of Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.6 presents the cost per equivalent unit calculation for Desk Products’ Assembly department. Figure 4.6 - Calculation of the Cost per Equivalent Unit for Desk Products’ Assembly Department

a Information is from Figure 4.5.

b Information is from Figure 4.4.

The cost per equivalent unit is calculated for direct materials, direct labor, and overhead. Simply divide total costs to be accounted for by total equivalent units accounted for. It is important to note that the information shown in Figure 4.6 allows managers to carefully assess the unit cost information in the Assembly department for direct materials, direct labor, and overhead. We discuss this further later in the chapter.

###### Step 4. Use the cost per equivalent unit to assign costs to (1) completed units transferred out and (2) units in ending WIP inventory

Question: Recall our primary goal of assigning costs to completed units transferred out and to units in ending WIP inventory. How do we accomplish this goal?

Costs are assigned by multiplying the cost per equivalent unit (shown in Figure 4.6) by the number of equivalent units (shown in Figure 4.4) for direct materials, direct labor, and overhead. Figure 4.7 shows how this is done. Figure 4.7 - Assigning Costs to Products in Desk Products’ Assembly Department

a The total cost assigned to units transferred out equals the cost per equivalent unit times the number of equivalent units. For example, the cost assigned to direct materials of $120,000 = 4,000 equivalents units (Figure 4.4) ×$30 per equivalent unit (Figure 4.6).

b The total cost assigned to units in ending inventory equals the cost per equivalent unit times the number of equivalent units. For example, the cost assigned to direct materials of $90,000 = 3,000 equivalent units (Figure 4.4) ×$30 per equivalent unit (Figure 4.6).

c This must match total costs to be accounted for shown in Figure 4.5. Although not an issue in this example, rounding the cost per equivalent unit may cause minor differences between the two amounts.

Figure 4.7 shows that total costs of $248,000 are assigned to units completed and transferred out and that$138,000 in costs are assigned to ending WIP inventory.

On completion of step 4, it is important to reconcile the total costs to be accounted for shown at the bottom of Figure 4.5 with the total costs accounted for shown at the bottom of Figure 4.7. The two balances must match (note that small discrepancies may exist due to rounding the cost per equivalent unit). This reconciliation relates back to the basic cost flow equation as follows:

$$\begin{split} \text{Beginning balance + Transfers in} &= \text{Transfers out + Ending balance} \\ (BB) + (TI) &= (TO) + (EB) \\ \text{Costs to be accounted for} &\qquad \text{Costs accounted for} \\ (\ 386,000^{*}) &\qquad ((\ 386,000^{**}) \end{split}$$

*From Figure 4.5.

**From Figure 4.7.

Although the examples in this chapter have been created in a way that minimizes rounding errors, always round the cost per equivalent unit calculations in step 3 to the nearest thousandth (e.g., if the cost per equivalent unit is $2.3739, round this to$2.374 rather than to $2). Although rounding differences still may occur, this will minimize the size of rounding errors when attempting to reconcile costs to be accounted for (step 2) with costs accounted for (step 4). ### Journalizing Costs Assigned to Units Completed and Transferred Question: Once the four-step process is complete, a journal entry must be made to record the transfer of costs out of the Assembly department and into the Finishing department. How do we record the costs associated with units completed and transferred out? Answer: At Desk Products, Inc., 4,000 units were transferred from the Assembly department to the Finishing department. Costs totaling$248,000 were assigned to these units as shown in Figure 4.7. The journal entry to record this at the end of May is as follows: (Note that this was journal entry number four, presented without dollar amounts earlier in the chapter.)

Figure 4.8 shows the flow of costs through the work-in-process inventory T-account for the Assembly department. Note that four key steps were performed for the Assembly department to determine the costs assigned to (1) completed units transferred out to the Finishing department ($248,000) and (2) units in Assembly’s WIP inventory ($138,000). Both amounts are highlighted. Figure 4.8 - Flow of Costs through the Work-in-Process Inventory T-Account of Desk Products’ Assembly Department

Business in Action 4.4

###### The Production Process for Hershey’s Chocolate

Hershey Foods Corp. is best known for its chocolate products, including brands like Almond Joy, Hershey’s Kisses, and Reese’s. Hershey’s products are sold in more than 90 countries worldwide. According to Hershey, more than 80 million Kiss-shaped products are made every day! Several sequential stages of production are required to produce chocolate at Hershey:

1. Fermentation. Cocoa beans are placed in large heaps for one week to allow the cocoa flavor to develop.
2. Roasting. The cocoa beans are roasted at very high temperatures.
3. Hulling. A hulling machine separates the shell from the inside of the bean (called the nib).
4. Milling. The nibs are ground into chocolate liquor (a liquid with a pure chocolate flavor that contains no alcohol).
5. Mixing. The chocolate liquor is mixed with cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. This mixture is dried into a brown powder, called chocolate crumb, and processed into chocolate paste.
6. Molding. Machines are used to fill more than 1,000 molds per minute with chocolate. The chocolate is then chilled to form solid candy.
7. Packaging. The candy is wrapped, packaged, and ready to be shipped.

Hershey likely uses a process costing system since it produces identical units of product in batches employing a consistent process. Process costing systems require the use of work-in-process inventory accounts for each process. Thus Hershey would track production costs using separate work-in-process inventory accounts for each stage of production.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

1. Four steps are used to assign product costs to (1) completed units transferred out and (2) units in work-in-process inventory at the end of the period.
2. The four-step process must be performed for each processing department and results in a journal entry to record the costs assigned to units transferred out.

REVIEW PROBLEM 4.4

Kelley Paint Company uses the weighted average method to account for costs of production. Kelley manufactures base paint in two separate departments—Mixing and Packaging. The following information is for the Mixing department for the month of March.

• A total of 40,000 units (measured in gallons) were in beginning WIP inventory. All were completed and transferred out during March.
• A total of 70,000 units were started during March. Of the 70,000 units started,
• 20,000 units were completed and transferred out to the Packaging department (100 percent complete with respect to direct materials, direct labor, and overhead), and
• 50,000 units were partially completed and remained in ending WIP inventory on March 31 (90 percent complete for direct materials, 70 percent complete for direct labor, and 30 percent complete for overhead, which is applied based on machine hours).
• Costs in beginning WIP inventory totaled $229,000 (=$98,000 in direct materials + $41,000 in direct labor +$90,000 in overhead).
• Costs incurred during March totaled $165,000 (=$70,000 in direct materials + $35,000 in direct labor +$60,000 in overhead).

Required:

1. Use the four key steps to assign costs to units completed and transferred out and to units in ending WIP inventory for the Mixing department.
2. Prepare the journal entry necessary at the end of March to record the transfer of costs associated with units completed and transferred to the Packaging department.
1. The four steps are as follows:
###### Step 1. Summarize the physical flow of units and compute the equivalent units for direct materials, direct labor, and overhead. a 60,000 units = 40,000 from beginning WIP inventory + 20,000 started and completed in March.

b This column represents actual physical units accounted for before converting to equivalent units.

c Equivalent units = number of physical units × percentage of completion. Units completed and transferred out are 100 percent complete. Thus equivalent units are the same as the physical units.

d Equivalent units = number of physical units × percentage of completion. For direct materials, 45,000 equivalent units = 50,000 physical units × 90 percent complete; for direct labor, 35,000 equivalent units = 50,000 physical units × 70 percent complete; for overhead, 15,000 equivalent units = 50,000 physical units × 30 percent complete.

###### Step 2. Summarize the costs to be accounted for (separated into direct materials, direct labor, and overhead). e Information is given.

###### Step 3. Calculate the cost per equivalent unit. ###### Step 4. Use the cost per equivalent unit to assign costs to (1) completed units transferred out and (2) units in ending WIP inventory. f Total costs assigned to units transferred out equals the cost per equivalent unit times the number of equivalent units. For example, costs assigned for direct materials of $96,000 = 60,000 equivalents units (from step 1) ×$1.60 per equivalent unit (from step 3).

g Total costs assigned to ending WIP inventory equals the cost per equivalent unit times the number of equivalent units. For example, costs assigned for direct materials of $72,000 = 45,000 equivalent units (from step 1) ×$1.60 per equivalent unit (from step 3).

h This must match total costs to be accounted for in step 2, as shown in the following: $$\begin{split} \text{Beginning balance + Transfers in} &= \text{Transfers out + Ending balance} \\ (BB) + (TI) &= (TO) + (EB) \\ \text{Costs to be accounted for} &\qquad \text{Costs accounted for} \\ \text{(\ 394,000 from step 2)} &\qquad \text{(\ 394,000 from step 4)} \end{split}$$

1. As shown in step 4, \$264,000 in total costs are assigned to units completed and transferred out. The entry to record this is as follows: ### Definitions

1. A method of process costing that includes costs in beginning inventory and current period costs to establish an average cost per unit.
2. A method of accounting for product costs that assumes that the first units completed within a processing department are the first units transferred out; beginning inventory costs are maintained separately from current period costs.
3. The average unit cost for each product.
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