Cost Accountant and Cost Accounting

Goldratt once argued that cost accounting was the number one enemy of productivity (Goldratt: 1983). He later softened that stand and said cost rather than accounting was the culprit (Jayson, 1987, p. 18). Nevertheless, Goldratt maintains that the cost measurements in use today are sending the wrong signals to managers, who are trying to control inventories, operating expenses, and throughput (Cheatham, 1993).Siegel and Shim (1995) note that cost accountants use a system of recording and reporting measurements of the cost of manufacturing goods and performing services in the aggregate as well as in detail.

Cost accountants employ methods for reorganizing, classifying, allocating, aggregating, and reporting actual costs and comparing these with standard costs."Determination of unit cost to make a product or render a service is needed to establish a selling price or fee to be charged.Also, costs for manufacturing a product for inventory valuation need to be known to prepare the balance sheet and income statement.Cost accounting systems include job order, process, standard and direct costing" (Siegel & Shim, 1995, p. 352).Cost centers are the basis for cost accounting, and are identifiable organizational units through which activities are performed (Horan, 1997).

In her essay, "Updating Standard Cost Systems" (1993), Carole B. Cheatham reports that the 1980s witnessed many changes in manufacturing processes, with the most apparent probably being more automation -- computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), robotics, and more sophisticated equipment of every type. Other changes included an increased emphasis on quality and continuous improvement and use of just-in-time inventory systems and work-cell factory arrangements. However, as the workplace was altered, cost accounting procedures became outdated. "Accounting is, after all, a financial model of business" (Cheatham, 1993, p. 1).

When such changes occur in the business, accounting must change to reflect them. Unfortunately, many accounting systems have yet to catch up with the manufacturing procedures that were introduced in the last decades of the 20th century.Managers of companies that fail to make appropriate modifications in their accounting systems will ultimately discover they have inaccurate product cost figures and lack data for making decisions; moreover, they may lose their competitive edge because they do not have the necessary information for operating in the new manufacturing environment. Whatever the challenges in manufacturing and the service sector, it is clear that managers need relevant, accurate, and complete cost information. Without such timely information, they will be unable to make the important decisions they face.