Cost of Production: The Ultimate Guide

How do you know if a production order made a worthwhile profit? You do this by calculating the cost of production, but what does that mean? 

Cost of production is the total cost incurred by a business to either produce a product or offer their services. Production costs typically include supplies and raw materials that are consumed during production, along with labor expenses.

What’s the best way to track and manage your production costs? By using the best manufacturing software on the market!

Related: Mastering the Production Schedule

Types of Production Costs

When manufacturing a product or offering a specific service, a business can incur multiple types of expenses. Let’s take a look at the most common types of costs of production:

Variable Costs

Variable costs are expenses that change with production volume; these costs rise when production increases and fall when it decreases. With a production volume of zero, there are no variable costs associated with it. Variable costs include things like utilities, direct labor, raw materials, and commissions.

Fixed Costs

Unlike variable costs, fixed costs do not fluctuate with production volume; these costs remain the same whether there is zero production or running at full capacity. Fixed costs are generally considered time-limited, meaning that they are fixed to output for a specific period; most production costs vary from period to period. Employee salary, rent, and leased equipment are some examples of fixed costs of production.

Total Cost

The total production cost considers both variable and fixed expenses; all costs incurred during the production of a product or the offering of services are included in this calculation. Total cost is the sum of fixed and variable expenses; if a business’s fixed costs are $2,000, and the variable costs are $5,000, the total production cost would be $7,000.

Marginal Cost

Marginal cost determines how much it would take to produce one additional product unit, showing the total cost increase from that extra product. Variable expenses mainly affect the marginal cost, as fixed costs do not change with the level of output. Marginal costs are typically used to decide where resources should be allocated to optimize the profits of production. Marginal costs will vary with production volume and are affected by things like price discrimination, asymmetrical information, transaction costs, and externalities.

Average Cost

The average cost is essentially the expenses that occur from producing one unit or offering one service; this can be found in two ways: by dividing the total production costs by the amount of product created or by adding together the average variable and fixed costs. Average expenses are crucial when it comes to making decisions on how to price a product or service. Ideally, average costs should be minimized to increase the profit margin without increased expenses.

The Relationship Between Marginal and Average Cost

Marginal and average costs impact each other as production fluctuates:

  • A decline in average expenses causes the marginal cost to be lower than the average.
  • An increase in average costs causes the marginal cost to be greater than the average.
  • When the average cost is at a minimum or maximum level, marginal costs equal the average.

Long-Run Costs

Long-run costs accumulate when a business changes production levels in response to their expected profits or losses. Long-run expenses do not include any fixed production factors; labor, land, and goods all vary to reach these costs of offering a good or service.  A long-run cost is efficiently sustained when a business produces the highest quantity of products and the lowest expense. Things like decreasing or expanding the company, changing the production quantity, and leaving or entering a new market all affect these costs.

Short-Run Costs

Short-run costs can be seen in real-time through the production process. The only things that impact these costs are variable expenses and revenue. Short-run costs increase and decrease with varying costs and the production rate. Managing short-run expenses is one of the best ways to succeed in reaching excellent long-run costs and a company’s overall goals.

Related: Plan and Schedule Your Production

Returns to Scale

Returns to scale show how the increase in production relates to the rise of inputs and varies between industries. Typically, a business will have increasing returns to scale at low production levels, decreased returns to scale at high production levels, and a constant somewhere in the middle. There are three stages of returns to scale:


Increasing returns to scale is the first stage and refers to when a production process increases the output of products while decreasing the average cost per unit. An example of this is when you can make a higher profit by producing more goods because you can obtain a higher quantity of materials at a lower price.


Constant returns to scale is the second stage and happens when there is no change in average cost while producing more units. If the output changes proportionally with the inputs, that means there are constant returns to scale.


Diminishing returns to scale is the third and final stage, referring to when the average cost of production increases with the volume of units produced; this is the exact opposite of increasing returns to scale. It can occur when the prices of raw materials rise over time without charging a larger amount per unit.

Measuring Production Costs

Measuring the production cost can be more challenging than it looks on the surface; how do you know what the costs are and how to maximize your profit? These are questions that people in every business ask regularly. Measuring production costs entails monetizing production times and the consumption of raw materials. How do you value the time and costs of workers, machines, and raw materials? Prodsmart makes measuring production costs simple.

Related: Streamline Manufacturing Operations

How To Calculate Cost of Production

To calculate production costs in the most straightforward way possible, you need to know two things: the fixed and variable costs associated with the production or service. By adding these to costs together and dividing by the number of units produced, you get the average cost per unit. The only way to profit from a good or service is to have a higher selling price than the production cost per unit.

How do you optimize your cost of production? With Prodsmart!