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Costs of Production

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Economics

What are the costs of production of a firm and why are they so important? Take, for example, a keyboard manufacturing company. To produce their keyboards, this company would consider the prices of materials such as paint, metal, and electronic parts. It would also have to consider the necessary labour and the supply chain distribution to produce these keyboards. All of these are the costs of production of the keyboards. If there was an increase in the electronic parts prices, the company would have to increase the price of the keyboards to achieve the appropriate margin and maintain the same level of profit. That is why knowing their productions costs as well as the difference between fixed costs, variable costs, average costs, and total costs is fundamental for any firm.

Costs of production: overview

The resources that a company uses to produce its goods and services are also known as the factors of production. The factors of production span land, labour, capital, and technology. There are various types of production processes that employ these factors of production. The production processes can be both short-run and long-run. A firm incurs costs by employing these factors of production.

The costs of production are the costs that a company incurs when it produces goods or services, sells those goods or services, and delivers them to its customers.

What is short-run production?

Short-run production in microeconomic theory is when at least one of the factors of production (land, labour, capital, or technology) is fixed and can’t be changed.

The company can produce more output in the short run by adding more variable factors to the fixed factors of production.

Consider a hockey stick manufacturer. They require materials such as lumber, labour, machinery, and a factory. If the demand for hockey sticks increased, the company would start producing more hockey sticks to meet the demand.

They would order the necessary raw materials (lumber, for example) with little delay thus increasing their stock of those materials. In addition, the company would require a larger workforce. To guarantee a larger workforce, the company could hire more workers or give extra shifts and night shifts to its current workers.

In this case, both of these factors (the raw materials and the labour force) would be considered variable inputs.

On the other hand, an additional factory can’t be a variable input. A new factory would be a fixed input, as the company wouldn’t be able to build a new one in a short time. Furthermore, machinery could also be a fixed input since producing it and installing it might take the firm a long time.

What is long-run production?

Long-run production in microeconomic theory is the period where the scale of all factors of production is variable and can be changed.

In the long run, the company can benefit from economies of scale as the scale and capacity of production can increase. For example, a company can increase the quantity of its labour force while simultaneously increasing the quantity of capital.

In the hockey stick manufacturer example, all the inputs (lumber, labour, machinery, and the factory) are variable in the long run.

This means that the firm could change all of them so that it wouldn’t have fixed factors that prevented an increase in production output.

In the hockey stick industry, it means that existing firms are not constrained and can change the size of the company and the number of factories they own.

Types of production costs

There are many types of production costs, which we will study below.

Fixed costs

Fixed costs are the costs that don’t change when production output changes.

A company has to pay fixed costs whether the output level increases or decreases. Fixed costs are also costs that a company incurs when the output level is zero. The higher the fixed costs are in a company, the higher the output must be for the business to break even.

Capital can be a fixed factor of production that can make a company incur consistent amounts of fixed costs in the short run.

Other examples of fixed costs include:

1. Maintenance costs of a factory or an office building.

2. Rent.

3. Interest on loans.

4. Advertising.

5. Business rates.

Variable costs

Variable costs are the costs that change when production output changes.

Variable costs relate directly to the production or sale of a product. The marginal cost of an extra output unit determines the variable cost as more variable inputs are integrated into production. If a company increases its output in the short run, its total variable costs will rise.

If a firm increases the production of its products, which it also needs to package, its variable costs will rise. This is because the firm will require a higher amount of packaging for the increased production output.

Other examples of variable costs include:

1. Wages.

2. Basic raw materials (such as wood, metal, iron.)

3. Energy costs.

4. Fuel costs.

5. Packaging costs.

Total costs

Total cost is the aggregate cost incurred by a company of producing a given output level.

When a company produces more and increasess its output, the company’s total cost of production will increase.

A company’s total costs are made up of the fixed costs and variable costs added together as shown in this formula:

Costs of production example

Consider this simple table to understand a basic costs overview and their calculation process.

Output

Fixed costs

Variable costs

Total costs

Units

$

$

$

50

10,000

15,000

25,000

100

10,000

20,000

30,000

150

10,000

25,000

35,000

200

10,000

30,000

40,000

250

10,000

35,000

45,000

Table 1. Total costs calculation - StudySmarter.

In Table 1 you can see we have a certain set of units labeled as ‘Output’ as well as fixed costs and variable costs in ‘$.’

As we now know, the fixed costs remain constant. Hence, for every unit produced the fixed costs are $10,000.

As we said before, the variable costs change for every unit of output produced.

To calculate the total costs of production we can follow the formula that we discussed above. We simply add the fixed and variable costs. The sum of each total for every unit produced is illustrated in the fourth column.

Average cost of production

We calculate the average cost of production (also known as the unit cost) by dividing the firm’s total cost of production by the quantity of output it produced.

Let’s calculate the average costs with an example from Table 2 below. Consider the following units:

Output

Fixed costs

Variable costs

Total costs

Average cost

Units

$

$

$

$

50

10,000

15,000

25,000

500

100

10,000

20,000

30,000

300

150

10,000

25,000

35,000

233

200

10,000

30,000

40,000

200

250

10,000

35,000

45,000

180

Table 2. Average costs calculation - StudySmarter.

We can also illustrate the average costs for each output level on an average total cost curve as in the figure below.

Costs of production Average cost curve StudySmarterFigure 1. Average cost curve - StudySmarter Originals.

In Figure 1 the cost of production is depicted on the y axis and the level of produced output is depicted on the x axis.

We can conclude that when initially the company’s costs of production (C) fall, the number of units of output produced (Q) increases. When the company produces at Q1, the average output cost is at C1. However, if for some reason the company increases its output from Q1 to Q2, we can see that the average cost per unit falls from C1 to C2. For higher output levels, the average costs the company incurs usually rise. You can see that when output increases from Q2 to Q3 and the average cost rises from C2 to C3.

In microeconomic theory, the average total cost curves in the short run are U-shaped. They initially show unit costs falling and then rising as output increases.

At low output levels, the average costs are high because there are more average fixed and variable costs. As the output level increases, the average costs fall due to the combined effect of declining average fixed and variable costs resulting from the internal economies of scale. However, as the output level continues to increase and the average cost continues to decline it eventually reaches a minimum.

This minimum point is the average-cost-minimising output level and the productively efficient output level or the optimum output level a firm can produce at the given cost. On the graph above, it is the lowest point of the average cost curve, at the intersection of C2 and Q2.

Once a firm reaches the optimum level and continues to produce more output, the average costs will start rising again. This can happen if the company decides to increase the quantities of variable factors such as machinery. This would lead to diseconomies of scale in production and diminishing returns causing the average costs to rise rapidly.

We can divide average production costs or average total costs into average fixed costs and average variable costs.

Average fixed costs curve

The average fixed cost curve is a negatively sloped curve that illustrates the relationship between the average fixed cost incurred by a company when producing goods and services of a certain output level in the short run. The curve shows the relation between the average fixed cost and the output level while keeping other variables like technology or capital constant.

We can illustrate the average fixed costs for each output level on an average fixed cost curve as in the figure below.

Costs of production Average fixed cost curve StudySmarterFigure 2. Average fixed cost curve - StudySmarter Originals.


As you can see in Figure 2, the average fixed cost is relatively high at C1 and a low output level at Q1. However, as the production of output of the company starts to increase from Q1 to Q2, the average cost gradually declines from C1 to C2. This is because the fixed costs are spread over an increasingly larger quantity of output.


Average variable costs curve

The average variable cost curve is a U-shaped curve that illustrates the relationship between the average variable cost incurred by a firm producing goods and services at a certain output level in the short run.

Figure 3 below shows a firm’s variable cost curve of the production of labour factor.

Costs of production Average variable cost curve StudySmarterFigure 3. Average variable cost curve - StudySmarter Originals.

As you can see in Figure 3, labour becomes more productive as more workers are employed. Labour reaches its highest productivity, thereby minimising the average costs for the firm, at cost C and output level Q. However, if employment within the firm increased further, labour would eventually become less productive and the average cost would start rising again.


Average total costs curve

The average total cost curve illustrates the relationship between the average total cost incurred by a firm producing goods and services at a certain output level in the short run. The curve shows us the relation between the average total cost and output level while keeping production factors like technology and labour constant.

The average total cost curve is U-shaped and is usually illustrated alongside the average fixed cost curve and average variable cost curve.

Figure 4 below depicts the three curves alongside each other.

Costs of production The average total cost curve StudySmarterFigure 4. The average total cost curve - StudySmarter Originals.

We obtain the average total cost curve by adding together the average fixed cost and the average variable cost at each output level.

These are the formulae:


Or

The average total cost is high for small quantities of output, but as production increases, the average total cost starts to decline until it reaches a minimum value and then starts rising again.

The U-shape of the average total cost curve is a result of the underlying averages of both the average fixed and average variable costs. At low levels of output, both average fixed cost and average variable cost curves decline, which causes the average total cost curve to decline as well.

However, due to the law of diminishing marginal returns, the average variable cost curve eventually starts rising, outweighing the continued decline of the average fixed cost. This causes the average total cost to rise as well.

Long-run average costs

In the long run, the firm can change the size and scale of the factors of production it utilises. It can add or even subtract the assets such as factories or machinery to its production factors. In the long run, the costs are illustrated in the long-run average cost curve.

Figure 5 below depicts a long-run average cost curve:

The long-run average cost is essentially the long-run cost divided by the output level. The curve is U-shaped because the long-run average costs initially fall due to economies of scale as the firm expands its operations. Economies of scale is a phenomenon that occurs when a firm’s output increases whilst its long-run average costs decrease.

However, after the firm hits a certain point in its production process (illustrated at the intersection of C and Q in Figure 5 above), it starts experiencing diseconomies of scale. Diseconomies of scale is a phenomenon that occurs when a firm’s output increases whilst its long run average costs increase.

How can a firm reduce its costs of production?

There are several ways in which a firm can reduce its costs of production.

One way to reduce the costs of production would be to reduce direct costs as they make up a large portion of the total manufacturing costs. One technique is to use quotations from as many suppliers as possible. Another technique would be to offer cash payments in return for a cash discount. Many suppliers may be willing to trade off the discount for immediate payment.

A second way to decrease production costs would be to increase employees’ efficiency. A firm can do this by offering efficient training programs and by helping labour utilise cost-reducing techniques. It can also offer incentives to workers, such as a pay rise or a bonus premium.

Finally, tasks should be handed out to those that are specialised. In other words, if there is someone specialised in one field, the worker should be allocated to working in that particular field.

Costs of production - Key takeaways

  • The costs of production are the costs that a company incurs when it produces goods or services, sells those goods or services, and delivers them to its customers.

  • Fixed costs are the costs that don’t change when production output changes.

  • Variable costs are the costs that change when production output changes.

  • The total cost is the aggregate cost incurred by a company of producing a given output level. We calculate it by adding the fixed costs and variable costs.

  • We calculate the average cost, or unit cost, by dividing the firm’s total cost of production by the quantity of output produced.

  • We can divide average costs of production or average total costs into average fixed costs and average variable costs.

  • The average fixed cost curve is a negatively sloped curve that illustrates the relationship between the average fixed cost incurred by a company when producing goods and services of a certain output level in the short run.

  • The average variable cost curve is a U-shaped curve that illustrates the relationship between the average variable cost incurred by a firm producing goods and services at a certain output level in the short run.

  • The average total cost curve illustrates the relationship between the average total cost incurred by a firm producing goods and services at a certain output level in the short run.

  • The long run average cost is essentially the long run cost divided by the ooutput level. The curve is U-shaped due to economies and diseconomies of scale.

Costs of Production

Some examples of production costs are labour costs, raw material costs, capital goods (such as machinery or technology) costs.

The costs of production are the costs that a company incurs when it is going through the process of producing goods or services, selling those goods or services, and delivering them to its customers.

The unit cost of production is the total expenditure incurred by a company to produce, store, and sell one unit of a particular product.

It helps firms estimate the revenues, profits, and losses that it has made. It also enables businesses to set the right prices for the products they sell.

Final Costs of Production Quiz

Question

What are some examples of fixed costs?

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Answer

Some examples of fixed costs include the maintenance costs of an office building, rent, salaries, interest on loans, advertising, and business rates.

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Question

What are some examples of variable costs?

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Answer

 Some examples of variable costs include wage costs, basic raw materials (wood, metal, iron), energy costs, fuel costs, and packaging costs.

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Question

What are total costs?

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Answer

The total costs (TC) of a company are the fixed costs (FC) and variable costs (VC) added together.

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Question

What are average costs?


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Answer

The average cost (AC) or unit cost is calculated by dividing the firm’s total cost of production by the quantity (Q) of output produced.

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Question

What is economies of scale?

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Answer

As a firm’s output increases, its long-run average costs decrease.

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Question

What is diseconomies of scale?

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Answer

As the output of a firm increases, the long run average costs increase. 

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Question

What is short-run production?

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Answer

Short-run production in the microeconomic theory is the period where at least one of the factors of production (land, labour, capital, and technology) is fixed and cannot be changed.

Show question

Question

What is long-run production?

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Answer

Long-run production in the microeconomic theory is the period where the scale of all factors of production is variable and can be changed.

Show question

Question

What are the types of production costs?

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Answer

  • Fixed costs 
  • Variable costs
  • Total costs
  • Average cost
  • Long-run average cost 
  • Average fixed costs
  • Average variable costs
  • Average total costs

Show question

Question

What are fixed costs?

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Answer

Fixed costs are the costs that do not change when production output changes.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of fixed costs?

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Answer

1. Maintenance costs of a factory or an office building.

2. Rent.

3. Interest on loans.

4. Advertising.

5. Business rates.

Show question

Question

What are variable costs?

Show answer

Answer

Variable costs are the costs that change when production output changes. 

Show question

Question

What are examples of variable costs?

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Answer

1. Wages.

2. Basic raw materials (such as wood, metal, iron.)

3. Energy costs.

4. Fuel costs.

5. packaging costs

Show question

Question

What is the total cost?

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Answer

Total cost is the aggregate cost incurred by a company of producing a given level of output.

Show question

Question

How can you reduce the costs of production?

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Answer

  1. Increase employees’ efficiency with training programs.
  2. Assign tasks to employees who are specialised to these particular tasks and fields.
  3. Reduce direct costs by utilising quotations from suppliers or offering cash payments to suppliers.

Show question

Question

Define cost of production.

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Answer

The costs of production are the costs that a company incurs when it produces goods or services, sells those goods or services, and delivers them to its customers. 

Show question

Question

_______ production in microeconomic theory is when at least one of the factors of production is fixed.

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Answer

Short-run

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Question

Long-run production in microeconomic theory is the period where the scale of all factors of production is ________.

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Answer

variable

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Question

Choose the fixed costs.

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Answer

Rent

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Question

Select examples of variable costs.

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Answer

Wages 

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Question

If a company increases its output in the short run, its total variable costs will rise. 

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Answer

True

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Question

The aggregate cost incurred by a company of producing a given output level is the _______.

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Answer

total cost

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Question

Output

Fixed costs

Variable costs

Total costs

Average cost

Units

$

$

$

$

 __

10,000

15,000 

 _____

500

100

10,000

 _____

30,000

 ___

150

 _____

25,000

35,000

 ___

Show answer

Answer

Output

Fixed costs

Variable costs

Total costs

Average cost

Units

$

$

$

$

50

10,000

15,000 

25,000

500

100

10,000

20,000

30,000

300

150

10,000

25,000

35,000

233

Show question

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