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Short-Term Profit Planning in an International Setting Essay

Short-Term Profit Planning in an International Setting Gus Gordon University of Texas at Tyler David E. Stout Youngstown State University Sarah Hartzog, Student Former Student, Milsaps College Matt Lusty, Student Former Student, University of Texas at Tyler In addition to SEWMEX, SEW has several other factories located in the southeastern part of the U.S. One of the factories (located in southeastern Mississippi) also serves as a distribution center and central warehouse where finished goods from all the other factories are stored and ultimately shipped. From this distribution center, SEW supplies customers in all 50 states and Canada. The controller of SEW recently resigned unexpectedly after a disagreement with the president of the company. After his departure, many of his calculations concerning SEWMEX mysteriously disappeared. Given the cost of labor in the U.S. factories, the president of SEW would like to send as much future production to SEWMEX as possible.

The SEWMEX operation is relatively new, however, and not yet profitable. Therefore, both SEW and SEWMEX could benefit from profit-planning exercises. As a start, the president would like for you, in your capacity as assistant controller, to develop a cost-volume-profit (CVP) model for the SEWMEX facility, which model could be used to address a number of short-term profit-planning issues. In particular, the president would like to get a better handle on exactly what volume of output would be needed to make SEWMEX profitable in the short run (given the present mix of garments produced) and what strategies might be pursued longer term to improve operations and therefore profitability. The president also wonders how, if at all, the issue of foreign 1

Jay Nelson, Student Former Student, University of Texas at Tyler

INTRODUCTION
SEWMEX is a newly formed sewing factory located in Mexico. SEWMEX, owned by an American company, is incorporated in Mexico as a Mexican company, and is enrolled in the maquiladora program1 in Mexico. By contract, the American
parent company, SEW Inc. (henceforth referred to as SEW), purchases all of SEWMEX’s output. SEW provides all raw materials to SEWMEX. These transactions occur under the maquiladora system and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules so that no import or export duties are required on these transfers. Because of this, the maquiladora is responsible only for assembling the raw materials into finished products and then shipping the completed products back to SEW in the U.S. As a result, SEWMEX has no raw materials cost. To be able to meet rush orders without waiting for materials to be imported, however, SEWMEX does maintain a small inventory of finished product. 1

Maquiladora is the name for a Mexican factory whose primary purpose is to assemble raw materials into a final product and then export that final product to the country of origin (e.g., the U.S.). The maquiladora (or maquila) is not the owner of record of the raw materials or any inventory, as the raw materials are imported temporarily under bond and must, by law, be used to assemble a final product and then be exported back to the owner of record, in this case SEW. IM A ED U C ATIO NA L C A S E JOURNAL

exchange rates might complicate the profit-planning process. Therefore, he has charged you with the responsibility of developing the CVP model for SEWMEX, while he looks for a new controller. As someone interested in making a positive impression on the president, you are eager to accept this assignment.

Table 1 SEWMEX—Average Contracted Sales Prices per Garment, by product line Product Line Average Selling Price per Unit

FACTS
When you were hired by SEW, the controller of the company explained that in the sewing industry it is normal to cost and price garments on the basis of what is called “standard allowed minutes” (SAMs) associated with the production of each garment.2 In fact, in the sewing industry, production is often measured in these terms rather than in units of finished product. The controller had explained to you that SAMs are based on production engineers’
estimates of time needed to perform each sewing operation and therefore the total time required to complete a particular style garment. The estimates are derived from time-and-motion (i.e., industrial engineering) studies and take into account a number of variables, including the speed of each type of sewing machine required for a specific operation, the education/training of each operator, and existing technology used by the assembly workers at SEWMEX.

Pants Shirts Jackets Other

$ 7.00 $ 6.00 $25.00 $ 3.00

(Notes: The contract between SEW and SEWMEX explicitly states that SEW will pay SEWMEX in U.S. dollars, USD. Also, the above selling prices per unit represent averages within each product line, given an assumed mix of garments within each line.)

BUDGETED SELLING PRICES In preparing you for this project, the president of SEW provided you with the per-unit selling price data presented in Table 1.3 The prices listed in Table 1 are expressed in U.S. dollars (USD) and are based on SEW’s transfer price4 determination for each garment and an initial sales mix of products obtained from the company’s marketing department. On the basis of discussions with the company’s audit firm, the selling prices represented in Table 1 were deemed acceptable for U.S. income tax purposes. Further, these prices are assumed to be valid within the shortterm planning horizon associated with the construction of the CVP model you’ve been asked to develop. 2

BUDGETED PRODUCTION/SALES MIX Information about planned production/sales levels on a monthly basis for SEWMEX, by product line, is given in Table 2.5 This information was provided to you by the president of SEW. The SAM values reported in Table 2 represent the average number of standard minutes needed to make each type garment. As noted above, these estimates are based on the existing technology used in the manufacturing process as well as the current skill levels for assembly personnel. As can be seen from Table 2, total
productive output, expressed on a monthly basis and in terms of SAMs, is currently planned at 2,500,000 minutes. Because SAMs are interpreted as standard labor times for the various garments manufactured, they reflect a particular level of efficiency on the part of assembly personnel at the SEWMEX plant.6 Table 2 Current monthly production plan for SEWMEX (expressed in minutes [SAMs]), by product line and in total Average SAM per Unit of Product (in minutes) Monthly Planned Production Level (in minutes [SAMs])

SAMs are the equivalent of standard labor times used to charge direct labor cost to work-in-process (WIP) inventory (and finished goods inventory) and to calculate direct labor variances under a standard cost system. As explained later, the prices listed in Table 1 are average prices of garments within each product line, based on an assumed mix of different styles and options within each of the four product lines. A “transfer price” is the amount assigned to interdivisional transfers of goods or services within a corporation. Such prices represent “sales revenue” to the selling division and “costs” to the purchasing division. As such, they can be used to evaluate the financial performance (e.g., ROI) of both divisions. When consolidated financial statements are prepared, as in the case here with SEWMEX and SEW, the effect of any intra-company transactions are eliminated so that the amount of profit reported reflects transactions with external parties only. IM A ED U C ATIO NA L C A S E JOURNAL

Product Line

Pants Shirts Jackets Other TOTAL

50 40 90 20

1,200,000 1,000,000 200,000 100,000 2,500,000

The sales mix reflected in Table 2 is judged by the president of SEW to be relatively stable in the near term and therefore suitable for use in constructing a CVP model for SEWMEX.

VOL. 5, N O. 1, ART. 1, MARCH 2012

SOME SIMPLIFYING ASSUMPTIONS In your discussions with the president, he emphasized to you the point that the per-unit sales prices (Table 1) and average per-unit-of-output SAMs (Table 2) represent broad averages within each product line. In actuality, there are more than 200 different styles of pants, over 200 different styles of shirts, more than 50 different styles of jackets, and about 50 different styles in SEW’s other product line. For example, as reported in Table 2, the SAM for the average pair of pants is 50 minutes. Based on engineering estimates, however, the SAM for a particular style of pants within this product line would likely be different from 50 minutes.

Thus, the average figures reported in Tables 1 and 2 are to be interpreted as weighted averages within each product line, where the weights in determining the average are based on an assumed mix of styles. For example, in the pants product line, it is assumed that a certain percentage of output would be style #1, a certain percentage would be style #2, etc. Further, the planned production levels reflected in Table 2 (i.e., allocation of 2,500,000 SAMs, per month, across product lines) are themselves reflective of an assumed production/sales mix across product lines. Your initial reaction to the information presented in Tables 1 and 2 is twofold: (1) the profit-planning context you were charged with modeling is certainly a lot more complex than the more straightforward problems you addressed in the classroom, and (2) in the present case there seems to be an almost bewildering array of combinations of products/outputs.

After all, a standard sales mix is assumed both within and across product lines. You are unsure, therefore, whether the problem at hand is at all tractable. You were relieved, however, that in further conversations with the president of SEWthe two of you came to an agreement that you could assume for the foreseeable future that the mix reflected in Tables 1 and 2 would likely be stable and therefore appropriate to use in the short-term profit-planning (i.e., CVP) model you would be building. Thus, you can assume that the data presented in Tables 1 and 2 are valid for constructing your initial CVP model for SEWMEX.

FACTORY CONFIGURATIONS As indicated in Figure 1, SEW has a six factories, five in the U.S. and one in Mexico (SEWMEX). SEW has principally followed a model of specialization. Four of the five U.S. factories produce only a single product line: two of the factories produce pants, two others produce shirts, while the fifth U.S. factory produces jackets. The fourth product line (dubbed “other”) consists of garments that are not precisely jackets but are similar in design to jackets; these garments are produced in the jackets factory. By contrast, SEWMEX produces all four product lines and therefore can be distinguished from the other five factories in the SEW family. Figure 1 Geographic Plant Locations—U.S. and Mexico

SEW’s experience with its specialization model has shown that a workforce of more than approximately 125 people in the factory creates diseconomies of scale and that fewer than 125 does not allow for optimum efficiency. SEWMEX, however, embraces a different operating model–it is a large factory producing all products in the same facility. Due to cultural differences and the non-specialized approach to be followed at SEWMEX, the president of SEW is uncertain how this operating model will affect assembly labor productivity and therefore profitability of the SEWMEX factory.

6

In the context of the SEWMEX, “efficiency” can be interpreted as the number of SAMs (output) produced per month expressed as a percentage of the total time worked. Thus, increased efficiency would be reflected by output per month (measured in SAMs) greater than the total SAMs reflected in Table 2.

THE STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF EFFICIENCY TO THE FINANCIAL SUCCESS OF SEWMEX You
have come to realize that given the nature of the company’s products and the associated production process, labor efficiency is the key to profitability. After all, efficiency is really another measure of throughput: the greater the 3

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throughput, the greater the volume of output for a given amount of labor, all things equal. You realize, then, that efficiency in the manufacturing process is important to understand in developing a short-term profit-planning model for SEWMEX. If the assembly workers in any given month produce according to the planned SAMs reflected in Table 2, we could say that they are working at planned, or expected, efficiency. In any given month, if more SAMs are produced than what was planned (assuming the same number of assembly workers employed during the month), then efficiency would be higher than what was planned (and viceversa).

Higher labor efficiency (productivity) should translate to greater operating income/profit. Based upon prior experience in reviewing the production reports of each factory in the SEW family, you know that the five U.S. factories average about 85% efficiency. Assuming a 40-hour work week in the U.S., an operator at 100% (i.e., “standard”) efficiency would be capable of producing output represented as 2,400 (i.e., 40 hours/week × 60 minutes/hour) SAMs for the week.7 That means, on average, that each SEW operator in the U.S. is generating output per week of approximately 2,040 SAMs (i.e., 2,400 × 0.85).

The more you thought about this idea of efficiencies and related output, the more you realized that you could actually compute the planned efficiency for the SEWMEX plant for a given time period (such as a month), similar to the U.S. calculation presented above. The SAMs reported in Table 2 represent a planned level of total output and planned product mix for a typical month. As part of SEWMEX’s management information system, each machine operator turns in, at the end of the day, a form that has a bar code for each operation performed during the day by that operator. As well, the bar code identifies the product line (or lines) worked on during the day by theworker.

In short, these forms contain data on output, SAMs, product line, production order, and so forth. At the end of the day, the bar codes are read by optical readers; efficiency levels for operators, product lines, and the plant as a whole are determined using information obtained in this manner.

SAM values for their operations are considered direct labor and that both he and the former controller had felt that to meet the planned production levels for SEWMEX (Table 2), about 400 machine operators would be required. The data in Table 3 are based on total employment of 500 workers, including 400 machine operators.8

LABOR PRODUCTIVITY/EFFICIENCY In Mexico, the allowable work week before paying overtime is 48 hours. Further, in conversations with the president you know that, due to the learning curve and other variables, SEWMEX would likely begin at the average level of assembly labor productivity that the U.S. plants enjoy. Thus, for initial planning purposes regarding the SEWMEX plant, you and the president agreed to use 500 minutes per worker per day as the basis for calculating assembly labor efficiency (productivity).9 Further, you are to assume that 48 hours will be worked by each operator (Monday – Friday) without incurring overtime.

You realize that this is not exactly accurate as each work-day in Mexico actually has 576 minutes (i.e., 48 hours/week ÷ 5 days/ week × 60 minutes/hour) available per week. Furthermore, you agreed with the president that in order to simplify planning, a 20-work-day month would be used and that no overtime would be budgeted. At the current exchange rate, the president reminded you that labor costs for sewing operators are currently 14.00 USD per day, including payroll taxes and other legally required benefits. Therefore, the cost for an operator who works a complete week without overtime is 70 (5 × $14.00) USD equivalent for the week. THE NATURE OF LABOR COSTS: U.S. VS. MEXICO You then discussed with the president an important distinction between U.S. and Mexican labor laws. The two of you discussed the fact that in the sewing industry there are sometimes periods of low demand followed by periods of high demand. SEW has solved this problem in its U.S. factories by (temporarily) laying off production workers when 8

COST DATA FOR SEWMEX The president provided you with total monthly estimated cost data (Table 3), which were salvaged from the president’s last meeting with the former controller of SEW. The president reminded you that only assembly labor that has

Since SEWMEX manufactures all product lines within one facility (in contrast to SEW’s model of specialization), SEWMEX employs more people than SEW believes is optimal for its specialization model followed in the U.S. For example, assume that an assembly worker puts in 500 minutes in a day. To assess the level of this worker’s productivity (efficiency), we need to know how much output (expressed in SAMs) this worker produced. If the output of the worker for the day (measured in SAMs) was 500, then that individual is said to have been working at 100% efficiency. If the worker produced output for which the SAMs exceeded 500, then the worker was working above 100% efficiency. Recall that the U.S. plants for SEW average 85% efficiency. VOL. 5, N O. 1, ART. 1, MARCH 2012

This output level is, by definition, independent of product mix. See also the section titled “The Nature of Labor Costs: The U.S. vs. Mexico” later in the case. IM A ED U C ATIO NA L C A S E JOURNAL

Table 3 Monthly Budgeted Costs, in Pesos, at SEWMEX–Planned Production Levels (per Table 2) (assumed exchange rate, Pesos: USD = 13:1) Cost Description by Department Cutting and Bundling: Amount (in Pesos)

Indirect Labor Supplies
Production:

255,000 50,000 1,200,000 300,000 500,000 125,000 5,000 200,000 160,000 60,000 50,000 40,000 40,000 10,000 750,000 250,000 100,000 40,000 5,000 4,140,000

Direct Labor Indirect Labor Supplies
Quality:

Labor Supplies
Maintenance:

Labor Parts
Shipping:

Labor Other* Additional Customs Fees^
Human Resources:

Labor Other*
Administration:

General* Utilities Other
Miscellaneous:

Labor Other* TOTAL

as severance if an employee is terminated, even if there are plans to hire the employee back in the near future.10 You were not sure what, if any, implications the difference in labor laws and company policy would have on CVP relationships for SEWMEX (specifically, the mix between variable and short-term fixed costs), but you had a gnawing feeling that it could. In discussing the effect of this law with you, the president noted that it would be in SEWMEX’s best interests to adopt a policy of not terminating employees in times of low demand. This would save the severance pay as well as create greater worker loyalty toward SEWMEX, which is essentially a start-up company. During periods of low demand at SEWMEX, the company would not replace employees who resigned. In reality, however, he felt this would be a limited number of employees.

The president indicated that due tovarying market demands, there might be periods when an adjustment to production levels is required in one or more of the product lines. The president also explained that SEWMEX would cross-train all operators so that workers could move within and between production lines, a situation that would afford more flexibility in meeting variable market demands. The president continued, saying that he and the former controller had agreed that in making all calculations for profitplanning purposes they would assume that all product lines in SEWMEX had the same efficiency. That is, because of the cross-training received, all operators are assumed to be equal in terms of their (planned) productivity so that the movement of operators between lines will not affect the productivity of any particular product line. Also, the costs labeled as “production” in Table 3 are to be assigned to product lines (if cost assignment is necessary) based on SAMs associated with each respective line. In essence, these costs represent costs that are traceable to each product (garment) line.

* Assume these costs are fixed over the relevant range of planned production. There may be other costs that could be considered fixed depending upon assumptions made. ^ The typical additional cost to send or receive a container, customs brokerage and longshoremen fees, is 5,000 pesos. The current level of planned production at 2,500,000 SAMs requires shipments to consist of one sent container and one received container per week (8 total shipments in a given month). This implies that product valued at 625,000 SAMs is the capacity of an export container. Assume no partial containers will be sent and that, for practical purposes (given the relatively immaterial amount to send or receive a container), this cost will remain as fixed over the entire relevant range.

demand drops. The president pointed out to you, however, that the situation in Mexico is more complicated because Mexican labor law does not allow for such layoffs. Current Mexican law requires employers to pay three months’ salary

FOREIGN EXCHANGE RATES During the meeting, the president noted that in the last few months the peso had begun to fluctuate rather drastically. He mused
that such movements were possibly a complicating factor in the profit-planning process since SEWMEX receives revenues in dollars and pays expenses in pesos. The exchange rate (pesos per USD) over the last year has fluctuated between 12:1 and 15:1. You and he agreed that for initial profit-planning purposes, as reflected in Table 3, an exchange rate of 13 pesos to the USD could be assumed. 10

If an employee resigns voluntarily, however, the severance payment is not required.

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VOL. 5, N O. 1, ART. 1, MARCH 2012

CASE QUESTIONS
(Note: Please check with your instructor to determine whether you are to address optional questions 7 and 8) 1. Discuss what is meant by cost-volume-profit (CVP) analysis and the ways in which CVP can be used as a managerial tool. Include an y qualitative factors that may affect the CVP assumptions, particularly with respect to SEWMEX. 2. Cost-Behavior Issues: Define the terms “variable cost”

2). Your graph should include pre-tax profit (πB) for the following values of X (monthly volume): 0 to 70,000, in increments of 5,000 units. 4. Breakeven Calculations a. Based on the weighted-average contribution margin per unit

and “fixed cost.” Given the facts in the case, identify all fixed and variable costs listed in Table 3. Assume for costclassification purposes that the relevant activity variable (cost driver) is SAMs (or, equivalently, units produced). Assume further that each line-item cost listed in Table 3 can be classified either as “fixed” or as “variable” with respect to changes in SAMs (units produced). If you feel that the cost under consideration exhibits a “mixed” behavior (i.e., has elements of both fixed and variable cost), make your classification decision on the basis of what you believe to be the primary cost behavior, variable or fixed. Show amounts both in pesos and in USD. 3. Profit-Planning Model a.

Develop an equation that appropriately reflects the CVPthat reflects the current production/sales plan (which you used above in Question 3), what is the breakeven point, expressed both in terms of total SAMs (standard allowed minutes) and in terms of total output (units produced), for the SEWMEX factory as a whole? Show your calculations. (Hint: to derive the breakeven point, use the equation for pre-tax profit, πB, that you developed in response to Question 3a above. Since revenues are expressed in U.S. dollars and because the dollar is the more stable currency, base all breakevenpoint calculations in dollars.) Any assumptions made in your calculations should be noted. b. Based on a weighted-average contribution margin ratio,

which reflects the current production/sales plan (Table 2), what is the breakeven point in dollars for the SEWMEX factory as a whole? Show calculations. c. Use the Solver routine in Excel to solve for the overall

breakeven point (in total units of product per month, X), given the current production/sales plan (Table 2).

relationships and depicts the short-term profitability of the SEWMEX plant before taxes. (Hint: your equation should depict pre-tax profit per month, πB , as a function of the level of fixed cost per month (FC), total volume, X (in units per month), contribution margin per unit (sp − vc), and a production/sales mix represented by the data reflected in Table 2. Given the unit selling price data in Table1 and the variable costs identified in Question 2 above, you should be able to calculate and use for profitplanning purposes a weighted-average contribution margin ratio and/or weighted-average contribution margin per unit based on the production/sales mix implied by the data in Table 2.) b. Once the equation for short-term pre-tax profit (πB) is

d. Based on the production/sales mix reflected in case

Table 2, derive product-line breakeven points (in units per month and in dollars per month). 5. Efficiency-Related Issues a. Based on the data provided in the case (e.g., Table 2),

what is the approximate level of planned plant efficiency (i.e., total SAM output planned per month, relative to total minutes of all assembly labor in the SEWMEX plant)? b. Based on the current production/sales mix, what

overall (or average) efficiency level at SEWMEX is required to break even on a monthly basis? c. Prepare a table indicating the monthly pre-tax income,

developed, use Excel to prepare a profit-volume (PV) graph for the SEWMEX plant. That is, generate a graph of monthly pre-tax profit (πB) as a function of monthly sales volume (X). Clearly label the X and Y axes, the X-intercept, the Y-intercept, and the slope of the pre-tax profit function. To generate your graph, you will need to use the weighted-average contribution margin per unit at the current production/sales mix (reflected in Table 6

πB, that would result from changes in plant efficiency

(as defined above in (a)) over the range 50% efficiency to 100% efficiency, in increments of 10%. Assume for purposes of this question that demand changes are the cause of monthly production changes and that SEW will continue to purchase all of SEWMEX’s output. Assume, too, that the total number of assembly workers at the SEWMEX plant is unchanged.

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d. Assuming labor costs per hour and in total are held

constant, what would cause plant efficiency at SEWMEX to change? That is, from the table you prepared in response to part (c) above, what inferences can you draw concerning efficiency changes for SEWMEX? 6. Summary Report: Based on the foregoing results

and analyses, summarize in a written report meant for the president of SEW the key points, issues, recommendations, and risks that are associated with the profit-planning exercise you just completed. Your report should in some sense be viewed as a consultant’s report and as such should be clear, to the point, and polished. 7. (Optional): Foreign Exchange Rates and Foreign Exchange Risk a. What is meant by the term “foreign exchange rate”?

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In general, what causes foreign exchange rates to vary over time? b. Do changes in foreign exchange rates benefit or hurt U.S.

companies that are doing business in foreign countries?
c. Given the inherent uncertainty associated with

currency exchange rates, is there a possibility of reducing the uncertainty? That is, what options are available for controlling or at least addressing this risk? What would you advise the president of SEW to do with respect to foreign exchange risk? d. Given that SEWMEX receives payment in U.S.

dollars and pays expenses in Mexican pesos, what is SEWMEX’s greatest risk with regard to the foreign exchange rate? 8. (Optional): Foreign Exchange Rates–Sensitivity Analysis:

If the exchange rate changes to 15:1, what will be the monthly breakeven point (in USD), holding sales mix, productivity (i.e., total output), and selling prices constant? What will be the monthly breakeven point (in USD) if the exchange rate were 11:1? What will be the pre-tax income (loss) (in USD) at each of these two exchange rates, assuming plant output and sales mix are as illustrated in Table 2 and at selling prices depicted in Table1? Prepare a table that compares these results to those obtained under the base-case assumption (i.e., an exchange rate of 13:1). What general point can be made on the basis of this sensitivity analysis that you performed?

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