Variance Analysis in Standard Costing

Learn about variance analysis in standard costing and how it helps companies identify cost discrepancies and improve profitability.

Introduction to Variance Analysis

Variance analysis is a method used in standard costing to compare actual costs with standard costs and identify the reasons for any differences. This analysis helps managers understand where their company’s performance deviates from expectations and enables them to take appropriate actions to improve efficiency and profitability.

Types of Variances

  • Direct Material Variances
  • Direct Labor Variances
  • Variable Overhead Variances
  • Fixed Overhead Variances

Direct Material Variances

Direct material variances occur when the actual cost of raw materials differs from the standard cost. For example, if a company planned to use 100 pounds of material at $2 per pound but ended up using 120 pounds at $2.50 per pound, there would be a direct material price and quantity variance.

Direct Labor Variances

Direct labor variances arise when the actual labor costs deviate from the standard costs. This could be due to differences in wage rates, labor efficiency, or production levels. By analyzing these variances, managers can assess labor productivity and identify areas for improvement.

Variable Overhead Variances

Variable overhead variances occur when the actual variable costs of production, such as utilities or supplies, are different from the standard costs. Understanding these variances allows managers to control expenses and make adjustments accordingly.

Fixed Overhead Variances

Fixed overhead variances result from differences between actual fixed overhead costs and budgeted costs. These variances can be caused by changes in production levels, overhead allocation methods, or unexpected expenses. By evaluating fixed overhead variances, managers can optimize their cost structure and enhance profitability.

Case Study: XYZ Manufacturing

XYZ Manufacturing implemented standard costing and conducted a variance analysis on its direct material costs. The company discovered a direct material price variance due to a supplier price increase and a quantity variance due to an inefficient production process. By addressing these issues, XYZ Manufacturing was able to reduce costs and increase its bottom line.


Variance analysis is a crucial tool in standard costing that helps companies monitor performance, identify cost discrepancies, and make informed decisions to drive profitability. By analyzing variances in direct material, labor, overhead, and fixed costs, organizations can optimize their operations and achieve financial success.

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