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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Leave Labor Out Of Inventory

From time to time, my clients ask about the practice of including labor expenses in work in process inventory valuation. I am against this practice due to needless complexity. Those who decide to change their inventory policy always see a one period bump. However, in the long run, the impact of this policy change will be low.

The key issue in the decision is the perishable nature of food (both as purchased and prepped). Most food inventories run about 14 days of cost of sales or less. Within the total inventory value, at least 75% is typically stored as purchased. One fourth (about one half week) may be in the prep box. Adding another 20% to the value of the WIP items to account for labor cost will reduce cost of goods sold about 2.5% in month one (see calculation below).

Once you hit month two, the inventory change will be minimal. Now you have locked yourself into a needless monthly exercise. It is far more conservative to completely expense all labor in the month the hours were spent. Even seasonal operations should see very little benefit with adding labor to WIP.

The key to inventory valuation in our industry is proper tracking yields on the work in process items. A steak should be valued at a greater price per pound than the large cut of meat butchered to produce the steak. Divide the as purchased price per pound by the yield percentage. Go the extra step of adding a separate line item on your inventory sheets. Let the counters weigh the large untouched cuts and keep a separate count of the trimmed portions.

If you carefully track the entire butchering and prep process for yields, you will create enough data to properly determine standards for ideal usage calculations. Many operators fail to evaluate a large enough data set when creating these standards. Comparing week to week variances from solid standard yields will explain most of the differences in your food cost. Theft and spoilage is far more difficult to quantify. Employees rarely document waste and theft each period.

Calculation: (3.5 divided by 28) times 20% equals 2.5%.

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