What is Relevant Range?

Relevant range is a level of volume or activity within which a company is expected to operate. All the budgeting and costing exercise are conducted with relevant range as the fundamental assumption. In other words, it is the underlying assumption when we comment certain costs to be fixed or variable. Fixed costs may not be fixed and per-unit variable cost may not be variable outside the relevant range of activity or volume.

Relevant range in managerial accounting and cost accounting discipline is a crucial concept for managers. All the fundamentals of planning and controlling are based on the relevant range of operating activity of a company. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to estimate the relevant range as close to actual as possible so that the planning and actions of the management are proved fruitful.

Relevant Range and Budgeting

The concept of relevant range is a very important concept from various angles. It is the foundation for any budgeting exercise. Without defining the relevant range, it is impossible to effectively complete the budgeting process. Let us see, how, with the help of an example.

Relevant Steel Ltd, a steel ingot manufacturing company. Following is the activity level of last 5 years of the company.

Financial Year

Production in MT Tons

2009 250.00
2010 312.50
2011 390.63
2012 488.28
2013 610.35

While making cost budgets for the year 2014, one would need to forecast the various cost elements such as material cost, labor cost, utility cost, factory cost, administration cost, finance cost, selling and distribution cost etc. All these costs are directly or indirectly dependent upon the level of activity of the business. Therefore, the budgeting manager should know the expected level of activity in the year 2014. Can that activity be 10000 MT? Looks illogical, right?

How to Calculate Relevant Range?

The growth rate of the company i.e. roughly 25% year on year can be taken as the base for defining the relevant range of activity in 2014. Other factors such as industry growth, competitor’s position, etc would play a role in defining the relevant range.

Relevant Range and Behavior of Costs

Example of Fixed Cost

‘Fixed cost is fixed only in relevant range’. We normally understand supervisor salary as fixed cost because that does not vary with the production. Now, look at the example below:

If there are 2 machines producing 500 units each per year and is supervised by 1 supervisor. He can supervise another 3 machine if installed nearby them. So, till the requirement of the company is 2500 (500*5) units per year, the same supervisor will handle and cost of supervisor will remain fixed to say $12,000. Over and above the production of 2500 units, the company will have to appoint another manager to supervise 6th machines onwards. In the example, it is clearly evident that the supervisor cost which is a fixed cost is only fixed till the production is 2500 units. Here, the relevant range and fixed cost relation are as follows:

Fixed Cost Behavior at Relevant Ranges
Production (In Units) Supervisor Cost (Total Fixed Cost)
1 to 2500 Units $ 12,000
2501 to 5000 Units $ 24,000
5001 to 7500 Units $ 36,000

Fixed Cost Behaviour at Relevant Ranges

From the above table and graph, we can make out another interesting thing about the behavior of costs with respect to relevant range. The fixed costs increase like stair steps.

Example of Variable Cost

We have learned a phrase from our school days that – ‘Variable costs changes proportionately with the change in production’. NO, the variable cost such as material cost does not change in the same proportion of the increase in production. Undoubtedly, the variable cost will increase with production but the rate of increase will slow down. The reasons could be price discounts due to bulk purchase etc.

We can understand the same from the following table and graph that the rate of increase of total variable cost is not throughout. After a range, it changes. After, 300 units and 600 units, it changes in the following example.

No. of Units Purchased Total Material Cost (In $) Rate
100 $2,000 20.00
200 $4,000 20.00
300 $6,000 20.00
400 $6,000 15.00
500 $7,500 15.00
600 $9,000 15.00
700 $8,750 12.50
800 $10,000 12.50
900 $11,250 12.50
1000 $12,500 12.50

Variable Cost Behaviour at Relevant Ranges


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