Prime Costs vs. Conversion Costs: What's the Difference? How to Spot

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Susan Kelly

Jun 13, 2022

The prime and conversion costs are often employed as a criterion for measuring a product's overall efficiency, particularly in the engineering area. Conversion costs are the charges incurred when raw materials are changed into items. Prime costs, on the other hand, are known as the costs that are directly related to the development of finished items. Regarding the effectiveness of production, prime cost and conversion cost have certain similarities, but each offers a distinctive perspective. Prime cost and conversion cost both have some of the same features in common. So prime costs vs. conversion costs: what's the difference? Let us know.


Prime Cost



The Prime Cost is directly related to direct labor and direct supply. To put it another way, direct materials consist of everything and everything necessary for the manufacture of the end product. Direct material expenditures include items like a car engine and bicycle spokes, both of which are necessary for the manufacturing of a given product and, as a result, qualify as instances. Other examples of direct material expenditures are a motorcycle engine and a computer.


Direct labor costs include the salaries and benefits of all those involved in creating the final products. It is not uncommon for top rates to include compensation for machinists, painters, and welders. Direct expenditures are not taken into consideration when solving prime costs, unlike conversion costs. To ensure that the company's production process is effective, operations managers look at the company's primary costs. Companies may better establish prices and profit by using the prime cost calculation.


An Example of How Prime Costs Are Calculated


Consider the case of a customer who wants a coffee table built by a skilled furniture maker. Materials and manufacturing labor costs are also accounted for when calculating a table's final price. You may save a lot of money by purchasing $200 worth of basic ingredients. The furniture manufacturer charges an hourly cost of $50 for the three hours it takes to do this task. The cost of making the table is $350. You'll need to overcharge for the table to make a profit. At a minimum, the furniture maker has to charge $351 to continue in business.


Conversion Cost



Turning raw materials into finished products involves both direct and indirect costs of labor and administrative overhead. Energy and other utilities required to keep a manufacturing plant running 24 hours a day but aren't directly related to the production process are included here. Expenses for direct labor are the same as those used in determining the primary expenditures. The computation of the main cost does not take into account the expenditures that are accounted for by these charges, which are also known as "conversion costs." Identifying inefficiencies in the production process may also be accomplished with the help of conversion costs by the operations managers.


An Explanation of Conversion Costs with Example


Take Firm A as an illustration: Costs for direct labor and related expenses in April totaled $50,000 while manufacturing overhead costs came to $86,000. Company A produced 20,000 units in April; therefore, let's use it as an example. In April, the overall conversion cost per unit for the corporation was $6.80, based on this data. Costs associated with conversion and prime are made up of what components?


Direct labor expenditures are included in both prime and conversion costs. Prime expenses include both direct and indirect labor and supplies. Expenses spent in the conversion process include direct labor.


How Do You Calculate Overhead Expenses Using Prime Costs, Direct Materials, and Conversion Costs?


The term "overhead" refers to the costs that must be spent to keep a business operating regularly. This is the total amount that we spend on everything else that is included in our budget:


  • The cost of renting a home and other expenditures
  • Insurance to cover the cost of repairs and maintenance
  • A space to work, as well as all of the essential materials for the workplace
  • Certain products and services are subject to taxes.
  • Top management's yearly compensation packages


The term "overhead expenditures" refers to a certain category of costs that are spent by a company and, in most instances, cannot be avoided. People often use the term "fixed" to refer to these expenditures as a direct result of this factor. The overhead expenditures that must be incurred by an organization to convert raw materials into completed goods are accounted for as part of the conversion expenses of that business.


What Is the Distinction Between Prime and Conversion Direct Labor Costs?


This suggests that the cost of direct labor was included in not just the prime rates but also the conversion costs. The direct product costs, which comprise the expenditures of direct labor as well as direct material costs, are the most important changes. Some examples of conversion costs contain straight labor charges and overhead fees incurred by the manufacturer. The expenses that are incurred in the process of converting raw materials into finished goods are referred to as conversion costs. These expenses are also referred to as production costs.


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