Contribution Margin: What Is It, Overview, Examples, And More

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Contribution Margin

Businesses use the contribution margin to measure how profitable it is to produce a product. Here, the business finds out how much revenue is left after the deduction of variable costs like transportation expenses and raw materials. A product is only profitable if the left-over revenue, after the deduction of variable costs, is higher than the fixed costs (insurance and salaries) of the business.

In this article, you will learn about what contribution margin is and how it helps to measure the profit of a company. In addition to this, we will also share with you the formula for contribution margin and how to calculate using that formula. In the latter case, we will explain with the help of an example. You will also learn the uses of contribution margins in business. Finally, we will discuss some ways to improve this margin for businesses.

What Is The Contribution Margin?

What Is The Contribution Margin

According to Investopedia,

The contribution margin can be stated on a gross or per-unit basis. It represents the incremental money generated for each product/unit sold after deducting the variable portion of the firm’s costs. The contribution margin is computed as the selling price per unit minus the variable cost per unit.

The term contribution margin is also known as dollar contribution per unit. The factor also helps the business to measure how much a particular product contributes to a company’s overall profit. The measure helps in getting an idea of the profit potential of a particular product that the company offers.

Apart from that, it also helps in showing the portion of sales with the help of which the company is covering its fixed costs. After the company has covered all its fixed costs, the amount left is the profit that the company made in the given timeframe.

Read More: Market Orientation – What Is It, And How Does It Work?

How To Calculate The Contribution Margin?

How To Calculate The Contribution Margin

To calculate the contribution margin of a business, you will first need to calculate the sales revenue of the business. Then, you will need to subtract the variable costs of the business from the sales revenue. The amount that is left is used to cover the company’s fixed costs. Some of the major examples of fixed costs include rent, salaries, insurance, etc. 

This resultant amount that the company is using to fulfill the fixed costs is the contribution margin of the company.

Here is the formula for the contribution margin of a company:

Contribution Margin = Net Sales Revenue of the business – Variable Costs of the business
Or,
Contribution Margin = Fixed Costs of the business + Net Income of the business

Here is the formula for the contribution margin ratio:

Contribution Margin Ratio = (Net Sales Revenue of the business – Variable Costs) / (Sales revenue of the business)

A Simple Example Of The Contribution Margin

You can understand the contribution margin here with the help of a simple example –

A Machine for manufacturing pencils is priced at $10,000. (Fixed Cost)

The cost of manufacturing one pencil requires $0.2 of wood, pigment, color, etc.

The electricity charges that go for manufacturing one pencil is $0.1.

The labor charge is $0.3 for manufacturing one pencil.

Therefore, the variable cost for manufacturing one pencil = $ (0.2+0.1+0.3) = $0.6 per pencil.

So, the cost of manufacturing 10,000 pencils = $0.6 x 10,000 = $6,000.

Hence, the total manufacturing cost = the variable cost + fixed cost

= $6,000 + $10,000 = $16,000.

Therefore, the cost of one pencil = $16,000 / 10,000 = $1.6.

Hence, if the selling price of one pencil is $2, then profit  = $2 – $1.6 = $0.4 per pencil.

However, to measure contribution costs, we will need to consider only variable costs. Therefore, the incremental profit = $2 – $0.6 = $1.4 per pencil.

What Are The Uses And Applications Of Contribution Margin?

According to the Corporate Finance Institute,

It is important to assess the contribution margin for break-even or target income analysis. […] To resolve bottlenecks, contribution margin can be used to decide which products offered by the business are more profitable and, therefore, more advantageous to produce, given limited resources. Preference is given to products that provide a high contribution margin.

Hence, businesses can use this to find out those products that bring the highest profits despite consuming the same set of manufacturing resources. Let’s say a company manufactures two types of pencils. The one that brings the highest profit will be given the higher production preference. This also helps the management to allocate resources in the most efficient manner.

How To Improve Contribution Margin?

According to TheForage.com,

The more revenue available after variable costs are covered, the better, especially considering how expensive fixed expenses like rent and salaries can be. At the very least, a product must have a positive contribution margin to be worth producing. So, even if the product isn’t that profitable, the company can break even as long as the margin is high enough to cover fixed expenses.

In addition to this, a business can also improve its contribution margins if it adjusts its production costs and considers making its processes more efficient.

The company can also reduce its variable costs, such as by lowering the expenses of factors like shipping and marketing. The company can reduce costs by choosing better and more affordable alternatives. Apart from that, the company can also find ways to improve its revenues. However, these need to be done with care, as improper implementation can backfire for the company.

Read More: Market Cannibalization – Definition, How Does It Work, Example, And More

Wrapping Up

Hope this article was helpful for you to understand the concept of contribution margin. You can see from this article that the contribution margin is nothing but the portion of a product’s sales revenue, which is not taken up by variable costs. Hence, this left-over value contributes to the fixed costs of the company.

Companies that are labor-intensive (the ones with small fixed expenses) have low contribution margins. On the other hand, the ones that are capital-intensive, such as industrial companies with higher fixed costs, have high contribution margins. Do you think that this margin is a very important indicator to understand a company’s profit? Share your answers with us in the comments section below.

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