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Calculating overhead costs in field service is an essential aspect of running a successful business. By accurately calculating overhead costs, field service businesses can ensure they are pricing their services competitively and making informed decisions about their operations.

In this article, we will outline five steps to help field service businesses calculate their overhead costs effectively. By following these steps, businesses can gain a better understanding of their overall expenses and ensure they are not only covering their costs but also generating a profit.

What are overhead costs?

Overhead costs are a fundamental concept in the world of business. The term refers to the ongoing, indirect expenses incurred while running a business that is not directly tied to the creation of a product or service. These costs are essential for the overall functioning of the company, but they are not directly attributable to any specific product or service.

Three main categories of overhead costs include fixed overhead expenses, variable overhead expenses and semi-variable overhead costs. Understanding these categories of overhead costs is crucial for field service businesses to accurately calculate their overall expenses.

Different types of overhead expenses

1. Fixed overhead costs are those that remain constant regardless of the level of production or sales. They do not fluctuate with changes in activity levels and are considered fixed expenses. Examples of fixed overhead costs include rent, insurance premiums, property taxes, and salaries of non-production staff. For instance, a company will have to pay the same rent amount for its office space regardless of the number of units produced or sold.

2. Variable overhead costs are directly proportional to the level of production or sales. They vary in relation to changes in activity levels and are usually incurred for specific production purposes. Examples of variable overhead costs include raw materials, direct labor associated with the production process, packaging, and shipping expenses. As production increases, the cost of raw materials and labor increases accordingly.

3. Semi-variable overhead costs are a combination of fixed and variable costs. They have both fixed and variable components and change with the level of activity, but not proportionately. Examples of semi-variable overhead costs include utilities, maintenance expenses, and sales commissions. The fixed component represents the minimum level of these costs, while the variable component varies with the level of production or sales.

Examples of overhead costs

In the manufacturing industry, examples of overhead costs include: 

  • Rent for the factory building
  • Utility bills
  • Equipment maintenance costs
  • Factory supervisors’ salaries

These costs are necessary to keep the production facility running smoothly.

In the service industry, overhead costs may include:

  • Office rent
  • Utilities
  • Insurance premiums
  • Administrative salaries

These expenses are essential for providing support for the service being offered, such as customer service, billing, and record keeping.

Overhead costs can also vary within industries and among companies. For example, in the field service industry, overhead costs may include vehicle maintenance, fuel expenses, tools and equipment, training and certification costs for technicians, and dispatching software. These costs are necessary to ensure that field service operations run smoothly and efficiently.

Calculating overhead costs

Once you have determined your overhead costs, you can proceed to calculate your overhead rate. The overhead rate is calculated by comparing overhead costs to revenue. This number is typically presented as a percentage of your income. The formula for calculating the overhead rate is as follows:

Overhead Rate = Overhead Costs/Income From Sales

Last month, $50,000 was brought in and $4,000 was spent on overhead costs. When the numbers are entered into the equation, the result is as follows:

Overhead Rate = 4,000/50,000

Overhead Rate = 0.08 or 8%

Last month, you spent eight cents on overhead costs for every dollar you made. That seems like a sensible decision. Lowering overhead costs can lead to increased profits.

Determine the overhead rate

To calculate the overhead rate, follow these steps:

1. Determine the total overhead costs: Gather all the expenses incurred by the business that are not directly attributable to the production of goods or services. Examples include rent, utilities, salaries of support staff, office supplies, and insurance.

2. Identify the time period: Decide on the time period for which you want to calculate the overhead rate. It is commonly measured on a monthly or annual basis.

3. Calculate the total overhead costs of the business in that time period: Sum up all the overhead expenses incurred during the chosen period.

4. Determine the monthly sales: Obtain the total sales made by the business during the same time period.

5. Divide the total overhead costs by the monthly sales: Divide the total overhead costs of the business in a month by its monthly sales value.

6. Multiply the result by 100: Multiply the quotient from the previous step by 100 to convert it into a percentage.

Tips for reducing overhead costs

To reduce overhead costs, it is essential to evaluate workspace options and consider downsizing or relocating to a more affordable location if possible. This may involve comparing the costs of different office spaces and negotiating leases to get the best deal.

Another consideration is automating processes, which can significantly reduce overhead costs. For example, investing in technology solutions, such as ERP software like ServMan by WorkWave, to automate scheduling, dispatching, and invoicing processes, can streamline operations and reduce the need for manual labor, thus cutting down on overhead expenses.

Partnering with ServMan by WorkWave

ServMan by WorkWave is a comprehensive ERP software designed specifically for field service businesses, offering a wide range of benefits that can greatly enhance efficiency and productivity. Here are some key advantages of using ServMan by WorkWave:

1. Streamlined Communication: Allows you to easily communicate with your clients, staff, and vendors through automated messaging features. This ensures that everyone is kept informed and up-to-date on important information.

2. Enhanced Scheduling: Create and manage schedules for your field services with ease. This helps you optimize your workflow and ensure that appointments are efficiently organized.

3. Customer Management: Provides a centralized platform for managing customer information, including contact details, service history, and preferences. This allows you to provide personalized service and build strong relationships with your clients.

4. Billing Automation: Offers billing automation features that help streamline the invoicing process, reduce errors, and ensure prompt payment. This saves you time and effort while improving cash flow for your field service business.

5. Reporting and Analytics: Provides valuable insights through detailed reporting and analytics tools. This allows you to track key performance indicators, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your business.

Closing Thoughts

Calculating and managing overhead costs in a field service business is crucial for accurate cost estimation and pricing decisions. By accurately allocating indirect expenses, businesses can improve their financial performance and competitiveness in the industry. Additionally, reducing overhead costs through workspace evaluation, automation, and technology solutions like ServMan by WorkWave can further enhance efficiency and productivity. Book a demo today! 


What items are typically included in overhead costs?

Overhead costs typically encompass all indirect expenses incurred by a business that are not directly attributable to a specific product or service. This can include items such as rent, utilities, insurance, administrative salaries, office supplies, equipment maintenance, and other general operating expenses. Essentially, overhead costs are the necessary expenditures required to keep the business running smoothly and support its overall operations.

What costs are not classified as overhead?

Expenses that are not considered overhead costs in a business include those that are directly related to manufacturing and selling a product. These expenses, also known as direct costs or operating costs, are essential for the production and distribution of goods and services.

How do I calculate the manufacturing overhead cost?

Calculating manufacturing overhead costs involves adding up all the indirect expenses associated with producing goods, such as rent for the manufacturing facility, utilities, depreciation on equipment, maintenance costs, and indirect labor. To calculate manufacturing overhead costs, you can add these expenses together and divide them by the total number of units produced to determine the overhead cost per unit. This calculation helps businesses accurately allocate overhead costs to products and set appropriate pricing to ensure profitability.

Get Started With ServMan Software!

ServMan by WorkWave is ready to help you tailor an ERP solution that’s a perfect fit for YOUR business.

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