Theory of Constraint as a Tool in Strategic Decision Making

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Theory of Constraint as a Tool in Strategic Decision Making
Advanced Social Humanities and Management 1(4) 2014:16-25
www.ashm-journal.com
Theory of Constraint as a Tool in Strategic Decision Making
Amin Navasery, Moein Ahmadi, Bita Farhoudnia, Maliheh Dorostkar
1
Department of Information Technology and Management (DITM), Faculty of Computer Science, Bharati Vidyapeeth University,
Pune, India (Corresponding Author)Email: [email protected]
2
Department of management, Islamic Azad University, Science and Research branch, Sirjan, Iran
3
Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Yashwantrao Mohite College, Pune, India
4
Research and entrepreneurship Center, Payam Noor University, Hormozgan, Iran
ABSTRACT
A key concept of throughput accounting is the use of profitability analysis at the
system level instead of gross margin analysis at the product level. In a
traditional cost accounting system, costs from all parts of the production process
are compiled and allocated by various means to specific products. When
subtracted from product prices, this yields a gross margin that is used to
determine whether a product is sufficiently profitable to be produced.
Throughput accounting almost entirely ignores gross margin analysis at the
product level. Instead, it considers the production process to be a single system
whose overall profitability must be maximized. Throughput accounting
addresses all of the accounting aspect of constraint management, including how
to ensure that constraint usage is maximized to enhance profits. This concept
impact the treatment of product costing, margin costing, overhead costing,
scrape reporting, variance analysis, inventory valuation, pricing decisions,
capital budgeting, and more. The accounting now becomes the bridge over
which data can flow into a format to provide useful information for strategic decision making. This paper shows how
throughput accounting is useful in decision making.
Keywords: Theory of constraint, Strategic decision making, throughput accounting
INTRODUCTION
Today, companies are focused on increasing throughput – the rate at which a company generates money
through sales. They want to expand products, customer base, markets, and so on. They want to grow as much as
possible, as quickly as possible. They do not want to focus on shrinking their company or labor force. Yet, the
most commonly used financial tools tell companies to focus on cutting costs in order to maximize profits,
making expenses the focus of companies, not sales generation. This often leads management to make decisions
that actually harm a company.
Companies need to use financial tools that move them toward their goal. Throughput Accounting provides
managers with a transparent and focused method to make decisions that consistently lead them in the right
direction. Through better managerial decision making, Throughput Accounting improves a company‘s ability
to make more money now and in the future because it approaches accounting from a cash management basis. It
meets the need that companies have to meet management challenges, including outsourcing products, process
improvement, and purchasing capital equipment.
TA is first approach that factors in the most important element missing all of the cost-based accounting
approaches –throughput. Throughput can be defined as the rate at which the company generates money through
sales.(Jahanshahi et al, 2010) Read any annual report; look at any company mission statement or talk with any
top-executive and you will get the same message, we must increase throughput. This is communicated in many
ways but it is a growth orientation that strives to expand markets, products, costumers, etc. no company aims to
downsizing as its long-term corporate strategy/yet nearly all of the financial tools available focus on costs,
putting at the centre of decision-making and performance measurement process.
Companies need to use financial tools that move them toward their goal. Throughput Accounting provides
managers with a transparent and focused method to make decisions that consistently lead them in the right
direction. Through better managerial decision making, Throughput Accounting improves a company‘s ability
to make more money now and in the future because it approaches accounting from a cash management basis. It
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meets the need that companies have to meet management challenges, including outsourcing products, process
improvement, and purchasing capital equipment.
Throughput accounting (TA) might be the biggest thing you have never heard of. For years managers have been
searching for better financial tools for a host of management challenges, including performance measurement,
product costing and decision modelling. Driven by therealization that the old cost-based systems don‘t tell the
whole story they have sought to remedy the situation with such approaches as direct costing, ABC/ABM and
strategic cost management among many others. Still search goes on.
Today, more than ever, change is essential to satisfy expectations. Customers expect quality products and
services. More than ever, employees expect security in their jobs. Shareholders expect that today‘s investments
will yield a higher rate of return over a shorter timeframe. Yet, ―to make ends meet,‖ management is constantly
pressured to keep costsunder control. In the light of today‘s competitive pressures and a rapidly changing
environment,to not change is to give way to one‘s competitors. Hence, we should understand that to improve
means to change.
Throughput Accounting is a simple, yet extraordinary, way to look at a company‘s finances. It focuses on
revenue generation, not product costing. As such, it focuses on the positive potential of a company (the
generation of wealth) and not on the reduction of costs. That is not to say that good stewardship of resources is
ignored. It‘s just that the focus is on generating revenue, not cutting costs.
Another power of Throughput Accounting is its focus on system effectiveness as opposed to local
efficiencies.(Nawaser et al, 2011) This aspect alone is sufficient to deliver powerful measuring tools into the
hands of the business manager. Throughput Accounting provides financial tools that allow operational
managers to make excellent, and quick, business decisions.
An important aspect of Throughput Accounting is that the metrics are derived using the same data as in the
existing cost accounting system. This means that there is no investment in additional accounting software or
resources. No additional entries have to be made. The numbers are simply calculated in a different way and
presented in a different report format.
TRADITIONAL COST ACCOUNTING AND DECISION MAKING
It is often difficult to see how decisions made in a local area affect the organization as a whole. This is
particularly true of managers who are not able to see or affect every area of the organization. The
organizational view of most managers is typically limited to their own area of responsibility and those nearby.
Cost-based management accounting systems suffer initially from the fact that they focusalmost all attention on
controlling costs. TOC has clearly demonstrated the pivotal role ofconstraints in determining Throughput, and
the need to synchronize everyone‘s efforts to support for a business leader in an enterprise, the issue is more
troublesome, because he or she must concern themselves with the decision making of multiple managers
involved inmany aspects of the enterprise. We know from experience that local managers often make decisions
that are counter to the purpose of the enterprise. A single person periodically making a bad decision is usually
not significant, but if there is a systemic error in many managers‘ understanding of the enterprise‘s functioning,
many poor decisions will be made, which could create significant, long lasting damage.(Khaksar et al, 2011)
Larger, subdivided enterprises lose their system-wide perspective, and managers are forced to rely on decision
rules that are typically based on Traditional Cost Accounting; the bigger the enterprise, the bigger the problem.
Today, companies are focused on increasing throughput – the rate at which a company generates money
through sales. They want to expand products, customer base, markets, and so on. They want to grow as much as
possible, as quickly as possible. They do not want to focus on shrinking their company or labour force. Yet, the
most commonly used financial tools tell companies to focus on cutting costs in order to maximize profits,
making expenses the focus of companies, not sales generation. This often leads management to make decisions
that actually harm a company.
Companies need to use financial tools that move them toward their goal. Throughput Accounting provides
managers with a transparent and focused method to make decisions that consistently lead them in the right
direction. Through better managerial decision making, Throughput Accounting improves a company‘s ability
to make more money now and in the future because it approaches accounting from a cash management basis. It
meets the need that companies have to meet management challenges, including outsourcing products, process
improvement, and purchasing capital equipment.
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CONCEPT OF THROUGHPUT ACCOUNTING
Goldratt's alternative begins with the idea that each organization has a goal and that better decisions increase its
value. The goal for a profit maximizing firm is easily stated, to increase profit now and in the future.
Throughput Accounting applies to not-for-profit organizations too, but they have to develop a goal that makes
sense in their individual cases.
Throughput Accounting uses three measures of income and expense:
The chart illustrates a typical throughput structure of income (sales) and expenses (TVC and OE).
T=Sales less TVC and NP=T less OE.

Throughput (T) is the rate at which the system produces "goal units." When the goal units are money
(in for-profit businesses), throughput is net sales (S) less totally variable cost (TVC), generally the cost of the
raw materials (T = S - TVC). Note that T only exists when there is a sale of the product or service. Producing
materials that sit in a warehouse does not form part of throughput but rather investment. ("Throughput" is
sometimes referred to as "throughput contribution" and has similarities to the concept of "contribution" in
marginal costing which is sales revenue less "variable" costs - "variable" being defined according to the
marginal costing philosophy.)

Investment (I) is the money tied up in the system. This is money associated with inventory, machinery,
buildings, and other assets and liabilities. In earlier Theory of Constraint (TOC) documentation, the "I" was
interchanged between "inventory" and "investment." The preferred term is now only "investment." Note that
TOC recommends inventory be valued strictly on totally variable cost associated with creating the inventory,
not with additional cost allocations from overhead.

Operating Expense (OE) is the money the system spends in generating "goal units." For physical
products, OE is all expenses except the cost of the raw materials. OE includes maintenance, utilities, rent, taxes
and payroll.
Bridging the Gap
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Throughput Accounting focuses on increasing revenue (throughput), improving cash flow (investment) and
providing capacity (operating expense). Every management decision is made based on expected changes in
throughput, investment and operating expense. Throughput Accounting allows managers to take a more
balanced approach to decision making, giving an accurate picture of the results of decisions. Throughput
Accounting also demonstrates ways to make more profitable pricing and marketing decisions.
Throughput Accounting shifts the emphasis in decision making from managing costs and budgets to
maximizing throughput and profitability. It emphasizes the improvement of flow through the system, providing
feedback on the financial impact of the constraint. It drives management decisions to improve the constraint‘s
efficiency; ensuring all company resources supports the constraint, so that profit can be maximized.
This approach differs substantially from Traditional Cost Accounting because the company is not focused on
every machine and employee working at optimal efficiency. Instead, its basis is that if a company optimizes any
non-constraint, it will overload the constraint and create excess inventory.
Throughput Accounting provides a way to measure productivity improvement efforts based on how they affect
cost and throughput. It can be applied to decisions that affect all aspects of a company including product price,
process improvement, reward structures, investment justification, transfer pricing, and performance
management. The result is a thorough understanding of how a company is functioning as a whole and the ability
to analyse the true impact of management decisions before they are made.(Hashemzadeh et al, 2011)
Throughput accounting has a very direct relationship with decision making and performance management. It
begins by focusing on what an organisation‘s purpose is – its goal – and seeks to help organisations attain their
purpose by increasing their ‗goal units‘. The approach can be applied to both profit-seeking and not-for-profit
organisations, provided meaningful goal units can be identified.
Theory of Constraints
The theory of constraints (TOC) views a company as a system, whose goal (Goldratt and Cox,1993) is to make
money now and in the future, subject to the conditions (Goldratt, 1994)security and satisfaction for employees,
and customer satisfaction. To accomplish this goalthe company must recognize and manage its bottlenecks - or
constraints - in order tomaximize its throughput that is defined by Goldratt and Cox (1993; Hakkak et al, 2014;
Dehkordy et al, 2012) as the rate at which theorganization makes money through sales. TOC considers a
constraint anything that mightprevent a system from achieving its goal.
STRATEGIC DECISION MAKING
One of the essential parts of creating and running a small business is creating a mission or vision for the
business and a set of goals the company aims to achieve. Strategic decision making, or strategic planning,
describes the process of creating a company's mission and objectives and deciding upon the courses of action a
company should pursue to achieve those goals. Decision making is a fundamental skill for any successful
executive. But decisions at strategic level are hard to make. They require large amounts of resources and
commitments, which may be irreversible. They involve long-term consequences that are hard to predict. And
they require considering multiple, often conflicting, strategic objectives, which are difficult to balance,
particularly in the presence of risk and uncertainty. Problems with high stakes, involving human perceptions
and judgements, and whose resolutions have long-term repercussions, call for a rational approach to their
solution. Strategic Decision Making provides an effective, formal methodology that gives assistance to such
strategic level decision making problems.
An example of throughput accounting application in decision making:
Throughput accounting is a very simple system that employs only five measures defined byCorbett (1998):
• Throughput (T): the rate at which the system generates money through sales, or all themoney that enters the
company minus what it paid to its vendors. Another way to viewthis definition is the money that the company
generated minus the money generated byother companies (vendors). Throughput per unit of each product can be
easily calculatedby the subtraction of the Total Variable Cost (TVC) from its selling price. We canunderstand
TVC as the cost that varies for every extra unit produced. For manufacturingand other companies it is
composed only by the raw material employed in the product.
• Investment or Inventory (I): all the money the system invests in purchasing things thesystem intends to sell.
The total investment is constituted of the company‘s assets: buildings, machines, and inventory, for instance.
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The main discrepancy betweenthroughput and conventional accounting is the way we value work in process
and finishedgoods inventory. According to throughput accounting these items should assign just the price –
called total variable cost - which we paid to the vendors for the material andpurchased parts that were added or
assembled in the product. Unlike conventionalaccounting systems there is no added value in the inventory, not
even direct labour.
• Operating Expenses (OE): all the money the system spends in turning investment intothroughput. The total
operating expenses comprises total wages and benefits paid to thecompany‘s employees (including direct labour
and management), interest paid to creditors, depreciation, fuel, electricity, rentals, etc. Corbett (2000) remarks
that operating expenses, theirs increases and decreases should be analysed on a case by case basis, and its
impactin the bottom line taken into account. Operating expenses are not fixed costs because thereis no such
classification or others (variable, indirect, direct, etc.) in the theory ofconstraints and throughput accounting.
Net Profit (NP): simply defined as total throughput minus total operating expenses (NP =T – OE). This is a
measure of profitability used by management in decision-making, andcan be compared – with some
adjustments – to the free cash flow generated by the systemminus the interest paid to creditors (here we
consider that there are no changes in theworking capital and the all capital expenditures in the period are equal
to the depreciation).
• Return on Investment (ROI): is defined as the net profit (NP) divided by the totalinvestment (I). As stated by
Corbett (2000), any decision that has a positive impact onROI moves the company toward its goal. Moreover,
the one who decides if it is a gooddecision or not, is ROI. The reason for this is that ROI reflects the
interdependenciesbetween throughput, operating expenses and inventory. The returns on investment can
beexpressed by the formulas: ROI = NP / I; or ROI = (T - OE) / I.
The fact that throughput accounting has only these five measures and performs no costallocation, makes it very
simple and attractive not only for managerial use but also for the whole company in general.To illustrate of
these measures and how throughput accounting by using TOC works in practice, it‘s shown in the following
example:
Consider a company that manufactures only two products, A and B, and has two processes P1 and P2, each
process has one machine. The weekly capacity of each process P1 and P2 is 4800 minute machine work. (5
days a week*16 hours a day*60minutes an hour)
Processes
Process 1
Process 2
Table 1: time consumption of products
Time consumption per unit for
Time consumption per unit for
product A
product B
2
4
2
0
As it is shown in table 1each unit of product A consume 2 minutes in P1 and 2 minutes in P2 to be ready for
delivery. Product B is manufactured only in P1 where each unit of B spends 4 minutes to be finished. The
market where the company is inserted demands 1000 units of A and 800 units of B per week. Price and totally
variable cost of each product shown on table 2:
Products
Market demand(units)
Price per unit($)
TVC(material) per unit ($)
Throughput per unit ($)
Table 2: product A and B market data
A
1000
200
120
80
88
B
800
160
72
We can observe that products B have more throughputs per unit than product A. and if someone wants to
choose one of the products, maybe will choose product B.
To meet the whole market demands the company will need more capacity of machine time in P1 (table 3) than
it has available, so in our example the machine of P1 is the constraint of the system. In this case throughput
accounting can use TOC to provide useful information for managers‘ decision making.
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Table 3: capacity demanded by market
Capacity demanded by the market
P1
Product A
2000
Product B
3200
Total minutes/week
5200
P2
2000
0
2000
As we know the capacity of each process is only 4800 minutes per week but here the market demand shown
that in each process we need 5200 minutes machine work per week.
Being the system‘s bottleneck P1 dictates the flow of the whole system and the throughput as well. Therefore to
determine the production and sales mix of production of A and B we have firstly to manufacture the product
that generates the heist throughput per minute on the constraint by using the following formula:
Throughput per minute=throughput / time spent on the constraint ($/minute)
Table 4 shows the calculation of throughput per time spent on the constraint for product A and B:
Table4: throughput per time spent on the constraint by each product
Products
Throughput per unit($)
Time spend on the
Throughput per minute
constraint (minute)
A
40
2
20
B
48
4
12
Notice we do not have to worry about the second process; it is not constraint so it has capacity available to meet
the market demands. Based on table 4, we should produce all we can of product A, because it provides a greater
throughput per time on the constraint than product B. considering that and the capacity available, the sale and
production mix is defined below on table 5:
Products
A
B
Market
demand(units)
1000
800
Table5: sales mix calculation
Capacity required on the
Production capacity
constraint(minutes/week)
available(minutes/week)
2000
2000
3200
2800
Sales
mix(units)
1000
700
Once the sales mix is defined we have just to multiply the product units (table 5) by the respective throughput
per unit (table 3) to obtain the total throughput.
Assume that the operating expenses per week are $30‘000 and the investment per week is $190‘000. With this
additional data we can calculate the net profit and return on investment of the system, as shown on table 6:
Table 6: throughput, net profit and ROI
Total throughput (T) :( sales mix (units)*throughput per unit ($))
Product A
(1000 * 80) = 80‘000
Product B
(700 * 88) = 61‘600
Operating expenses (OE)
Net profit (NP =T - OE)
Investment (I)
Return on investment (ROI=NP/I)
$ 141‘600
$ (30‘000)
$111‘600
$190‘000
58.74%
In this example now, manager knows how much they have to return to the shareholders. Therefore they have to
search new ways to increase the systems total throughput.
One sales manager realises to increase the price of the product A by 5% if minor changes were made to the
product. So he has met the production manager who explained him that these minor changes include an
additional part to the product, which increases the totally variable cost by $30 per unit and also need 1 minute
more machine work in P1 in this case the capacity of first process also increase for every day 160 minutes and
hiring quality assurance personnel, Which increases the operating expenses by $5000 per week. But the
overhead will decreases by $15000
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This new scenario doesn‘t change the constraint of the system (machine of P1) but changes the basic product
data as seen on table 7:
Products
Market demand (units)
Price per unit ($) (new)
TVC per unit ($) (new)
Throughput per unit ($)
Table 7: adjusted product A and B data
A
1000
210
150
60
B
800
160
72
88
Since throughput per unit is changed, we have to calculate the new throughput per time spent on the constraint
(table 8); because it is the key to define the company‘s sales mix.
Table 8: Adjusted throughput per time spent on the constraint by each product
Time spend on the
Products
Throughput per unit($)
constraint (minute)
A
60
3
B
88
4
Throughput per minute
20
22
And we see after changes product B is the first to be produced because it has greater throughput per time spent
on constraint so our sales mix will change as it shown below in table 9:
Products
B
A
Market
demand(units)
800
1000
Table 9:sales mix calculation
Capacity required on the
Production capacity
constraint(minutes/week) available(minutes/week)
3200
3200
3000
2400
Sales mix(units)
800
800
As we see in table9 the capacity of P1 increase daily 160 minutes and it will be 800 minutes for 5 working days
in a week. So new capacity of machine P1 is (4800+800 minutes after change) 5600 minutes
And now we proceed the calculation of net profit and return on investment by using new information after
above changes in table 10:
Table 10: new throughput, net profit and ROI after changes
Total throughput (T) :( sales mix (units)*throughput per unit ($))
Product A
(800 * 60) = 48‘000
Product B
(800 * 88) = 70‘400
Operating expenses (OE)
Net profit (NP =T - OE)
Investment (I)
Return on investment (ROI=NP/I)
$118‘400
$ (20‘000)
98‘400
$190‘000
51.79%
We see after changes the net profit and ROI are decreased, so manager can decided that the changes are not
useful for profit and they should cancel the changes.
Cost-based management accounting systems suffer initially from the fact that they focus almost all attention on
controlling costs. TOC has clearly demonstrated the pivotal role of constraints in determining Throughput, and
the need to synchronize everyone‘s efforts to support the constraint.
Throughput is only achieved from the coordinated efforts of all parts of the business product development;
sales, marketing, manufacturing, finance, etc. must all do their job to achieve Throughput. If anyone ―link‖ in
this ―chain‖ doesn‘t deliver, Throughput is in danger.
The implication is that Throughput depends on the strength of the entire chain as a system, not on the isolated
performance of a single ―link.‖ Since a chain‘s strength is only that of its weakest link, this ―constraint‖
determines the Throughput of the entire system. Other resources by definition have extra capacity versus the
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constraint. Cost-based systems fail to recognize the critical role of constraints and treat all areas as equally
important. Without defining the constraint, no cost system can consider the impact a local area has on the
Throughput of the organization. Instead they actually drive management to sub-optimize performance
everywhere with the almost inevitable result of reducing Throughput. Some illustrations will help:
If an operation feeding a constraint elects to run a large batch of product to reduce its setup cost, but in the
process starves the constraint of work, the company‘s Throughput will go down. And did it really save anything
by eliminating a set-up at a non-constraint, which by definition carries extra capacity versus the constraint?
If manufacturing engineering discovers a way to speed up the process time at a no constraint 5%, by purchasing
some new tooling; will it lead to more Throughput for the company if the constraint remains unchanged? Will
costs go down if we don‘t lay anyone off as a result?
If purchasing finds a part at lower cost by going to a vendor who sometimes starves the constraint, is the
company really better off? Unfortunately, the Purchasing Department will probably be rewarded for saving
money on the part. These accounting systems will nearly always show that an improvement was made in the
local department. When these systems are used in the typical fashion to measure and motivate behaviour, they
actively create these sub-optimal decisions reducing Throughput. No cost-based system tells managers the
impact of an action or decision on Throughput—a pivotal piece ofmissing information for good decisions. And
this omission is being felt by every company striving to implement today‘s Throughput-oriented improvement
initiatives—TQM, JIT, TOC, ERP, Lean, Supply Chain, etc. You cannot successfully implement a Throughputoriented initiative by driving the business with cost-based measures and decision tools.(Eizi et al, 2013)
One of the most damaging things cost-based management accounting systems do is allocate costs to products.
Every one of these systems, including ABC/ABM, attempts to link costs to the production of an incremental
unit of Throughput. In other words, they try to claim that material, labour, and overhead costs vary directly with
the volume of work produced. In reality, managers know that while material varies directly with volume (each
additional unit produced requires additional raw materials), labour and overhead costs are typically fixed on
Incremental volume, we do not routinely hire additional labour, increase the management ranks, or add new
equipment and facilities just to handle another order from a customer. By the same token these costs do not go
away simply because we have chosen not to produce a new order.
What is truly devastating here are the implications it has for organizations and how they operate? Even though
every Controller knows not to fully trust the numbers his department provides, companies make critical
decisions based on this information—how to price products, whether we should make or buy a component,
whether a plant is profitable or not, where and how we should make additional investments, and a host of other
key managerial issues.(Moezzi et al, 2012)
Another damaging result of cost-based management accounting processes is the effort to capitalize costs by
absorbing them into inventory. This creates the direct incentive to build inventories and creates a powerful disincentive to reduce them. The mechanism allows managers to overproduce in times of low demand and defer
the labour and overhead portion of their costs until the products are sold. This creates the impression that a plant
or company is more profitable in a period than it really is, and less profitable than it really is when it is selling
off this excess inventory. More importantly, though, it motivates managers to build and maintain high
inventories, exactly the opposite of what most cutting edge improvement methodologies like JIT, TQM, and
TOC have shown to be required to be competitive today.
CONCLUSION
Throughput Accounting also pays particular attention to the concept of 'bottleneck' (referred to as constraint in
the Theory of Constraints) in the manufacturing or servicing processes.Like a rocket ship launched just a few
seconds of a degree off-course will end up far from its target, so a misplaced fundamental assumption will
result in actions far from the intended mark. Given the central role of management accounting in all business
functions, the impact on the business of shifting to Throughput Accounting is great. Its effects are felt in all
functions of the company, including: product costing/pricing, performance measurement, balance sheet
statements, transfer pricing, investment justification, reward structures, and make/buy decisions. Actions or
decisions improving the constraint directly impact Throughput. Actions or decisions at non-constraints that do
not help the constraint do not increase Throughput. By adding this critical piece Throughput Accounting
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enables managers to consider the full business ramifications of an action and make much more-informed
choices. Without this understanding of the critical role of constraints, management accounting methods are
doomed to only consider the cost side of the equation. Throughput accounting follows the system approach in
finance and management. Here receiving data systematically processing the same and sound reporting follows a
systems approach what kind of financial decisions it supports evolves from the demanding strategic issues of
the enterprise
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