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12 Good Accounting Practices Your Manufacturing Business Should Follow

Team reviewing protocols that align with accounting practices in manufacturing

Manufacturing accounting is a crucial aspect of any manufacturing business, and it can be overwhelming to maintain accurate financial records while focusing on the day-to-day operations. 

A survey by the Chamber of Commerce reported that 60% of businesses fail due to poor financial management and accounting errors, estimated to cost the global manufacturing industry a staggering $163 billion annually. 

Inaccurate financial reporting, cash flow, and failure to implement best practices can lead to financial losses, legal complications, and reduced profitability.

You, the business owner or financial manager, know the challenges all too well. Accounting mistakes not only disrupt the analysis process flow but can also lead to severe cash flow problems. 

How often have you found yourself questioning the accuracy of your financial reporting? 

Are you struggling with accounting mistakes in your manufacturing processes? 

Do you want to know how good accounting processes can help you with business finances, planning, and analysis?

Here's the good news: these problems are all preventable. You can gain a clear and accurate picture of your financial health by implementing good internal controls tailored to the manufacturing industry. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the practices your business should follow, helping you streamline your analysis process flow, improve financial reporting, and ultimately, make informed decisions that drive your business forward.

Understanding Manufacturing Accounting 

Manufacturing accounting is a specialized domain of accounting that caters to the unique needs and challenges of manufacturing businesses. It encompasses a wide array of financial practices crucial for the effective management of production processes, inventory, cost of goods sold, and overall financial planning

Given the complex nature of manufacturing operations, which often involve extensive supply chains, varied product lines, and significant capital investments, mastering the nuances of manufacturing accounting is essential for any business aiming to thrive in this sector.

The Complexities of Manufacturing Accounting

At its core, manufacturing accounting tracks and analyzes the costs associated with producing goods. 

This process is complex due to several components involved, such as raw material costs, labor costs, overheads, and expenses related to equipment and facility maintenance. Each of these factors must be meticulously accounted for and allocated to determine product pricing, profitability, and financial health accurately.

Furthermore, manufacturing businesses often have to manage diverse inventory items, each with its own lifecycle and costing requirements, adding another layer of complexity to the accounting process.

Accrual accounting practices play a pivotal role in managing these complexities. Unlike more straightforward cash-based accounting, accrual accounting recognizes economic events regardless of when cash transactions occur, providing a more accurate picture of a company's financial position.

This method is essential for manufacturing businesses, as it effectively matches expenses with revenues, ensuring accurate profit reporting and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

The Importance of Accurate Financial Management in Manufacturing

The financial stability of your business hinges on the ability to implement effective accounting practices. Accurate financial management safeguards the business from potential legal consequences and liability issues and ensures compliance with various legal and regulatory requirements. By maintaining precise records and adhering to established accounting best practices, businesses can avoid costly errors and mitigate the risk of fraud.

Moreover, implementing robust bookkeeping and accounting practices is fundamental to assessing the financial health of your business. It enables business owners and finance departments to make informed decisions based on key financial ratios and critical financial indicators. Such practices also involve developing and following stringent policies and procedures that guide the finance department in maintaining high standards of financial integrity.

Regardless of size or industry, every business must recognize the importance of maintaining accurate and compliant accounting records. This commitment to financial accuracy and accountability is not just about avoiding legal consequences; it's about fostering better financial management that supports strategic decision-making and long-term success.

Implementing certain accounting practices, such as regular audits, strategic budgeting, and investment in accounting professionals, can significantly enhance a manufacturing business's financial stability and growth potential.

Common Accounting Mistakes in Manufacturing And How to Avoid Them

Even minor business accounting errors can snowball into significant profitability headaches in the fast-paced manufacturing world. 

Here's the deal—inaccurate financial data can lead to missed opportunities, inefficient production, and, ultimately, difficulty making informed decisions.  

Sharpen your financial focus, and identify and address these common pitfalls.

Mistake #1: Inconsistent or Inaccurate Inventory Management

The Problem

Without a clear picture of your business expenses, raw materials, work-in-progress (WIP), and finished goods, it's impossible to calculate production costs accurately. This can lead to overspending on materials, stockouts that halt production, or excess inventory eating into your cash flow.

The Fix

Implement a robust inventory management system. This could involve a barcode system, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, or accounting software with inventory tracking features. Conduct regular inventory audits (at least annually) to identify discrepancies and minimize shrinkage.

Mistake #2: Lack of Cost Accounting Segregation

The Problem

Blanding all your manufacturing costs together (direct labor, direct materials, and overhead expenses) makes it impossible to pinpoint areas for improvement. You might be unknowingly overspending on raw materials while neglecting inefficiencies in labor or machine usage.

The Fix

Establish a detailed chart of accounts tailored to your manufacturing needs. This allows you to categorize costs by department, product line, or individual units. Consider implementing activity-based costing (ABC) to identify and assign overhead costs to specific activities, products, or customers.

Mistake #3: Manual Data Entry Errors

The Problem

Relying on manual data entry is a recipe for errors, especially in a fast-paced manufacturing environment. Typos in material costs, labor hours, or invoice amounts can lead to inaccurate financial reports and poor decision-making.

The Fix

Invest in accounting software that automates data entry tasks like invoice processing, payroll, and recording transactions. This minimizes human error and frees your team's time for more strategic financial analysis.

Mistake #4: Inaccurate or Outdated Accounting Records

The Problem

Hanging on to outdated or inaccurate financial information creates a murky picture of your financial health. This makes it difficult to track trends, forecast future performance, or secure funding from lenders who rely on accurate financial data.

The Fix

Develop a system for maintaining meticulous and up-to-date financial records. Ensure all transactions are promptly recorded and reconciled with bank statements. Regularly review and update your chart of accounts to reflect any changes in your manufacturing operations.

Mistake #5: Inadequate Financial Reporting

The Problem

Limited or infrequent financial reports can leave you flying blind when it comes to your financial health. Without clear insights into your cash flow, profitability, and overall financial performance, making informed decisions about resource allocation, pricing strategies, or future investments is difficult.

The Fix

Establish a routine for generating financial reports such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Conduct monthly reviews to identify trends and monitor performance against budgets. Consider weekly reports for critical metrics like cash flow.

Mistake #6: Neglecting Variance Analysis

The Problem

Simply tracking costs isn't enough. You need to analyze the variances between budgeted and actual costs to identify areas for improvement. Ignoring these variances can lead to missed opportunities to optimize production processes and reduce expenses.

The Fix

Regularly compare actual costs to budgeted costs to pinpoint discrepancies. Analyze these variances to identify material waste, production inefficiencies, or labor cost overruns. Use this information to take corrective action and optimize your manufacturing processes.

Mistake #7: Underestimating the Value of a Qualified Accountant

The Problem

Manufacturing accounting has its own complexities. Relying solely on in-house staff who may not have specialized knowledge of accounting best practices can lead to overlooking crucial financial insights.

The Fix

Partner with a qualified accountant with experience in the manufacturing industry. They can provide valuable guidance on implementing best practices, ensure compliance with tax regulations, and offer insights for improving your financial health. They can also help you interpret complex financial data and translate it into actionable insights for your business.

Mistake #8: Failing to Stay Updated on Industry Trends 

The Problem

The world of accounting is constantly evolving. New technologies and best practices emerge regularly. Sticking with outdated methods can make your bookkeeping less efficient and leave you vulnerable to errors.

The Fix

Continuously improve your manufacturing accounting system by staying updated on industry trends and technological advancements. Explore cloud-based accounting solutions that offer real-time data access and scalability. Investigate the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) applications in accounting for tasks like automated data entry, streamlining financial statements, or anomaly detection.

Mistake #9: Not Fostering a Culture of Financial Awareness

The Problem

Financial health isn't just the responsibility of the accounting department. If employees at all levels don't understand the importance of accurate data and responsible spending, it can lead to inefficiencies and missed cost-saving opportunities.

The Fix

Promote a company culture where all employees understand the impact of their actions on the company's financial health. Educate production staff on the impact of waste reduction on profitability. Involve sales teams in setting realistic pricing strategies based on cost analysis. This collaborative approach can lead to better cost control and overall financial health for your business.

Mistake #10:Skipping Regular System Reviews and Audits

The Problem

Even the most robust accounting system can become outdated or inefficient. Failing to conduct regular reviews and audits can leave you vulnerable to errors and security breaches.

The Fix

Schedule regular reviews of your accounting system to identify areas for improvement or potential security gaps. Consider internal audits by a qualified professional to ensure your system operates effectively and complies with accounting regulations.

A well-oiled accounting system is the lifeblood of any successful manufacturing operation. By identifying and addressing common pitfalls, you can streamline your financial processes, gain valuable insights into your business health, and, ultimately, unlock long-term profitability. 

Remember, a proactive approach to manufacturing accounting can help you make informed decisions that drive your business forward. Don't let accounting errors become a roadblock to success.

Top 12 Accounting Best Practices For Businesses To Implement

Struggling to keep a tight grip on your manufacturing costs? You're not alone. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found that 40% of manufacturers cite inaccurate cost data as a major barrier to profitability

Let's take control! By implementing solid accounting practices designed for the manufacturing industry, you can gain a crystal-clear picture of your financial health and unlock the path to profitability.

Here are the top 12 best practices to elevate your manufacturing accounting game.

1. Embrace Accounting Software

Ditch the spreadsheets and manual processes. Modern accounting software streamlines data entry by up to 70% (as reported by Finances Online), automates tasks like invoice processing and payroll and provides real-time financial reporting. Popular options include QuickBooks Manufacturing and Acumatica Manufacturing Edition.

2. Craft a Tailored Chart of Accounts

A well-defined chart of accounts categorizes your financial transactions based on your specific manufacturing needs. For example, raw materials can be broken down into subcategories like steel, plastic, and electronics. This allows for detailed cost breakdowns (by product line or even individual units), real-time inventory tracking by item, and improved financial analysis to identify cost-saving opportunities.

3. Master Inventory Management

Gain real-time visibility into your raw materials, work-in-progress (WIP), and finished goods. Implement a barcode system or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to track inventory movement throughout production. Regular inventory audits (at least annually) minimize shrinkage and ensure accurate cost calculations.

4. Streamline Cost Accounting

Accurately capture and categorize all your manufacturing costs, including direct labor, materials, and overhead expenses. Consider implementing activity-based costing (ABC) to identify and assign overhead costs to specific activities, products, or customers. This helps identify areas for cost reduction (e.g., optimizing machine usage) and improve profitability.

5. Leverage Automated Accounting

Leverage accounting software to automate repetitive tasks like data entry, invoice processing, and payroll. This frees up your team's time for more strategic financial analysis, such as identifying cost-saving opportunities or exploring new pricing strategies.

6. Accuracy is Key

Maintain meticulous records and ensure all financial transactions are promptly reconciled with bank statements. This builds trust in your data and facilitates accurate financial reporting, which is crucial for informed decision-making and securing funding from lenders.

7. Schedule Regular Reporting

Establish a routine for generating financial reports such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. Conduct monthly reviews to identify trends, monitor performance against budgets, and make informed business decisions. Consider weekly reports for critical metrics like cash flow.

8. Embrace Variance Analysis

Compare actual costs to budgeted costs to pinpoint any discrepancies (variances). Variance analysis helps you identify areas for improvement (e.g., identifying material waste or production inefficiencies) and optimize your manufacturing processes.

9. The Power of Forecasting

Utilize historical financial data and industry trends to forecast future revenue and expenses. This proactive approach helps you make informed decisions about resource allocation (e.g., labor or raw materials), inventory management (avoiding stockouts or overstocking), and pricing strategies (ensuring profitability).

10. Partner with an Accounting Pro

An experienced accountant with manufacturing industry expertise can provide valuable guidance on implementing best practices, ensure compliance with tax regulations, and offer insights for improving your financial health. They can also help you interpret complex financial data and translate it into actionable insights for your business.

11. Continuous Improvement

The world of accounting is constantly evolving. Stay updated on the latest industry trends, best practices, and technological advancements (like cloud-based accounting or artificial intelligence applications in accounting) to improve your manufacturing accounting system continuously.

12. Financial Awareness for All

Foster a company culture where all employees understand the importance of accurate financial data and responsible spending. Educate production staff on the impact of waste reduction on profitability and involve sales teams in setting realistic pricing strategies based on cost analysis. This can lead to better cost control and improved overall financial health for your business.

By implementing these best practices for your business, you can establish a robust accounting system that empowers you to make informed decisions, optimize production processes, and, ultimately, unlock long-term profitability for your manufacturing business. 

Remember, accurate and insightful financial data is the key to making data-driven decisions that drive your manufacturing business forward.

Accounting Tools To Consider For Your Manufacturing Business

Aside from working with a professional accounting team, one of the most important accounting tasks for any business or organization is to keep accurate financial statements using accounting software and tools. This not only helps you make informed financial decisions but also ensures that you are in compliance with accounting best practices your business should implement.

QuickBooks Enterprise - Manufacturing & Wholesale Edition

QuickBooks offers a comprehensive bookkeeping system tailored for the manufacturing sector. It supports various accounting duties, including accounts receivable, payroll, and invoice management. 

The software provides detailed financial reporting, helping businesses keep track of their cash flow and make strategic decisions. It also features inventory management tools essential for manufacturing businesses. Costs vary depending on the number of users and specific needs, but expect to invest in a robust solution that caters to the complex nature of manufacturing accounting.


Xero is a cloud-based accounting platform known for its ease of use and flexibility. It offers real-time financial analysis and automated accounting practices and integrates with a multitude of third-party apps, enhancing its functionality for manufacturing businesses. Xero's features include invoicing, payroll processing, and financial reporting, all designed to help you understand your business's financial health better and make informed decisions based on relevant financial data. Pricing plans are subscription-based, making it a scalable option for businesses of all sizes.

Sage 100cloud Manufacturing

Sage 100cloud is designed for small to medium-sized manufacturers who require detailed production management tools alongside traditional accounting functions. It helps manage the entire manufacturing process, from financial analysis to inventory control, production planning, and customer relationship management. 

Sage 100cloud assists in maintaining effective accounting practices and accurate accounting records, which are crucial for meeting the financial and legal challenges of manufacturing. Subscription costs vary depending on the modules selected and the scale of your operations.

NetSuite ERP

For businesses looking for an all-in-one solution, NetSuite ERP offers a comprehensive suite of applications covering ERP, CRM, HR, and e-commerce functionalities. Its manufacturing module provides real-time visibility into operations, financial forecasting, and supply chain management alongside core accounting features. 

This cloud-based system supports businesses in reducing the risk of fraud, maintaining accuracy in financial documents, and adhering to accounting best practices. While NetSuite is on the higher end of the pricing spectrum, its extensive features make it a valuable investment for growing manufacturing businesses.

Empower Your Manufacturing Success with Good Accounting Practices at Accounovation!

At Accounovation, we understand the unique challenges faced by manufacturers. Our team of experts, including seasoned CFOs and experienced controllers, can transform your bookkeeping and accounting function and become a strategic partner in your growth journey.

Here's what sets Accounovation apart:

Customized Manufacturing Accounting Solutions

We provide a comprehensive suite of finance and accounting services, including strategic financial guidance, streamlined accounting systems, and efficient transaction processing (A/P, A/R, Payroll).

Focus on Profitability and Growth

Our expert CFOs go beyond basic accounting. They analyze your financial data, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to boost your profitability and fuel your business growth.

Long-Term Strategic Support

We offer comprehensive services like budgeting, forecasting, tax filing, and due diligence to help you plan for the future and achieve long-term success.

Rapid Results

Within just 60 days, we can identify profitability boosters for your manufacturing company and set you on a path to rapid growth.

Ready to unlock the full potential of your manufacturing business?

Contact Accounovation today for a free consultation and discover how our customized solutions can help you achieve a path to long-term success

Don't wait – invest in your manufacturing future with Accounovation as your trusted financial partner.