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Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a financial estimate intended to help buyers and owners determine the direct and indirect costs of a product or system. It is a management accounting concept that can be used in full cost accounting or even ecological economics where it includes social costs.
For manufacturing, as TCO is typically compared with doing business overseas, it goes beyond the initial manufacturing cycle time and cost to make parts. TCO includes a variety of cost of doing business items, for example, ship and re-ship, and opportunity costs, while it also considers incentives developed for an alternative approach. Incentives and other variables include tax credits, common language, expedited delivery, and customer-oriented supplier visits.
TCO, when incorporated in any financial benefit analysis, provides a cost basis for determining the total economic value of an investment. Examples include: return on investment, internal rate of return, economic value added, return on information technology, and rapid economic justification.
A TCO analysis includes total cost of acquisition and operating costs as well costs related to replacement or upgrades at the end of the life cycle. A TCO analysis is used to gauge the viability of any capital investment. An enterprise may use it as a product/process comparison tool. It is also used by credit markets and financing agencies. TCO directly relates to an enterprise's asset and/or related systems total costs across all projects and processes, thus giving a picture of the profitability over time.
TCO analysis was popularized by the Gartner Group in 1987. The roots of this concept date at least back to the first quarter of the twentieth century. Many different methodologies and software tools have been developed to analyze TCO in various operational contexts.
TCO is applied to the analysis of information technology products, seeking to quantify the financial impact of deploying a product over its life cycle. These technologies include software and hardware, and training.
Technology deployment can include the following as part of TCO:
In the case of comparing TCO of existing versus proposed solutions, consideration should be put toward costs required to maintain the existing solution that may not necessarily be required for a proposed solution. Examples include cost of manual processing that are only required to support lack of existing automation, and extended support personnel.
The TCO concept is easily applicable to the transportation industry. For example, the TCO defines the cost of owning an automobile from the time of purchase by the owner, through its operation and maintenance to the time it leaves the possession of the owner. Comparative TCO studies between various models help consumers choose a car to fit their needs and budget.
Some of the key elements incorporated in the cost of ownership for a vehicle include:
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