P. Ruiz de Arbulo1, J. Rodríguez1, J. Fortuny2 and B. Landeta1

1 Department of Business Management, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain.

2 Department of Business Management, Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Manresa, Spain.

1. Introduction

The last four decades have been characterized by changes in the business environment, such as increased competition and growing customer demands in terms of quality, price, customization and delivery times. In response to these changes, innovations in production systems, such as lean manufacturing, have been introduced.

On the other hand, in the 1980s, it was observed that traditional cost accounting evaluated unfavourably the innovations introduced by new approaches to production management [1]. In response to the distrust of information derived from traditional systems [23], Robin Cooper and Robert Kaplan developed the Activity Based Costing (ABC) method. The ABC system was designed to resolve the allocation of indirect costs -increasingly important in companies-, which was done in an almost arbitrary way.

The ABC system has not been widely accepted [4]. The implementation of an ABC system is a time-consuming process, as the development of interviews and surveys necessary to understand the activities carried out in the company is very time-consuming. In addition, companies are unsure of how to allocate costs to activities, because it is often based on subjective calculations of the percentage of time spent on each activity by each manager.

In summary, both academics and practitioners point out that the ABC model is not accurate enough to capture the complexity of a company’s real operations.

To overcome the drawbacks of the ABC costing system, Robert Kaplan and Steven Anderson developed the Time-Based ABC System (TDABC) in 2004 [56].

2. Metodology

A systematic literature review was conducted to explore the current status of TDABC.

Articles were obtained from Web of Science and the Scopus database. These sources ensure a selection of articles in high impact factor journals and refereed manuscripts in reputable conference proceedings.

All searches were limited to the following conditions:

  1. Type of document: journal articles (mostly academic journals, but some are practitioner journals), conference proceedings and book chapters.
  2. Language: No language was set a priori, but the keywords used were in English.
  3. Year: From 2004 to January 2021.

3. Results

Although it can be considered a young field of research, the last 10 years have seen a remarkable increase in the number of published articles (Figure 1). The first three publications were made in 2008. The rate of publications has gradually increased, reaching 22 papers in 2016 and 19 in 2017. In terms of citations, an upward trend is observed year after year. The most cited papers are Keel et al. (2017)  with 87 citations; Laviana et al. (2016) with 84 citations; Akhavan et al. (2016) with 81 citations; Everaert et al. (2008), cited 74 times; McLaughlin et al. (2014), with 47 citations; Kaplan (2014), cited 43 times; and Blumenthal et al. (2018) with 41 citations. It is worth noting that of these 7 papers, 5 of them are from the hospital sector, one of them is from the distribution sector and finally the last one is a doctrinal article on TDABC.

4. Conclusions

This work contributes to the development of research on TDABC. The bibliometric study has revealed which researchers work on CBABA and in which institutions or organisations they carry out their work. The number of articles on this topic has increased in recent years, which shows, on the one hand, that there is a real interest in this issue, but this growth has not been very large and its practical application in organisations has mainly focused on the case of hospitals. Some cases can be mentioned in the automotive and retail sectors.

The TDABC system originated in the United States, specifically at Harvard University, and most of the articles come from the United States, specifically from Harvard University. However, as this is an under-researched field of knowledge, it is still difficult to identify the main authors of the research stream.  It is possible that the fact that it has not had a great expansion or degree of implementation in organisations is due, as in the case of the ABC costing system, to the complexity of its application.


  1. Ruiz de Arbulo, P., Fortuny, J.: Innovation in cost management: from ABC to TDABC. Dirección y Organización 43, 16-26 (2011)
  2. Kaplan, R.S.: Measuring manufacturing performance: a new challenge for managerial accounting research. The Accounting Review 58 (4), 686-705 (1983).
  3. Kaplan, R.S.: Yesterday’s accounting undermines production. Harvard Business Review 62 95-101 (1984).
  4. Rigby, D.K.: Management Tools. Bain & Company Publishing, Boston (2003).
  5. Kaplan, R.S., Anderson, S.: Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing. Harvard Business Review, 82 (11), 131-138 (2004)
  6. Kaplan, R.S., Anderson, S.:  Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing. A simpler and more powerful path to higher profits, Boston: Harvard Business School Press. (2007)


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Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Industrial Management and XXV Congreso de Ingeniería de Organización Copyright © by (Eds.) José Manuel Galán; Silvia Díaz-de la Fuente; Carlos Alonso de Armiño Pérez; Roberto Alcalde Delgado; Juan José Lavios Villahoz; Álvaro Herrero Cosío; Miguel Ángel Manzanedo del Campo; and Ricardo del Olmo Martínez is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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