1. Application Area

Many enterprises fail to take advantage of one of the most fundamental inventory management tools available. This specification details data inputs, applications, and implementation of Economic Order Quantity (EOQ). Specific detail on accurate order cost and carrying cost calculations are the key to calculating EOQ.

EOQ is essentially an accounting formula that determines the point at which the combination of order costs and inventory carrying costs are the least. The result is the most cost effective quantity to order. In purchasing this is known as the order quantity, in manufacturing this is known as the production lot size.

While EOQ may not apply to every inventory situation, most organizations will find it beneficial in at least some aspect of their operation. Anytime you have repetitive purchasing or planning of an item, EOQ should be considered. Obvious applications for EOQ are purchase-to-stock distributors and make-to-stock manufacturers, however, make-to-order manufacturers should also consider EOQ when they have multiple orders or release dates for the same items and when planning components and sub-assemblies. Repetitive buy maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) inventory is also a good application for EOQ. Though EOQ is generally recommended in operations where demand is relatively steady, items with demand variability such as seasonality can still use the model by going to shorter time periods for the EOQ calculation. Just make sure your usage and carrying costs are based on the same time period.

The basic EOQ formula is as follows:

2. Order Cost

Also known as purchase cost or set up cost, this is the sum of the fixed costs that are incurred each time an item is ordered. These costs are not associated with the quantity ordered but primarily with physical activities required to process the order.

For purchased items, these would include the cost to enter the purchase order and/or requisition, any approval steps, the cost to process the receipt, incoming inspection, invoice processing and vendor payment, and in some cases a portion of the inbound freight may also be included in order cost.

In manufacturing, the order cost would include the time to initiate the work order, time associated with picking and issuing components excluding time associated with counting and handling specific quantities, all production scheduling time, machine set up time, and inspection time. Production scrap directly associated with the machine setup should also be included in order cost as would be any tooling that is discarded after each production run. For the most part, order cost is primarily the labor associated with processing the order. However, you can include the other costs such as the costs of phone calls, faxes, postage, envelopes, etc.

3. Carrying Cost

Also called Holding cost, carrying cost is the cost associated with having inventory on hand. It is primarily made up of the costs associated with the inventory investment and storage cost. For the purpose of the EOQ calculation, if the cost does not change based upon the quantity of inventory on hand it should not be included in carrying cost. In the EOQ formula, carrying cost is represented as the annual cost per average on hand inventory unit. Below are the primary components of carrying cost.


If you had to borrow money to pay for your inventory, the interest rate would be part of the carrying cost. If you did not borrow on the inventory, but have loans on other capital items, you can use the interest rate on those loans since a reduction in inventory would free up money that could be used to pay these loans. If by some miracle you are debt free you would need to determine how much you could make if the money was invested.


Since insurance costs are directly related to the total value of the inventory, you would include this as part of carrying cost.


If you are required to pay any taxes on the value of your inventory they would also be included.

Storage Costs

Mistakes in calculating storage costs are common in EOQ implementations. Generally companies take all costs associated with the warehouse and divide it by the average inventory to determine a storage cost percentage for the EOQ calculation. This tends to include costs that are not directly affected by the inventory levels and does not compensate for storage characteristics. Carrying costs for the purpose of the EOQ calculation should only include costs that are variable based upon inventory levels.

There are situations where you may not want to include any storage costs in your EOQ calculation. If your operation has excess storage space of which it has no other uses you may decide not to include storage costs since reducing your inventory does not provide any actual savings in storage costs. As your operation grows near a point at which you would need to expand your physical operations you may then start including storage in the calculation.

A portion of the time spent on cycle counting should also be included in carrying cost, remember to apply costs which change based upon changes to the average inventory level. So with cycle counting, you would include the time spent physically counting and not the time spent filling out paperwork, data entry, and travel time between locations.

Other costs that can be included in carrying cost are risk factors associated with obsolescence, damage, and theft. Do not factor in these costs unless they are a direct result of the inventory levels and are significant enough to change the results of the EOQ equation.

4. Variations

Quantity discount logic can be programmed to work in conjunction with the EOQ formula to determine optimum order quantities. Most systems will require this additional programming.

Additional logic can be programmed to determine max quantities for items subject to spoilage or to prevent obsolescence on items reaching the end of their product life cycle.

When used in manufacturing to determine lot sizes where production runs are very long (weeks or months) and finished product is being released to stock and consumed/sold throughout the production run you may need to take into account the ratio of production to consumption to more accurately represent the average inventory level.

Your safety stock calculation may take into account the order cycle time that is driven by the EOQ. If so, you may need to tie the cost of the change in safety stock levels into the formula.

5. Utilization

EOQ calculation is a "Hard Science", if you have accurate inputs the output is the most cost-effective quantity to order based upon your current operational costs. To further increase inventory turns you will need to reduce the order costs. E-procurement, vendor-managed inventories, bar coding, and vendor certification programs can reduce the costs associated with processing an order. Equipment enhancements and process changes can reduce costs associated with manufacturing set up. Increasing forecast accuracy and reducing lead times which result in the ability to operate with reduced safety stock can also reduce inventory levels.