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Profit maximization and Cost minimization are fundamental concepts in Business and

Economic Theory. This handout is formatted to explain the process of understanding, creating,

and interpreting cost-revenue-profit functions. When paired with the handout Marginal

Analysis of Cost-Revenue-Profit Functions and the concepts learned in Business Calculus, this

handout will provide a foundation of the Business and Economic Theory needed to understand

how to maximize profits and minimize costs by using cost-revenue-profit functions.

Note: Cost, revenue, and profit functions dont only have to be in linear form. For ease

of defining the functions we will work with equations in linear form because it is a bit

more straightforward, but we cant neglect working these types of problems with

quadratic equations [ ie () = 2 + + ]. For more information on quadratic costrevenue-profit functions see the handout Marginal Analysis of Cost-Revenue-Profit

Functions.

Cost functions

Cost functions tell us what the total cost of producing output is. The cost function consists of

two different types of cost: Variable costs and fixed costs.

Variable cost varies with output (the number of units produced).

Ex: It costs a t-shirt making company $5 to make each shirt.

Fixed cost will be the same no matter what the output is.

Ex: It costs the same t-shirt company $250 a week to operate all the equipment

(machines, lights, electricity, etc.) to make t-shirts, regardless of how many

tshirts are made that week.

Output is defined as what/how-much is being produced and is usually represented either as

the variable x or as q (for quantity). But it can be represented with any letter, and

regardless of the letter, all problems will be solved the same way. (ex: an auto manufacturers

output is number of cars, a dry cleaners output is number of clean clothes)

A cost function represents the total cost ( + ), and is often expressed as a

linear equation [i.e. = + ].

Total Cost, () () = ( ) + = ( ) +

Fixed cost is assigned to b

Variable cost is assigned to m

Output is assigned to x

Lets analyze a cost function by working through a typical word problem that we would come

across

Example:

A firm that makes pencils plans on producing 500 pencils a week. Based off their

production costs throughout the years, they figure that it will cost them $1.00 to make

each pencil. There will also be a cost for running the equipment for a week that they

figure to be $350 for the whole week, regardless of how many pencils they make.

What is their fixed cost (b)? $350

What is their variable cost (m)? $1.00

So with all this in mind, our total cost can be written in the cost equation form: () = . +

Lets plug in the output into our cost function so we can see what the total cost of producing

500 pencils is:

() = . () + = $

It costs $850 to produce 500 pencils in one week Also notice that producing one extra

unit of output (x = 501) would raise our cost by $1 (remember that $1 is our variable

cost) from $850 to $851. This is the marginal cost of this particular cost function. For

each additional unit of x sold, our cost increases by $1 (again: selling 500 pencils costs

$850, selling 501 pencils costs $851)

Revenue Functions

Revenue is the total payment received from selling a good, performing a service, etc.

Warning: Dont confuse revenue with profit though, we will define profit very soon and

will see why they arent the same thing.

The revenue function, R(x), reflects the revenue from selling x amount of output items at a

price of p per item.

() =

Example:

The same pencil factory decides to sell its 500 pencils for $1.75 each. What would the total

revenue be?

What is the price (p)? $1.75

What is the output (x)? 500

() = ($. ) () = $

Notice that producing one extra unit of output (x = 501) would raise our revenue by our

selling price of $1.75 (selling 500 pencils gains us a revenue of $875, and selling 501 pencils

gains us a revenue of $876.75). This is the marginal revenue for this particular revenue

function, R(x). For each additional unit of x sold, our revenue increases by the selling price (in

this case $1.75).

Profit Functions

In business and economic courses we learn that profit and revenue are not the same thing.

Revenue reflects how much we earn from selling our product (gross proceeds) without

reflecting what the costs were. Profit functions, however, takes into account the costs of

production and represents how much the company really makes after deducting the costs of

production from the revenue. This is why Profit is defined as:

=

= or () = () ()

Example: We combine the revenue and cost functions that we found for the pencil company to

realize the Profit function for this company and figure out how much profit they obtain from

making and selling 500 pencils. Remember that: () = 1.75 and () = 1.00 + 350

We can either:

1). Plug in the formulas, combine like terms, and then solve for when x = 500

() = () ()

() = (1.75) (1.00 + 350)

() = .

(500) = (. 75 500) 350 = 375 350 = $

2). Or, solve the equations independently and then combine them to solve for P(500) (500)

= $850 (500) = $875 (500) = (500) (500) (500) = 875 850 = $

Break-Even Point

The break-even level of operation- is when the company neither makes a profit nor sustains a

loss. Note: The break-even level of operation is represented by the point of intersection of two

lines. The break-even level of production means the profit is zero.

Exercise 1:

Given the following profit function P(x) = 6x -12,000.

a. How many units should be produced in order to realize a profit of $9,000?

b. What is the profit or loss if 1,000 units are produced?

Exercise 2:

A bicycle manufacturer experiences fixed monthly costs of $124,992 and variable costs of

$52 per standard model bicycle produced. The bicycles sell for $100 each. How many bicycles

must he produce and sell each month to break even? What is his total revenue at the point

where he breaks even?

Exercise 3:

A division of the Acme Corporation manufactures a computer part. Each part sells for $9 and

the variable cost of producing each unit is 40% of the selling price. Monthly fixed cost incurred

by the division is $50,000. What is the break-even point?

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