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  1. Work-In-Progress
  2. Inventory Accounting
  3. Marketable Securities
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Work-in-Progress (WIP): Definition & Meaning

Updated: January 12, 2023

Work-in-progress (WIP) is a term used in supply-chain management. It describes goods that are partially finished and awaiting completion. WIP refers to production aspects like raw materials, labor costs, and overhead costs.

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    • You track work-in-progress (WIP) as the cost of products through the production process when they are unfinished. The data includes labor, raw materials, and overhead expenses.
    • Most businesses count WIP inventory as assets on balance sheets. 
    • You should minimize the value of WIP inventory for reporting at this stage. This is because it can be difficult to estimate what percentage of inventory assets are complete.
    • A product that is a WIP becomes a finished good once it is ready for consumer purchase.

    How to Track Works-in-Progress

    Many businesses use balance sheets to track production stages. WIP data goes on your inventory asset account sheet. When you complete the manufacturing process, the data moves over to the finished goods account sheet. After the product sells, the data moves one last time to the finished goods sheet. 

    WIP data is only a small portion of each balance sheet. The numbers reflect product values in a single production stage. Any raw materials that aren’t added yet will not appear on the balance sheet. Similarly, the final inventory value isn’t on the sheet yet. You add these numbers and values to future sheets. 

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    Real-World Example of Work-in-Progress

    If a company produces kitchenware like plates and drinks, the materials go through various stages of production. First, the company has raw materials to work with. 

    Next, the raw materials get melted down and molded into the cups and plates.

    Then each dish gets stamped or painted with signature designs by the company. 

    Finally, the products are packaged for sale. Some products may get added six to a box, while others have individual sale labels. A business can estimate the value of the WIP at each of these stages until it holds 100% value as a finished product.


    You calculate work-in-progress (WIP) as the cost of unfinished products through production. You include labor, raw materials, and overhead expenses in the formula. Most of the time you consider a WIP to be an asset on your balance sheet. The product’s value as a WIP is a percentage of its final value at completion. Once it is ready for sale, a product is no longer a WIP. Instead, it becomes a finished product.

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    FAQs on Works-in-Progress

    What is the difference between work-in-progress and finished goods?

    A WIP is a percentage of the way through production. It may need additional materials or packaging added. A finished product is complete and ready for sale.

    What is the difference between a work-in-progress and a work-in-process?

    These two terms have very similar meanings. Use the term work-in-progress is for products that have a longer production time. Work-in-process is the same thing, but with a faster turnaround time. Work-in-process usually refers to manufactured products. 

    What do you include in WIP calculations?

    The estimated product value includes raw materials, overhead costs, and labor.

    Is work-in-progress an accounting term?

    Yes. Companies use WIP in supply-chain management and may also call the goods in-process inventory.

    Is WIP part of inventory?

    Yes. A WIP is essentially inventory in anticipation. Once you complete the product, it moves over into inventory accounting. Then when you sell the product it moves one last time on balance sheets to the finished goods sheet.

    How do you calculate WIP?

    Most accounting teams take a percentage of the final product value and apply it to the WIP. You usually estimate the percentage based on an educated guess.


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