Diseconomies of Scale Definition: Causes and Types Explained


Diseconomies of scale occur when a company’s growth leads to an increase in the average unit costs of production. As businesses expand, they can encounter various internal and external factors that hinder their efficiency and drive up costs. In this article, we delve into the causes and types of diseconomies of scale, exploring how technical issues, organizational challenges, and external constraints can impact a firm’s operations and profitability.

Diseconomies of scale: Understanding the basics

Diseconomies of scale are a critical concept in economics and business. They occur when a company’s expansion of output is accompanied by a rise in average unit costs. This phenomenon stands in contrast to economies of scale, where costs decrease as production increases. Let’s explore this in more detail:

Causes of diseconomies of scale

Various factors contribute to diseconomies of scale, and they can be broadly categorized as internal or external:

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Allows for a detailed examination of diseconomies of scale
  • Highlights the impact on a firm’s cost structure
  • May require a deeper understanding of economic concepts
  • Does not provide specific solutions for overcoming diseconomies of scale

Internal diseconomies of scale

Internal factors contributing to diseconomies of scale include technical constraints and organizational challenges:

Technical diseconomies of scale

Technical diseconomies of scale involve physical limits on handling and combining inputs and goods in the production process. These limits can manifest as:

  • Overcrowding, where employees and machines impede each other’s efficiency.
  • Mismatches in the scale or speed of different inputs and processes.

For instance, if a company adds too many machines to its warehouse without considering the impact on employee productivity, it can lead to increased costs and reduced output.

Organizational diseconomies of scale

Organizational challenges can also trigger diseconomies of scale:

  • Communication becomes less effective as a business expands, leading to potential misunderstandings.
  • Motivation may decline among employees in larger companies, affecting productivity.

These issues can disrupt the smooth functioning of a growing firm.

External diseconomies of scale

External factors contributing to diseconomies of scale result from constraints imposed by the environment in which a firm operates:

External capacity constraints

External capacity constraints occur when common resources or public goods cannot meet the demands of increased production. For example:

  • Congestion on public highways can increase logistical costs.
  • Depletion of critical natural resources can lead to rising costs.
Price inelasticity of supply

Price inelasticity of supply for key inputs can also cause diseconomies of scale. This means that as a firm tries to increase output, it must purchase more inputs at rapidly increasing costs.
In conclusion, understanding diseconomies of scale is crucial for businesses aiming to maintain efficiency and cost-effectiveness as they grow. By addressing both internal and external factors that contribute to diseconomies of scale, companies can optimize their operations and enhance their competitiveness in the market.

Frequently asked questions

What are diseconomies of scale?

Diseconomies of scale refer to the situation where a company’s costs per unit increase as it expands production. Instead of enjoying cost reductions, larger operations face rising average unit costs.

How do diseconomies of scale differ from economies of scale?

Economies of scale occur when a company experiences decreasing average unit costs as it increases production. Diseconomies of scale, on the other hand, involve increasing average unit costs as a company grows.

What are the common internal causes of diseconomies of scale?

Internal causes can include overcrowding, mismatches in production processes, communication challenges, and declining employee motivation as a business expands.

What external factors can lead to diseconomies of scale?

External factors include capacity constraints on common resources, increased logistical costs, and price inelasticity of supply for key inputs needed for production.

How can a company mitigate the effects of diseconomies of scale?

To address diseconomies of scale, a company should carefully manage its growth, invest in efficient technologies, improve communication, and maintain employee motivation. It’s also essential to monitor external factors and adapt strategies accordingly.

Can diseconomies of scale be avoided entirely?

While it may be challenging to avoid diseconomies of scale entirely, a well-managed company can minimize their impact by proactively addressing internal and external challenges. Diligent planning and strategic decision-making play a crucial role in this process.

Key takeaways

  • Diseconomies of scale occur when a company’s expansion leads to higher average unit costs.
  • Causes can be internal (technical or organizational) or external (resource constraints).
  • Managing growth and optimizing operations are key strategies to mitigate diseconomies of scale.
View article sources
  1. Diseconomies of Scale: Meaning, Causes & Graph – StudySmarter UK
  2. Economies and diseconomies of scale (video) – Khan Academy
  3. Diseconomies of Scale – What Is It, Examples – WallStreetMojo