What is a Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL)?
Degree of Operating Leverage measures the sensitivity of company’s operating income with changes in sales; a higher DOL implies higher proportion of fixed cost in the business operations whereas lower DOL implies lower fixed cost investment in running the business.
Degree of Operating Leverage Formula
The formula is used to determine the impact of a change in a company’s sales on the operating income of that company.
 The concept of DOL revolves around the proportion of fixed costs and variable costs in the overall cost structure of a company.
 A company with a higher proportion of fixed costs has a higher DOL as compared to a company with a higher proportion of variable costs.
 If in case the DOL is high, then the earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) is more sensitive to the percentage change in sales while all other variables remaining the same, and vice versa.
The formula of Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL) is derived by dividing the percentage change in the EBIT by the percentage change in the sales and it is represented as,
Conversely, the formula for DOL can also be derived by dividing the contribution margin by the EBIT of the company which is mathematically represented as,
It can be further expanded as shown below,
Degree of Operating Leverage Formula = (Sales – Variable cost) / (Sales – Fixed cost – Variable cost)
Explanation
The formula can be derived by using the following three steps:
Step 1: Firstly, determine the operating income or EBIT during the current year and the previous year. Now, compute the percentage change in EBIT initially by deducting the EBIT of the previous year from that of the current year and then dividing the result by the EBIT of the previous year as shown below,
Percentage change in EBIT = (EBIT _{current year} – EBIT _{previous year)} / EBIT _{previous year} * 100%
Step 2: Next, determine the sales during the current year and the previous year. Now, compute the percentage change in sales initially by deducting the sales of the previous year from that of the current year and then dividing the result by the sales of the previous year as shown below,
Percentage change in sales = (Sales _{current year} – Sales _{previous year)} / Sales _{previous year} * 100%
Step 3: Finally, the formula can be calculated by dividing the value in Step 1 by that of Step 2 as above.
Examples
Let’s see some simple to advanced examples to understand it better.
Example #1
Let us take the example of Company A which has clocked sales of $800,000 in year one which further increased to $1,000,000 in year two. In year one, the operating expenses of the company stood at $450,000, while in year two, the same went up to $550,000. Determine the DOL for Company A.
Use the following data for the calculation of Degree of Operating Leverage.
EBIT in year 1
 EBIT in year 1 = Sales in year 1 – Operating expense in year 1
 = $800,000 – $450,000
 = $350,000
EBIT in Year 2
 EBIT in year 2 = Sales in year 2 – Operating expense in year 2
 = $1,000,000 – $550,000
 = $450,000
Change in EBIT
 Change in EBIT = EBIT in year 2 – EBIT in year 1
 = $450,000 – $350,000
 = $100,000
Percentage Change in EBIT
 Percentage change in EBIT = Change in EBIT / EBIT in year 1 * 100%
 = $100,000 / $350,000 * 100%
 = 28.57%
Change in Sales
 Change in sales = Sales in year 2 – Sales in year 1
 = $1,000,000 – $800,000
 = $200,000
Percentage Change in Sales
 Percentage change in sales = Change in sales / Sales in year 1 * 100%
 = $200,000 / $800,000 * 100%
 = 25.00%
Calculation of Degree of Operating Leverage will be –
Now, DOL Formula = Percentage change in EBIT / Percentage change in sales
 DOL Formula= 28.57% / 25.00%
 = 1.14
Therefore, the DOL of Company A is 1.14.
Example #2
Let us take the example of another Company B which is in the business of chocolate manufacturing and in the current year has achieved a sales volume of 18,000 pieces with an average sales price of $50 per piece. The overall cost structure of the company is such that the fixed cost is $100,000 while the variable cost is $25 per piece. Calculate Degree of Operating Leverage for Company B.
Use the following data for the calculation of Degree of Operating Leverage.
Sales = Sales volume * Average sales price per piece
 = 18,000 * $50
 = $900,000
Variable cost = Sales volume * Variable cost per piece
 = 18,000 * $25
 = $450,000
Contribution Margin
Contribution margin = Sales – Variable cost
 = $900,000 – $450,000
 = $450,000
EBIT
EBIT = Sales – Variable cost – Fixed cost
 = $900,000 – $450,000 – $100,000
 = $350,000
Calculation will be as follows –
Now, DOL Formula = Contribution margin / EBIT
 DOL Formula = $450,000 / $350,000
 = 1.29
Therefore, the DOL of Company B is 1.29.
Degree of Operating Leverage Calculator
You can use the following Degree of Operating Leverage Calculator.
Percentage Change in EBIT  
Percentage Change in Sales  
DOL Formula  
DOL Formula = 


Relevance and Uses
It is important to understand the concept of DOL formula because it helps a company to appreciate the effects of operating leverage on the probable earnings of the company. It is a key ratio for a company to determine a suitable level of operating leverage that can be utilized to secure the maximum benefit out of the operating income of a company.
If a company has high operating leverage, then it means that a large proportion of its overall cost structure is due to fixed costs. Such a company will enjoy huge changes in profits with a relatively smaller increase in sales. On the other hand, if a company has low operating leverage, then it means that variable costs contribute a large proportion of its overall cost structure. Such a company does not need to increase sales per se to cover its lower fixed costs, but it earns a smaller profit on each incremental sale.
Nevertheless, a company with high operating leverage should always keep in mind that, visàvis a company with low operating leverage, it is more vulnerable to poor corporate decisions and other variables that may result in significant decrease in income.
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