Saving Localization Costs While Increasing Success in the Global Marketplace

April 22, 2010
Best practices in translation management

As more businesses expand internationally and global success becomes increasingly important, companies are looking for ways to streamline their localization processes, while maintaining the productivity of their expert knowledge workers. TMS (translation management software) is used by several successful manufacturing companies, such asSMA Solar Technology (SMA), and Volkswagen, enabling them to effectively manage their translation and localization efforts, maintain consistently lower localization costs, increase efficiency of personnel resources, and produce higher quality translations than their competitors.

A recent study from Aberdeen Research, "Translating Product Documentation," shows that the integration of translation management solutions is an emerging practice among top companies in the global marketplace. Aberdeen's research indicates that Best-in-Class companies save 240% over their competitors in translation expenses and 630% more in localization costs.

They reduce the time required to complete translation projects by 30%-50% and translate content into 48% more languages than their competitors. In addition, they complete 88% of their translation projects by targeted deadlines and 91% come in under budget.

Significant productivity drivers are: increased control and transparency over the entire process, "closed loop" processes that promote internal and external accountability, and automated re-use of content. The findings support the strategy of using TMS with capabilities such as project and workflow management, a translation memory, and a terminology system, creating a more unified and efficient work environment.

TMS enables manufacturing companies to streamline their localization initiatives and easily manage and address all aspects of the process, such as adjusting the offer, goals, website, marketing plan, collateral and their way of selling based on each local market. In order to maximize usage of TMS software, it is important to gain an understanding and then control of the process, especially in outsourcing scenarios.

Companies should start by getting a clear view of how their translation project management is handled currently and then define consistent processes and workflows to integrate the use of both internal and external translators and localization service providers. Knowing what legacy data exists will help to consolidate terminology in a single database and to prepare existing translation memory data to form the foundation of quality assurance. Collaboration of technical writers and translators with designers and engineers is important. In fact, once established, the primary language term database can be used in authoring new materials as well, even before translation is begun, to make it easier and more cost-effective to translate later.

The reuse of previously translated text can significantly decrease the time needed to complete future translations. For example, SMA, a solar inverter manufacturer with the highest solar infrastructure sales worldwide, implemented a TMS platform technology developed by Across Systems, Inc. after a major launch of an overseas promotion in 2004 led the company to exponential growth in demand for translations. Previously, the translation of an 80-page operating manual took up to two months after product release to be completed, but now, even the prototype is equipped with high-quality multilingual documentation.

"The final version of the translation is available within a few hours; even if modifications are made to the product at the last moment," says Gerald Salisbury, manager of translation service at SMA Solar Technology AG. SMA now effectively manages about 3,000 translation projects annually.

Best-in-Class companies plan TMS training workshops by assessing the impact on everyday business and identifying how using the software will ease the workloads and improve the results of each department involved. When people understand the advantages, they are more amenable to establishing standards. Training depends on roles, but typically, proofreaders may need only two to three hours of training, while project managers may require a full day. Knowing current costs and how they are structured (internal/external, direct/indirect) will go a long way in helping to measure the return the on investment.

Siemens has experienced cost savings of 50%, process reliability, and quality improvement since 2007, when it began to use TMS. "We were able to cut the administrative overhead for translations by 50%," says Christian Zimmerman, head of the technical writing team at Siemens. "Moreover, the processes are much more transparent, and the project status can be queried at all times."

In addition to increasing document quality and lowering costs, an integrated TMS helps manufacturing companies to address industry challenges such as meeting legislative requirements in regard to liability and safety, like EU machinery directive requirements (when companies sell into European markets) and OSHA requirements (within the U.S.). Especially now, when reaching emerging markets like Asia and Eastern Europe is more important than ever, companies are in need of efficient localization processes. Localized product documentation is not only highly important to ensure that local workers are able to understand operations and avoid accidents, in Europe it is required by law that machines come with manuals in the local language. Also, Aberdeen's research has proven that consumers are more likely to buy products in their local language.

Heike Nock is Marketing Manager for Across Systems, Inc (, a software solution company which provides a central server platform for all corporate language resources and for controlling translation processes and workflows.

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