A Guide to Technical Translation for Manufacturers: Part 3.
Once you’ve settled on an LSP for your technical translation project, all that remains is the translation itself. That’s not to say that you can just sit back and wait for the completed texts to be returned to you; if the best outcomes are to be reached then you need to be proactive in your efforts to keep track of progress every step of the way. Unlike the previous section, the tips on offer here are by no means unique to translation services – specifics of the translation process aside, an LSP is no different from any other service supplier that you may have dealings with, whether they provide you with raw materials for manufacturing, stationery for those working in your offices, or even the snacks that fill your on-site vending machines. As such, best practice when dealing with those suppliers also applies here.
First and foremost, communication is key. We cannot understate the importance of keeping an open dialogue from the outset through to conclusion in order to ensure that both you and your LSP remain on the same page. Something you can do to help ease things along is to maintain transparency from the very beginning; being forthcoming with the details of the various processes involved in your manufacturing operation will allow the LSP to form the clearest possible picture of how your business works and will subsequently lead to the most accurate technical translations.
You should be similarly transparent when it comes to discussing your visions and expectations for the project – when all is said and done, what are you looking to receive? Be as clear as you can when explaining the major goal(s) to your LSP and you will avoid any unpleasant surprises. If your plans change midway through the project, communicate this as soon as possible to allow for any necessary readjustments on the part of the translator. By talking to one another throughout, the process will run much more smoothly for everybody involved.
One thing that should go without saying here – especially considering how much we have stressed the importance of all parties being on the same page – is the proper use of service level agreements. Having an SLA in place at the outset is a must, as it lays down in no uncertain terms a written record of what your LSP is expected to provide throughout the course of the translation project. Progress should be monitored frequently to ensure that the terms of any SLA are being adhered to, and if you can combine these check-ins with a list of key performance indicators (KPIs) you can easily quantify the rate at which work is being done (and to what standard it is being performed) and address any concerns with supporting evidence.
It is likely that your LSP – if they are a particularly professional outfit – will have their own KPIs to work from, and as such they should have no problem with providing you detailed analyses of progress. Once again the importance of communication comes to the fore, as the use of a clear and reasonable SLA with measurable KPIs allows both parties to highlight areas of concern so that an amicable solution can be reached. You may find it preferable to opt for a managed SLA, whereby someone within the LSP handles most of the project management. This is certainly worth considering if you or your employees lack the time required for frequent monitoring of progress and overcoming of any speed bumps that may occur along the way.
We mentioned in the previous section that when choosing your LSP you ought to prepare a shortlist in the event that your number one choice ends up withdrawing from the project or, for whatever reason, turns out to be less than satisfactory. Having a second choice at the ready is also a wise idea in case of sudden changes on your side of things; if the project turns out to be much more intensive than you had initially foreseen then introducing a second translation team into the project can ease the stress on your primary LSP and ensure a higher standard of work across the board. If your translators are overworked, they are significantly less likely to output the kind of accuracy and consistency that is so vital to technical translation, so having reinforcements in place to share the strain is always a good idea.
If the unthinkable should happen and you become so dissatisfied with how your chosen LSP is performing – whether due to hidden costs, inefficient working practices, substandard diagram reproductions, etc. – you can always take your business elsewhere. Often even the faintest notion that you might be seeking an alternative will make them step up their game, and they might even reduce the overall contract fee to try to keep you on side. The important thing to remember here is that you are by no means obligated to continue a working relationship with an LSP who does not act in accordance with the terms of business and SLA you agreed upon at the beginning, and – providing you researched the market in appropriate depth during the selection process – there will always be another LSP – whether individual or agency – out there ready and waiting to give you the standard of service that you require.
If you keep these imperatives in mind then you will find that, barring some hugely unforeseen catastrophe, the process of having your technical documents, diagrams, and manuals translated into any and all target languages remains a smooth one. Good business practices are always relevant regardless of the specific field, and technical translation for manufacturing is no exception. As your brand grows and the need for translation into more and more languages arises, knowing how to get the best from your LSP(s) will ensure the best outcomes time after time.