Manufacturers in need of language translation services might not be aware of the many factors that can result in poor outcomes. It is important to understand these, in advance, and to proactively avoid them. Doing so will help ensure the best possible translation outcome that promotes your product translation success.

Here are some of the most common missteps we’ve seen that can lead to problems getting your important documents, such as brochures and user manuals, properly translated on time and on-budget. We’ve also included advice on specific steps you can take to ensure product success.

1. Waiting until the last minute to address translation needs

Manufacturers rightfully invest a lot of time and resources into research and development, engineering, packaging, documentation and more prior to product launch. Unfortunately, all too often, translation is considered as an afterthought only. As a result, many companies will assign the translation to someone internally who speaks that language, or outsource it at the last minute, and expect an unrealistic turnaround. But this potentially creates serious quality problems.Be aware that quality translation is a professional service, not a low-end administrative task that any non-trained individual can do on short notice. It demands respect and adequate lead time — just like other professional services. This is especially true for lengthy user manuals containing complex, industry-specific terminology. Plan accordingly. Factor translation services into your broader product launch timeline and budget. This will make the translation process easier, less costly, less stressful and ensure product success.

2. Not editing original source documents

Your company may have a product user manual in English that was written by an engineer, compliance specialist, or other technical person. But if this document was not also reviewed and corrected by a professional technical writer or editor, it is likely that most readers will not fully understand your documentation. And if there are issues with the English then your document may be difficult or impossible to translate. It’s best to have a professional technical writer or editor review and correct your source language documents first. That will make translating those documents into another language go more smoothly and ensure product success.

3. Relying on in-country distributors for your translation needs

Manufacturers looking to expand into new markets often rely on distributors to not just promote their products, but also to provide translation services. While that may work well in some situations, it can also spell big trouble. If not handled professionally, you can easily lose control of your brand messaging and tone, as well as the quality of the final translated document. Worse, some distributors may edit the contents of your documents during the translation process to suit their own selling needs –without alerting you. That might include removing language that your legal department incorporated, adding information about competing products, or even altering your product description or warranty. You can avoid poor translation outcomes and potential liability issues by hiring a reputable translation service that is focused on your needs exclusively and has no competing agenda. Your product success hinges on having your message consistently conveyed in all target languages.

4. Using in-country personnel to translate your documents

It seems logical: your company needs to translate a user manual into German, so why not use a German-speaking, German-based employee of the company to do the translating? The big problem here is that you will not be able to control the timeline for getting this turned around. Keep in mind that this individual already has a full-time job with other responsibilities, so your translation project will inevitably keep going to the bottom of his or her priority list.

If your document is a 300-page user manual, turnaround can take months, which means you may not get it back in time for the product installation or training. And when you finally do get it back, it’s likely to be a text file that stills needs to be formatted into In Design or another application It’s better to hire a translation services company that can put a full-time dedicated, professional team on your project so you can get it done fully, on-time and off your to-do list.

5. Assuming you won’t find a translation company that can do your job right

It is not uncommon for a manufacturer to use one translation service, be unhappy with the outcome, and mistakenly conclude that hiring another company is futile. But there are reasons why you may have received a poor outcome the first time. First, you may not have given the translation company enough turnaround time to produce a quality result. Or you may have hired the lowest-cost vendor to save money, but that vendor didn’t have the right process, right subject matter experts or native speaking translators available to do the job right.

There is no document or industry terminology that is too difficult to translate correctly – provided you hire the right translation service and plan in advance. Always ask prospective vendors whether they have qualified native speaking resources, whether they have translators who know and understand your industry, and what turnaround times they generally offer. Most translation vendors also should also be able to give you a rough estimate of the costs so that you can budget. It’s always a good idea to ask vendors who will be dedicated to your project and whether they stand behind the quality of their work

Now that you know some of the missteps that can hinder your product success, you should be able to plan and make good decisions when seeking translation services.