There are different reasons why manufacturers seek outside translation services at any given time. Perhaps a company has reached a critical growth milestone in new global markets and needs translation services on a larger scale than previously. Or a small company has a sales team attending its first conference in China and needs to translate its product brochures into the local language.

Because every company is at a different phase in terms of its size, growth, and organizational structure, translation services needs also vary. In short, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to outsourcing translation services.

If your company is getting to a stage where it is likely to need translation services, either for the first time or on a larger scale than before, the following 7 factors are worth thinking about to help you plan and choose resources effectively.

1. Take a holistic or big picture approach.

Often, one functional area of a company, such as Sales, will realize it needs to have a document translated on short notice, perhaps because a conference is coming up soon. So there is a one-off, one-time project need. But that might also be the ideal time to assess what other areas of your company will need translation services in the near future, such as Engineering or Compliance. Having one translation services provider work across functional areas will ensure continuity and broader alignment with your company’s overall business needs and goals. And it will help ensure that your messaging and branding is consistent.

2. Consider that different departments will have different translation services needs.

Your sales and marketing departments might need basic translation services for outreach to potential new customers. But your engineering and compliance departments may need translation services that are more detailed and technical in nature. Likewise, your human resources or communications department may need translation services to communicate with employees globally, taking into account cultural differences among different groups. So you will want to make sure the translation services provider you choose has the necessary expertise to address a broad swath of translation needs as your company’s needs evolve. This can include having expertise in your particular business or industry, having specific technical expertise, or having an awareness of cultural differences based on location.

3. Think about your organizational structure and its impact on translation services procurement.

Often, when a translation need arises, there is not a lot of time to get the project turned around. Does your company have one central individual or department that will be in charge of procuring translation services? Which department will have the budget to pay for the service? Who will have authority to sign off? These are questions worth considering before a translation requirement arises so there is less scrambling and fewer delays in getting your needs addressed.

4. Be prepared for the snowball effect.

Often, a manufacturer may not need translation services for a long time. But then, suddenly one day the company needs them, not just on a small scale, but on a large scale. The tipping point may have occurred because the company expanded into a new global market, such as Latin America or the European Union. Or perhaps the company just received regulatory approval for a new, innovative medical device that will likely have millions of potential buyers around the globe. Because needs can literally change on a dime, it is best to think ahead and align with a translation services provider now that has the capacity and scope to address your needs as your company grows, or if your situation suddenly changes.

5. Be prepared to manage translation services as a budgetary line item.

Assuming your translation needs grow organically as your company grows, there may come a time when your organization needs to get a better handle on both the costs and quality of these projects. For example, if different departments use multiple translation vendors you may want to consolidate that down to one or two key vendors to achieve better economies of scale. This is similar to what your company may already do with office supply vendors, for example. Because the quality, scope, and turnaround times offered by different translation services vendors will also vary, you may want to pare down the number of vendors to ensure greater consistency and reliability, as well.

6. Does your current translation services provider enable your company to navigate time zones effectively?

If your company uses multiple translators in multiple time zones, that can make it more difficult to manage your translation projects effectively, especially as deadlines near. You will not want to have a situation where decisions need to be made or phone calls taken at 4 a.m. to accommodate a translation services provider located halfway around the globe. If your company is US-based, then using a US-based translation services provider will eliminate this issue.

7. Consider what related support services your company may need in addition to translation.

Often, translation involves much more than sending out and receiving back a document in a text file. Your company may also need help with formatting into InDesign or some other application or have some other unique requirements related to your website or product interface. If you have multiple projects that need to be translated into multiple languages, then you will likely need a project manager who can keep all the individual pieces of the project moving on schedule. Think about what you will need first, and then make sure your translation services vendor can deliver.

Remember that translation services touch multiple areas of your business. It’s important to determine what your organization will need and choose a translation services provider that will best align with your company’s unique situation.


The Manufacturers Guide to Technical Translation

Learn all you need to know about technical document translation, key questions to ask, and critical pitfalls to avoid.