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Manufacturing Translation: What Manufacturers Want in An LSP

Manufacturers: are you sick of one translation firm after another trying to convince you how great they are? Usually, in their eagerness, they make extravagant claims that they’ll never be able to back up. No, in providing manufacturing translation services, a LSP will not halve your localization costs while delivering higher quality and faster turnaround times. They’re not going to rock your world. And their latest greatest proprietary system is probably, well, not all that great. In the manufacturing sector, buyers of language services overwhelmingly report disillusionment. They are turned off by LSPs marketing themselves, instead of engaging with the buyer’s needs. These purchasers expect to hear how an manufacturing translation provider can work within their existing paradigm, rather than how the provider could transform the localization manager’s process (1).

You Need an Adaptable Translation firm

In general, manufacturers seek long-term relationships with their translation providers. The average duration of the manufacturer / LSP service period tends to be about 5 years (2). And, the primary driver of relationship longevity is, you guessed it, how customer-centric a language services provider is. Whether the LSP adapts to the manufacturing buyer’s unique requirements. Or whether it attempts to sell the buyer on the LSP’s one-of-a-kind solutions that will ostensibly solve all of the customer’s problems and bring the manufacturer’s business, and undying gratitude, to the translation company. Obviously, such a hero complex rarely works out for the LSP.

You Probably Work with Multiple Language Vendors

Understandably, each translation company wants to supplant its competition. Every LSP trumpets the reasons that a manufacturer should ditch its current providers and hire them. From a shortsighted perspective, it makes sense for an LSP to adopt a winner-take-all attitude. After all, given the choice, what company would want to share the spoils with its rivals? Unfortunately, it is precisely this mentality that shuts many a translation provider out from a manufacturer’s preferred vendor list. It’s in a buyer’s self-interest to cultivate as many qualified vendors as possible, to mix and match them in order to optimize any particular project and to utilize each LSP’s strength. For such a customer, the all-or-nothing manufacturing translation provider can cause more problems than they solve. Common Sense Advisory reports that “LSPs must get used to integrating their teams with client workflow and not the other way around” (3).

You Need a Cooperation of Manufacturing Translation Rivals

Often, a manufacturing translation purchaser will want their vendors to collaborate on a project —something that most translation companies seem to have strong antipathy to. Such resistance shuts the LSP out of a large slice of the market: 15% of buyers frequently require translation suppliers to collaborate on a project, while 6% always require it. Another 37% of buyers occasionally or rarely ask LSPs to work with each other. Taken together, a massive 58% of manufacturing translation buyers sometimes need their vendors to cooperate on a given project (4).

And why not? From the perspective of a manufacturing localization manager, different LSPs possess different niche strengths. If it will save the company money, why not use one LSP for its subject matter expertise, another for its robust review and validation program, and a third for its desktop publishing? Or one manufacturing translation provider for its niche compliance and regulatory expertise and another for its grasp of international distribution networks? If a specific LSP has a reputation for its streamlined on-site service, the buyer may choose to take advantage of that in concert with its other off-site vendors.

The Ideal Manufacturer’s Translation Provider

A manufacturing buyer of language services should look for a translation provider flexible and ego-free enough to work on multi-LSP collaborations. Yet, on the flip side, this language services provider should have the depth of industry expertise and the breadth of skillsets (desktop publishing, wide repertoire of languages, robust quality assurance program, consulting services) to complete projects alone. Such an LSP — or a collection of them — offers the manufacturing localization manager the ultimate in project management freedom. After all, some projects are perfectly suited to a single manufacturing translation provider, provided that the vendor has the industry knowledge and the pertinent capabilities.

In these projects, multiple LSPs might prove redundant and costly. However, on certain other projects, those that are especially large or complex in scope, the manufacturer would make a wise choice in retaining multiple translation firms. By maintaining a stable of such perfect candidates, the buyer sets herself up for success — and career advancement — by her repertoire of LSP options.

The Short List of Desirable LSP Qualities

• Competent
• Ego-free
• Cooperative, even with rivals
• Willing to mold to the client’s existing programs and structures
• Depth of industry knowledge
• Can-do attitude
• Customer-centric

In short, manufacturing translation vendors should be team players

You, the manufacturing localization manager, are already juggling too much. The last thing you need ia bunch of vendors who refuse to play together nicely. You need a winning team, willing to do whatever it takes to make you succeed in your mission of globalization. Is that too much to ask? It shouldn’t be.

  1. Common Sense Advisory, “How Manufacturing Companies Buy Translation,” October 2012.
  2. Ibid., p9.
  3. Ibid., p14.
  4. Common Sense Advisory, “Insights on Enterprise Buying Behaviors”, December 2014.

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