Tips to Produce Powerful Manufacturing Multilingual Content

Janie HallwoodJanie Hallwood works as a project manager for Welocalize, working with large global manufacturing clients. She has been working in the localization and translation industry for nearly ten years and in this blog, offers she provides key insights and tips for effectively translating manufacturing content.

Having worked with clients in the manufacturing sector for many years now, I have handled countless technical documents and I am aware that this content presents its own special challenges.  These challenges include:

TIME: Successful localization of documents such as operator manuals, user guides, datasheets and maintenance schedules is made far smoother when you have specialist knowledge at your disposal. At Welocalize, we are aware that time pressure on translation workflows is often a high priority for our manufacturing clients, where localization requirements are sales-driven.

COMPLIANCE: Another major concern for manufacturers is compliance. Strict industry-specific regulations that need to be adhered to and that often vary, depending on the country or region in which you are operating.

ACCURATE CONTENT: User documentation often needs to function as a walk-through for personnel who may or may not have used similar equipment before and accuracy is essential.

So how do you ensure that your translated documents are compliant, clear to follow and delivered in the shortest possible time-frame? Here are my four top tips for successful localization of manufacturing content:

Tip One:  Create Translation-Friendly Documents

Time and cost can be saved by creating documents that have been developed with translation in mind – at the source. In the case of large manuals, minor issues, which can be fixed in minutes for smaller files become time-consuming, needing hours of intervention before translation can even begin. Consider how the document is put together. There are several areas where a file can be optimized for translation.

  • Table of Contents (TOC): A correctly set-up table of contents will be automatically recreated in the translated version, potentially saving hours of costly and manual post-translation formatting work.
  • Non-editable elements: Do you have headings in your file? Are these editable text, or converted to outline text (curves)? A common feature of design agency-created files is outline text headings, which need to be manually recreated in order to edit the text. It is advisable to avoid using outline text unless this is used to protect text from editing. It can be used to good effect for any terms which should not be localized, such as product names, company divisions or industry-specific regulation names.
  • Graphics: Text in graphics is another common feature in manufacturing sector documents. Where possible, we advise avoiding the use of text in graphics and opt instead for editable keys. This includes numbers in the image, editable text beneath the image in the file.

Finally, think about what you don’t want to translate, as well as what you do. Setting all non-translatable content on a separate layer in InDesign, for example, ensures that requirements are clear and saves on manual file preparation time. This layer can simply be switched ‘off’. This is great way to handle menu options, for example, in a scenario where software is not localized.

Tip 2: Ensure Regional Compliance

This will be high on the agenda for the content author and the supporting legal advisory team, who will almost certainly already possess the knowledge of the required industry norms and standards to mention for each geographical region. However, you still need an expert translator with experience in the field and target country. This is a great asset when it comes to verifying that all the requirements in all languages are met. Verification will be covered during translation itself and also when the translator performs a final check (LSO – linguistic sign-off) on the file in its final layout. This is of particular benefit when the translations relate to operations on a different continent from the document originator.

Tip 3: Does the Walk-Through Work

The objective of many manufacturing sector translations is for the end-user to be able to follow a production process using the translated document. We strongly recommend to that all product and process information available for the document authors is also made available to the translators. They need to picture themselves in the shoes of the end-user during the translation. Visual references and beta versions of software are perfect for this too. We also always advise that the translator has the opportunity to review the full document after the formatting work has been done (LSO again – the holy grail of in context review). This allows for any uncertainties to be ironed out and any last improvements to be made to the document before the translation is delivered.

Tip 4: Allow time for translation

Possibly the most important tip of all is to allow for enough time to get the job done, completely and accurately. Manufacturing sector documents are often large and complex, and the authoring process will often have taken weeks. A typical translation throughput is around 2,000 words per day, so wherever possible do build consideration of this into the project lead-time.

Welocalize works with global manufacturers every day. We realize that the localization and translation of complex, technical manufacturing documents is important to the overall growth business strategy of any global manufacturer. If you have any tips and recommendations you would like to share, drop me a line.


For more information, read Welocalize Manufacturing Overview