Case Study SMA Solar

World Market Leader Reduces Time to Market – ROI After Eight Weeks

Our introduction to the system took one day, and on the next day, we could already start using it. After only eight weeks, we achieved ROI.

Jürgen Sapara, Director Technical Documentation & Translation Management

SMA Solar Technology AG is a global leader in the development, production, and sale of solar inverters and, as an energy management group, offers innovative key technologies for future power supply structures. SMA is represented in all important photovoltaics markets in 21 countries. Over the past years, the company has grown at a breathtaking pace and has expanded its international sales. One of the challenges SMA was faced with in this connection was the efficient and timely translation of product-related information and documentation.

To market its products around the globe, SMA needs to prepare the accompanying documentation as well as the marketing and sales material in 25 different languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Greek. On average, about 6,000 translation projects are rolled out every year for instruction and installation manuals, marketing documents, and comprehensive product catalogs with up to 200 pages. For quite some time, SMA has been using the Across translation management system as a central language and translation platform for this purpose. Using this solution, the globally active enterprise is able to provide multilingual documentation and other information in due time as soon as the products are finished.

A Quantum Leap in Translation Processing

Due to the great overseas campaign that SMA launched in 2004, the need for translations skyrocketed. It quickly became evident that the previous approach did not represent a sustainable solution, as it was too slow, not transparent enough, and not reliable. "We just needed too much time until we had a finished, quality-assured translation. Moreover, the flow control of the numerous translation projects in which service providers, internal and external translators, and reviewers were involved, was consuming more and more time", remembers Jürgen Sapara, Director Technical Documentation & Translation Management at SMA Solar Technology AG. In the course of an intensive market investigation, the company eventually found the Across software, which surpassed its competitors in terms of a good price/performance ratio and a very short introduction time. The main objective of the project was to achieve higher consistency of the specialized terminology in the multilingual product information. Apart from delivering better quality, this was supposed to enable faster processes and shorter time to market. These plans were realized with the help of the Across Language Server: "Since its introduction, the system has grown along with our requirements and, thanks to numerous connectors and modules, has actually developed into the central corporate platform for language resources and translation processes", explains Jürgen Sapara.

Across as Central Language Platform

Today, SMA cooperates without about 16 external translation service providers and more than 50 freelance translators. Internal translators are responsible for English, Italian, and Spanish. With the help of Across, the internal and external parties have been integrated in a seamless process, with central data storage and transparent project control. This approach ensures maximum data security and text consistency in all process steps. Translators receive their tasks directly from the system and can use the comment functions to coordinate their work directly with the project managers and reviewers. Furthermore, the use of the Across Language Server ensures a transparent project flow. If necessary, the project manager can query the editing state of the individual translations at any time. External language service providers who have their own Across Language Servers are directly connected to SMA's Language Server via the crossGrid collaboration module for direct server-to-server exchange of all relevant data. Freelance translators, too, can connect directly to SMA's Language Server to retrieve and deliver the documents to be translated and to use the translation memory and the terminology system. "Actually, it is as if the translators were sitting in our company", explains Sapara. Consistent reuse of previously translated sentences ensures high-quality, consistent translations for all product information and documentation. Moreover, translation costs can be reduced considerably, and the number of translations per subject can be shown transparently. The savings potential for a manual that has already been translated and that needs to be localized anew due to changes or updates is up to 90 percent. But even for a product whose documentation must be translated from scratch, SMA is now able to cover about 60 percent of all sentences with entries from the translation memory.

ROI After Only Eight Weeks

The complete introduction of the Across Language Server – including the training – was completed within a short time. "Our introduction to the system took one day, and on the next day, we could already start using it", recalls Sapara. "After only eight weeks, we achieved ROI." Previously, a translation of an 80-page manual, for example, used to take up to two months, but now, even prototypes are accompanied by multilingual documentation. "The final version of the translation is available within a few hours – even if the product is subject to last-minute modifications", says Sapara.

Connection to an Editorial System

In line with the platform concept of the Across Language Server, open interfaces allow hassle-free connection of interacting systems. SMA makes use of the seamless connection of Across to the editorial system SCHEMA ST4. This results in a further efficiency increase, as the source text that is managed in SCHEMA is transferred directly to Across for translation, and the finished translation is automatically returned to SCHEMA ST4.

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SMA Solar Technology AG

  • Global leader in the development, production, and sale of solar inverters
  • Established in 1981, listed in the Prime Standard of the Frankfurt stock exchange since June 2007 as the first manufacturer of photovoltaic inverters
  • Number of employees: more than 5,000
  • Revenue: €1.5 billion (2012)
  • Translation volume: 6,000 projects/year
  • Target languages: 25

Initial Situation

  • Higher translation workload due to intensified international orientation
  • Growing requirements with respect to speed, transparency, and process stability
  • High coordination overhead
  • Cooperation with LSPs and freelancers
  • Working with an editorial system

Across components employed

  • Across Language Server
  • crossTerm Web
  • crossAuthor


  • Seamless connection of the editorial system, LSPs and translators
  • Consistent corporate terminology
  • High saving potential due to reuse of translations