Many companies are rolling out product information management (PIM) systems so they can digitalize and modernize their product data management. For companies that operate internationally, the question of how the content from the PIM software is to be translated also comes up in the context of the search for a suitable PIM solution. This might sound like a trivial manner, but that is by no means the case. Since your product data is involved, which is arguably among your company’s most valuable assets, all of this needs to be taken very seriously.
In this article we explain what possibilities companies have for translating product descriptions into multiple languages. We also discuss the advantages of connecting PIM systems and translation management systems (TMS), which can significantly accelerate translation processes.
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The process of translating valuable product data should not be considered a marginal issue but a full-fledged and integral part of the PIM system implementation.
Rolling out a PIM system
In the past, the greatest challenge that companies faced was preventing mountains of paper from forming and digitalizing data and processes. Although digitalization still lags behind in some sectors in Germany, it is fortunately the case that (almost) all business data is now digitalized. However, the term “digitalized” can vary a lot in scope and meaning.
If you are reading this article, you may have recently implemented or are planning to roll out a PIM systemin order to manage all your product information on a centralized basis. Perhaps you are currently still working with product texts that are stored in Excel spreadsheets. If this is the case, such information is frequently not up to date – and it is also often manually entered in two or three different places.
This is nothing to be ashamed of, as you are in the best of company in doing things this way. Many companies have product data management that is more or less analogue in nature. Only now are they beginning to consolidate processes that are currently confusing and hard to keep track of. All of these companies are united in their desire to save time and money as well as avoid errors in product information in the future.
A PIM system makes it possible to store data on a centralized basis and in a format-independent manner. It is the perfect solution for making it possible to browse and update all of the data relating to a company’s product range or inventory so that it can then be forwarded to the appropriate channels for further processing. Use of PIM systems is therefore indispensable. This is especially the case in e-commerce, where a lot of data is frequently updated in several languages.
Are you now wondering what all of this has to do with translation and translation management systems?
For most companies, a more or less digitalized product data management system is a matter of course. However, the term “digitalized” can vary a lot in scope and meaning.
Translating product data with standard solutions
Companies that operate internationally need to translate or localize the product data contained in their PIM systems into several languages. All of these companies have dedicated themselves to the goal of reaching a broader target group by conquering new markets. It is important to keep in mind that more than 60% of customers will not even consider purchasing products online if the website and information are not available in their native language.
So when implementing a PIM system, you need to think about how the content in the PIM system is to be translated. PIM consultants often suggest processes that are unsuitable, although this sometimes does not become apparent until such processes are more closely scrutinized. The key to the problem is that translation processes and company requirements are as unique as the people implementing them. Standard off-the-rack solutions can therefore fall short when it comes to meeting real-world needs. The reasons for their failure range from the manual management they require to inadequate data security and quality control.
Below we describe some of the best-known standard solutions, all of which are likely inappropriate for most companies.
The standard solutions on offer frequently fail to meet the particular needs of any given company.
1. Manual translations using copy & paste
A feature like this is useful for many scenarios but is not appropriate for exporting and importing translations. At first glance, the method may seem to make sense – the responsible person copies the texts to be translated into an external document, which is then sent to the language service provider by e-mail (or transferred by other means). The language service provider then forwards the document on to translators, who edit it and send it back. Once the process is finished, the translation is inserted back into the PIM system. You might recognize that a process like this is tedious, overly complex, and prone to error – and you would certainly be hitting the bull’s-eye with your assessment.
It is also important to mention here that this method keeps translators from having access to vital meta-information from the PIM system, information that is absolutely necessary for correct translation (Does the word “tie” refer to an item of formal clothing, a game that ends with no clear winner, or perhaps a wooden beam on which railroad tracks rest?).
Manual translation management sounds tedious, overly complex, and prone to error? That’s certainly not too far from the truth!
2. Translation directly in the PIM system
Some PIM systems have built-in features that enable direct translations in the system, which sounds quite practical at first glance. However, if you are working with a language service provider, you need to give them access to your system for this purpose. In addition, PIM systems do not have crucial features like connection of a translation memory, a terminology database, or a quality management module.
3. Connection to translation platforms of language service providers
Some language service providers look to automate translation process by using an interface to transmit data to a translation environment they provide. The relevant translators then have access to this translation environment to do their work. This might be a great solution for some companies, but it is necessary to keep in mind that arrangements like this can lead to an unwanted dependency relationship. If you want to make use of another provider, you may not have access to the data that has already been translated. At a minimum, the effort required to transfer the data from one language service provider to another is enormous. You also have virtually no control in such situations, as sovereignty over your data no longer lies with you.
4. Unregulated use of machine translation
In many use cases, machine translation (MT) can increase productivity. Whether a company should use MT is something to be considered on a case-by-case basis with assessment of many relevant factors, but that is not the point here. The fact is that MT can also be used in any of the three processes mentioned above. For example, you as the customer could run the copied texts through a generic MT system and then request post-editing. Most MT engines can also be connected directly to the translation interface of the PIM system or of the language service provider. The problem with this approach is that you, as the customer, have no control over your data in such scenarios. Depending on who implemented the pre-translation and at what point, you may not even know that a machine translation engine was used.
Most MT engines can also be connected directly to the translation interface of the PIM system or of the language service provider.
Automated translation processes: PIM and TMS
In the vast majority of cases, an automated process is preferable to a manual one. There are also foolproof automation options that drastically reduce the amount of work and the susceptibility to errors during translation processes.
To have the product information of the PIM system translated in an optimal manner, it is recommended that you use an interface to connect the PIM system to a translation management system and then automate the process. During the implementation, it is necessary to individually define what the translation process is to look like in detail. However, you can already look forward to taking advantage of the benefits mentioned below.
Triggering translations directly from within the PIM system
When the PIM system is connected to the TMS, you can trigger an automated translation process with just the click of a mouse, meaning that new or changed information is automatically recognized and transferred from the PIM software to the TMS by means of the interface. The connected language service provider then receives a notification that there are new texts to be translated. These texts are then processed in the secure TMS environment and seamlessly inserted back into the PIM system.
Using machine translation wisely
In regard to the translation process itself, you can also specify whether or not you “allow” the use of machine translation. When MT is activated, the system first creates a pre-translation, which is then post-edited in the TMS. The advantage of this approach is data security, as you know precisely which MT engine was used as well as how the data was processed. If your company translates very large amounts of data, you may want to consider setting up a customized MT engine to improve the quality of the raw translations and thus reduce the workload for the post-editors.
Access to translation memories, terminology databases, and quality management
Another major advantage of linking the PIM system to the TMS is access to technologies like translation memories (TM), terminology databases (TD), and quality management (QM). These are modules that accelerate the translation process, improve translation quality, and reduce translation costs.
- Translation memories allow all translations to be stored and displayed for subsequent reuse if a new sentence is the same or similar. This makes it unnecessary for the translator to retranslate identical sentences each time they come up; instead, the relevant translations can be copied over and adjusted as necessary.
- Company terminology can be uniformly described and translated through the use of terminology databases. On this basis, incorrect or heterogeneous translation of important technical terms can be prevented.
- The quality management module seeks out and finds translation errors based on defined categories. For example, the translator can be shown if they have not used a term as indicated in the terminology database, if they have misspelled a word, if they have neglected to use a number from the source text, and much more.
By connecting the PIM system to the TMS, you benefit from a major advantage in the form of access to key functionalities that accelerate processes and increase quality.
Last but not least, it is important to mention supplier independence. If you translate the product texts and data from the PIM system using a translation memory system, you can select your suppliers without restriction, as you do not depend on their software. This greatly simplifies the process of switching to a new language service provider. At the same time, you can be sure that the new service provider will have access to all the data they need to deliver high-quality and consistent translations.
The bottom line
The advantages of a PIM system are beyond dispute, but many companies still do not know that there are options for automating the translation of product data that can make life much easier. When you roll out a PIM system, it is important to think about the translation process in detail and to carefully shape and position it at an early stage of the project. If this does not happen, you can end up with a great PIM system but not be able to take advantage of its full added value because the translation of its content will devour a great deal of time and money for many years to come. Using an interface to link the PIM system with a translation management system is an easy way to increase the quality of translations as well as reduce the associated lead times and costs.
To help you choose the right method, we have clearly compiled the most important advantages and disadvantages. You can download our fact sheet "Automated translation processes" directly here.