Automation: the rise of the machines

Date
Aug
10
20130710

AutomationWe feel the touch of technology in our lives in an ever-increasing way. Automated processes are now common place, including email reminders, text alerts and voice activated service menus on phone systems. While technology is being used to enhance efficiency, inevitably it is often at the expense of the ‘human touch’. However, do we really need the human touch? For anyone who has been frustrated by a poorly designed voice-activated phone service menu, or caught out by a hilarious Google translation they probably would say yes, we do!

For any service type there naturally needs to be a balance struck between reducing costs through automation while still maintaining human input where it really counts to ensure the service is carried out effectively.

This balancing act has been taking place in the translation industry for some time. Greater internationalisation means an increasing volume of content needing to be translated more quickly and at reduced costs.

Key technologies, such as translation memory tools, have been steadily developed to meet this challenge and these are in use extensively by NZTC. These tools deliver time and cost savings by enabling re-use of prior translations and also feature multiple file batch-processing. They also allow quick import and export of content from a myriad of formats and to transfer this content efficiently through the various stages of the translation process. These technologies allow savings to be achieved while still maintaining the full input of translators, editors and experienced project managers to ensure the translations are accurate and well-crafted.

Automation quote1In recent years an increasing number of online translation providers have emerged, using a highly automated process as one of the ways to achieve very low pricing to attract translation business. Their service promotion is usually automated as well, through heavy use of Google Adwords, where one pays to be seen at the top of search results.

These automated services can sound very convincing because they typically use human translators and some also show process certification. While total automation can provide some time savings (in our experience about 10% saving) it naturally comes at the cost of project manager supervision and interaction between translation team members and the customer. This is less of an issue for simple documents and simple formats for which consultation, careful translator selection and formatting isn’t as important. However, full automation represents more significant risks with more technically or linguistically complex work.

Because the automation cost saving on its own isn’t generally enough to stand out competitively, a key way these companies achieve a low price is simply to recruit only translators who will work at the lowest payment levels. Compounding this is the fact that many of the online automated translation providers are new to the industry and/or originally technology companies and don’t have the experience to diligently select and test new translators.

Understandably, when combining a total automation approach with compromises in translator selection, the results are potentially haphazard. A number of companies who have experimented with these online solutions have come to us saying “the translation was sub-optimal!” and unfortunately needed extensive alterations to be useable.

So what translation solution, and the amount of automation involved, is right for you? This depends on how important a quality translation outcome is to you and how much you value having experienced human consultation and contact involved throughout the process. At NZTC we use our substantial 27 years of experience handling translations and our access to the best technologies currently available to come up with what we feel is the optimum balance of automation and human input to produce the best translations at the best price possible. We suppose you could say, in the battle of human vs. machine at NZTC, the machines certainly are rising but the humans still come first!