Ian McClure, SDL International

Across different industries, such as manufacturing or electronics, a supply chain is set up to provide a common link among a network of suppliers and a product company’s designers, procurement specialists, plant managers, operations teams, and logistics teams. These supply-chain steps involve geographically and organizationally dispersed teams of requestors, engineering teams, onshore and offshore material suppliers, subassembly equipment vendors, and product delivery participants to bring together all the parts of a product, whether it is an assembly of parts for an automobile chassis or software components for an application such as ERP or CRM.

The same is true with the production of global information. Like a product, information is produced by an enterprise using a vast network of suppliers who constitute the global information supply chain. Companies that are delivering products to global markets rely on a chain of marketing agencies, translation and localization vendors, freelancers, editors, local product specialists who touch a piece of content on its way to final customer delivery. Companies that are efficient in global information management have focused on the efficiencies in this supply chain.

What is the global content supply chain?

The global content supply chain connects a company’s content creators with a network of localization specialists, such as an internal department localization team, external language service providers (LSPs), and professional freelance translators. Then multilingual content is used in rendering and publishing across different media. This global content supply chain moves step by step through several people, companies, and places until your product content reaches the hands of your customers in global markets. Each participant in the chain is dependent on all the others. The slowest participant, the weakest link, determines the fate of your entire global content lifecycle.

It is clear that processes to manage global content supply chains can greatly influence the organization’s performance and the predictability of that performance. If one link breaks, symptoms can ripple across your entire company’s bottom line:

  • delayed product and campaign launches
  • inconsistent multinational branding
  • low customer satisfaction and service due to poor communications
  • operational inefficiencies and process interruption
  • regulatory, contract, and legal compliance
  • content integrity and availability

Best practice approaches to globalization supply chains

Certain basic principles and criteria exist that companies must follow to ensure the deployment of a flexible, multi-tier, dynamic global content supply chain. All supply chain participants must operate on a common infrastructure, one platform that enables unified content lifecycle, intra-project update management, and unified localization and project management environment. The unified content lifecycle can integrate with CMS and other repositories, leverage translation technologies centrally (TM and terminology), and centralize vendor/translation management. Intra-project update management allows you to collaborate flexibly, automate repetitive/complex tasks, and provide a project management “dashboard” view. The unified localization and project management environment provides a common workflow engine, allows for the development of a common project management framework, and allows you to use multiple connectors to disparate data sources and file formats.

Fully optimized, dynamic globalization supply chain

A better approach is to deploy a flexible system that knits together a supply chain based on your company or industry requirements. This system should layer in automation so that it can operate in a “lights out” fashion as necessary. Specifically, the result is a system that enables all participants in the supply chain to share all aspects of a project in a collaborative, uniform manner: project and task status, content files, translation memories, termbases, workflows, reports, and so on. There is visibility along the supply chain.

Standards like DITA, TMX, and XLIFF are highly valued for their ability to allow for the smooth flow of content and translations between systems. Even better is to add value on top of these standards with business rules, such as conditional XML, which provides the ability not only to preserve translations, but to preserve their settings, segmentation, and formatting when they are exchanged between participants.

This approach enables a global content supply chain that is more efficient, and has more flexible, dynamic, decentralized control of all processes and participants.

Once this approach is set up, the supply chain can be fully optimized:

  • Translation done once and reused in many places
  • Same translated text used across many documents
  • Same translated text used in different file types: Word, PowerPoint, InDesign, Quark, Adobe Acrobat, Excel, and so on
  • Translations stored and available in translation memory
  • Translation memory owned by one company and shared across the supply-chain
  • Translation done by many translation vendors but with work that is consistent and leveragable
  • Standard processes for
    • Requesting and managing translation
    • Using preferred translators
    • Monitoring translation volume and costs

To learn more about global supply chains, visit http://www.sdl.com/products-translation/enterprise-systems/enterprise-global-content-lifecycle.htm andhttp://www.sdl.com/products-translation/enterprise-systems/enterprise-sdl-global-ecosystem.htm.