Friends with Tractors: Discussing Translation Quality at John Deere
A summary of the TAUS DQF Manufacturing Industries Workshop about translation quality, hosted by John Deere.

A summary of the TAUS DQF Manufacturing Industries Workshop hosted by John Deere 

There are a few things that really make a man's heart beat faster. One of those is a 250 horsepower 6R tractor produced by John Deere. As I walk through the entrance gate of the flagship factory of the manufacturing giant in Mannheim (Germany), the lyrics of Rodney Atkins' Friends with Tractors come to mind ("I got everything I need 'cause I got friends with tractors"). Founded in 1921 and spread over more than 40ha, the factory produces a new tractor every 3 minutes. The place, just like the machinery, oozes quality, making it the perfect location for the TAUS DQF Manufacturing Industries Workshop about translation quality management (QM).

The objective of this get-together was to establish the DQF for Manufacturing Industries User Group with the aim of harmonizing translation quality evaluation (QE), more specifically, in and for the manufacturing industries. QE is a non-competing function in the translation industry. If we align to a common framework, we will save time, increase quality, efficiency and clarity and make reporting easier. In the medium and long term, the harmonization of QE will lead to business intelligence that facilitates optimization of translation and localization processes. 


The prelude to the Manufacturing workshop was a roundtable meeting last November hosted by Daimler in Stuttgart-Möhringen: the TAUS Automotive Roundtable. That event was attended by eight automotive and three IT companies with the implicit objective to share experience across industries. And indeed, taking stock of the current state of affairs showed us that there is much more in common between the IT and the automotive sector than one would expect. 

The conclusions of the roundtable meeting manifested as opportunities: we need to work together with industry peers to influence the translation ecosystem. Such a cooperation may result in changing strategies, new business models and more business intelligence. A more horizontal and collaborative approach to addressing the challenges of increasing volumes of dynamic content in ever more languages is the only way forward. A number of participants expressed their desire to discuss further at another TAUS event in 2017.


Key Questions

 The Manufacturing workshop in Mannheim welcomed both translation suppliers and buyers. Apart from manufacturing companies producing machines on wheels (John Deere, Daimler, BMW, Opel), three life sciences companies participated: Abbott, AbbVie and Roche Diagnostics. After the introductions and some preliminary presentations on TAUS DQF, the afternoon session saw the participants sitting down with each other, 'getting their hands dirty' in reviewing and solving diverging issues in quality management. Two key questions were addressed in the 'World Cafe' discussions: How do we achieve (cost) efficiency in quality management? And can we move from a static to a more dynamic quality evaluation model?

The main takeaways of the workshop discussions were as follows: 

  • More awareness is required when it comes to the shelf-life and purpose of the final product in order to offer the right quality within the budget;
  • customer expectations and requirements should be made more explicit;
  • source language quality should be measured and authoring should become a common practice on the buyer side in order to help achieve better quality further down the supply chain;
  • sampled review as an option to save time and resources on QE was agreed to be only possible in a trust-based scenario in long-term relationships;
  • collaboration on low-volume or long-tail languages have been pointed out as a must for the manufacturing industry and a potential accelerator for companies wanting to expand into new markets;
  • participants would like to see more automation especially in the form of automated alerts as part of the translation and QM workflows;
  • some discussants were calling for a revision of pricing models that take into account additional services like error annotation, additional efforts by the translators and new work forms like machine translation post-editing;
  • finally, the manufacturing industry (just like any other industry) should come up with a common definition of quality that works both for buyers and LSPs. In this regard, the TAUS Dynamic Quality Framework (DQF) including the DQF-MQM harmonized error-typology was considered to be a good starting point. The option of whether adopting the metric as is or customizing it to fit the industry's needs is something that needs further discussions in future user group meetings.

The work of this new TAUS user group will be to identify diverging issues and to find agreement. Diverging issues can range from labels and nomenclature to metrics and scales, from definitions and attributes to data sets and benchmarking reports. An example of an agreement is the harmonized MQM-DQF error typology. This harmonization and the work on the resulting metric was funded by the European Commission under the QT21 project.


To Conclude

One of the highlights of the day was the factory tour which was, perhaps not surprisingly, also related to quality management. At different stages in the production workflow, we have observed manual and automated quality control applied to machinery. At the end of the assembly line, we witnessed the ultimate check: the driver reversing and stopping a vehicle on a slope in order to test the ‘park’ brake. We agreed that there were commonalities between the manufacturing and the translation industries when it comes to quality management.

At the end of the day, we sensed a desire by the participants to want to move forward and achieve results in a collaborative spirit. The final announcement by Jaap van der Meer about a virtual follow-up meeting on May 11 was therefore welcomed with much enthusiasm. Attendees shared Jaap's vision for a user group that would be (like the other TAUS user groups) more than just "a talk show": KPIs and measurable outcomes in the form of agreements and deliverables are indispensable for such groups to function in the long run. 

As I left the John Deere Forum and headed to the train station I had a satisfied feeling after a busy, but successful day. I just can't help but humming yet another Rodney Atkins song about a Man on a tractor visualizing all the happy farmers around the world driving a top notch 'John Deere green'. "Oh what I wouldn't give if I could just live like a man on a tractor with a dog in a field..."

If you are interested in participating in the DQF for Manufacturing Industries User Group, please sign up here. For other TAUS user groups, please refer to this page.

If you would like to attend the next TAUS event on translation quality evaluation, please visit this page. The one-day QE Summit will be hosted by CA Technologies in Barcelona on June 14. The call for proposals is now open!


Attila Görög worked in various national and international projects on language technology. He had a solid background in quality evaluation, post-editing and terminology management. As Director of Enterprise Member Services, he worked mostly with large enterprises involved in the TAUS community and hosted TAUS user groups until 2017.

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