Skip links

Lean principles in the language industry

“Lean” in English means “thin, or skinny.” Putting it simply, the principles of Lean help to eradicate or eliminate all that is unnecessary, emphasizing the most valuable way to adopt smarter decisions on how to invest our time, energy, and resources. Lean philosophy originated in Japan, during the 1950s, when it was introduced in the Japanese car manufacturing industry. Lean philosophy is based on two fundamental principles – ongoing improvements and respect towards people. Teams all around the world, starting from sales to software development, apply Lean principles to provide greater value to the clients, at the same time creating a healthier and stronger organisation. How do Lean principles fit into work and can they be applied in the translation industry?

Lean organisations – who are they?

How do organisations create value? They learn what clients expect and need and how to eliminate things clients don’t want to receive. Constantly improving the flow of values in all processes of the company, even greater value is created for the customer. Lean organisations are agile, fast, they accept changes, they are not arrogant, and they are systematic. Lean organisations emphasize that good people genuinely want to do their work well and are motivated to adopt decisions which optimize their time and talent to create the greatest value for the client. Lean means establishing processes that can be accomplished with less human effort, less capital, less time spent and with less deficiencies and mistakes in comparison to traditional business systems.

Lean leadership style

The Lean leadership style gives employees the autonomy to accept decisions, the possibility to improve their skills, to understand why they are doing their job and awareness that their efforts are recognized. The role of the manager is to set targets and then allow the talented employees to find the most appropriate way of achieving them. These managers want to bring out the best in their employees and eliminate obstacles that prevent their team from offering value to the client. Lean leadership does not mean orders and excessive control or micro-managing; it is not driven by ego or concept of power.

Lean and the translation sector

The purpose of Lean is to reduce the unnecessary in any activity or process step. When all this “waste” is gone, employees can truly focus on their skills and perform quality work. Over the years, the translation sector has been continuously working on eradicating this waste. Around 30 years ago, translation memories were developed due to the 3-R principle: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Since their development significant progress has been achieved in improving productivity and reducing the time and effort translators and project managers must devote to various tasks. One of the principles of Lean philosophy is “Kaizen” or „change is for the better.” All these translation memories, vendor portals or project management systems seemed strange and unusual before, but now they have become a valuable and meaningful part of the daily life of language service providers.

Lean and vendor portals

Lean principles are used in the vendor portals, allowing for optimization of project management processes, managing multi-lingual content, and simultaneously offering jobs to a selected group of translators. We must keep in mind that translation cycles are becoming increasingly shorter, work needs to be turned around faster and faster. This process is significantly facilitated by automatic project workflows, which reduces the time given to the processing of translation projects.

Lean and translation project management portals

Translation project management portals enable the amount, work status, load of translators and deadlines to be tracked easily, as well as facilitating invoicing, preparing reports, and settling payments with translators. This reduces all unnecessary steps so translators can focus only on the quality of the translation and project managers on the efficient project completion process, in line with the needs of clients. These translation management systems allow the providers of language services to optimise and automate the project management processes, manage multilingual content, language resources, and rapidly offer new jobs to the selected translators, plan projects and follow-up on all work. Of course, the work on upgrading these systems never stops, as they are becoming increasingly simple and intuitive.

Benefits of translators from Lean principles

These portals significantly facilitate the work of translators, so they can easily update their profile and availability, as well as accepting and reviewing offered translation projects and issuing invoices quickly without any fuss. In general, client projects can be processed and turned around more quickly, offering them greater value and at the same time not compromising the quality of work or the needs of people who supply the translations.

Use of Lean in the operation of vendor database

Implementation of the Lean approach in the vendor data bases enables faster search results, filtering resources that offer high quality work and spending less time on maintaining data bases. In the project management and work of linguists the Lean approach is visible also in appreciating and valuing employees, introducing their ideas and initiatives, and allowing them to become responsible for the process. Lean principles determine that best ideas are created by people who work with the specific product daily. Lean thinking encourages everyone, especially the ones most closely working with providing the product or service, to express their ideas to improve work and create value.

Lean philosophy emphasizes that perfection arises from gradual improvements, recommending usage of 1%, instead of turning everything around by 100%. Lean does not mean cheaper and faster, Lean means more efficient, more valuable, and more successful, respecting all involved parties. Also, the ongoing cycle of improvements helps organisations that practice Lean methodology to stand out amongst competitors. Stand out with value, quality and learning ability. The operations at Linearis are characterized by reliability, cost efficiency and service quality. Also, daily we are applying Lean principles allowing us to optimize resources, efforts, and energy to create value to our clients. Contact us and let’s collaborate!