Why translator efficiency gains can pay big dividends

This post has is long overdue – almost every organisation who talks with us (and starts to utilise us for translation services) wants to understand why we price translations per hour when the industry as a whole has always (and continues to) price on the basis of word volume. The reason is actually simple. Link the economic cost of the service (a translation) to the time it takes to complete that service – then focus on improving the efficiency of delivering that service (speed of translation)

Firstly some context.

Translation volumes are increasing, the industry is growing at a fair clip (around 15% p.a.) and the demand for translation services is coming from a far wider breadth of organisations than has been the case historically.  However the volume of content being created, the speed it gets created at, the different formats now being used (video, audio etc) and the number of languages now being supported by organisations means the demands on a translation provider are fundamentally different from even 3 or 4  years ago.  Price of translations, speed of turn-around, support easy content integration are all standard demands of the new translation customer.

So what does this have to do with pricing translations per hour. Well – historically (and still today) the economic unit of the translation industry is a word. The volume of words broadly determines the cost of the translation (other factors like content type, speed of turnaround and language pairs are also important) but word count is always the starting point. The question is why?

Think about it this way – historically (and for the foreseeable future) humans have a fundamental role to play in translating content. Machine translation tools are playing a more important role (a post for another day) but whether doing direct translations or post editing a machine translation (correcting errors) humans ultimately provide the translation. Therefore the cost of a translation is directly linked to the cost of the human translator in the workflow.

Any solution trying to make translations more affordable therefore has to focus on either reducing the direct cost of the translator or improving the efficiency of that translator. Job aggregation platforms have focused on using a bartering type system to drive down the cost of the translators (the theory being that forcing translators to bid on jobs will result in lower bids and therefore lower average costs).
perhourspeedimageEconomic gains (however) are incremental at best – our view is that it makes more sense and results in greater economic benefits by  trying to improve the efficiency of the translators (how many words per hour they can translate). Improving a translators per hour word rate from 300/hr to 1200/hr can reduce the cost of a translation by a much higher quantum than a 10% to 15% reduction in direct cost.

Looking at the example to the left by moving a translators words/hr rate from 300/hr up to 900/hr we can get a 325% reduction in cost – and as we refine our understanding of what drives translator efficiency we continue to push the rate/hr that a translator can achieve whilst maintaining a high quality translation.

Now by linking the cost of the translation to the time it takes to do it (i.e. the economic unit becomes time not word count) we are also able to directly pass on the cost benefits as the translators become more efficient at translating content. Simply “the faster we go the lower the cost. No reports on words translated, memory retained etc the only metric you as the customer need be concerned about is time on job.

Lets look at how that works in practice. By using Straker you have the option of 3 product plans – Standard, Standard+ and Premium.

price_imageWith each plan we guarantee a minimum number of words that we will translate per hour (400) so that as a customer you have a baseline cost to work within – however the end cost is determined by the total time it takes to complete a job.

For example a customer sends in a 1000 word job and selects the Standard+ price plan. The maximum total cost would be USD100 which assumes the team can translate at a maximum of 400 words per hour. However if the team can translate at a faster rate of 600 words per hour then the actual cost of the translation would only be USD66.

Pricing to benefit from efficiency gains, however, only makes sense if we can get those gains. As an organisation our focus has been on using technology to understand what factors can have the greatest impact on translator speed and what tools we can provide to maximise these  factors.

Over the past 18 months we have developed and refined our proprietary technology and translation platform to the stage were now we would normally see translators improve by 65% within one month of working on a clients content and in some cases up to 3x to 4x improvements.

A lot of the information around the technology and our performance is commercially sensitive but if you woud like to know more contact David (david@strakertranslations.com) or Grant (grant@strakertranslations.com) and we would be happy to setup a time to take you through some real life case studies, demo the platform and answer any questions you may have.