Translation in Manufacturing: Machine Translation vs LSPs

Publicly available machine translation tools, like Google Translate, are growing in popularity. So too is the language services industry. When it comes to your business, what is the better choice?
Managing Translations in the Manufacturing Industry Machine Translation vs LSPs - Blog Post Featured Image

Manufacturing is an essential sector of the global economy, and many manufacturers are looking for ways to expand their businesses into new markets. However, language barriers can often stand in the way of success.

In today’s globalized economy, it’s more important than ever for manufacturers to be able to communicate with their suppliers and customers in multiple languages. Manufacturers who need translation services may consider the pros and cons of both publicly available machine translation (MT) and partnering with a language service provider (LSP).

In this blog post, we’ll look at each option’s pros and cons to help you decide which is right for your international business.

Language & Translation Services for Manufacturing

Before pitting our contenders against each other, let’s take a closer look at the language services landscape in manufacturing.

The demand for language services is growing rapidly as the world becomes increasingly connected. In fact, the global language services market is expected to grow by $21.67 billion by 2025.

This growth is driven by several factors, including the rise of e-commerce, the globalization of business, and the expansion of the sharing economy. These trends are particularly relevant to the manufacturing sector.

Most manufacturers use these services for:

  • Technical documentation
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Text driven technology
  • Sales and customer support
  • Human resources
  • Research and development
  • Quality control
  • Logistics
  • Compliance
  • And more

Now that we know what they’re used for, let’s start by defining both types of services.

Language Service Providers (LSPs)

A language service provider is a company that provides translation and/or interpretation services. LSPs employ technical translators and interpreters who are experts in specific languages and industries. These professionals can provide high-quality translations that consider the nuances of language and culture.

LSPs also have a deep understanding of the manufacturing industry and can provide accurate technical terms within document translation requirements, such as character limits. LSPs can offer other services such as website localization or language training.


PGLS provides experienced translators for over 200 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, French, and German. In addition, our team has extensive experience translating technical documents and materials for manufacturers.

We also offer a full suite of language services. Your international business can benefit from our interpretation services for business meetings, trade shows, and conferences. We also offer language training for manufacturers who want to improve their employees’ language skills.

Whether you need a one-time solution or a long-term language partner, PGLS is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Machine Translation (MT)

On the other side of the equation are machine translations. MT is a technology that uses software to translate text from one language to another. Machine translation has come a long way in recent years, and it’s now possible to get immediate translations with this method.

To understand how machine translation works, it’s helpful first to understand how artificial intelligence works. AI is a technology that uses software to mimic the workings of the human brain. This software can learn and improve over time by analyzing large amounts of data.

One of the most common applications of AI is machine learning. This is a method of teaching computers to recognize patterns in data. For example, if you showed numerous pictures of cats to a machine-learning algorithm, it would eventually learn to identify cats in new pictures.

Machine translation works similarly. The software is fed a large amount of text in both languages. It then looks for patterns in the data and tries to match them. The more data the software is given, the more accurate it becomes.

The most recognized publicly available machine translation software is Google Translate. Millions of people use this software daily to rapidly translate short text.

Machine Translation vs. Language Service Providers: Tale of the Tape

While language service providers are not exempt from using machine translation, they couple more sophisticated machine translation engines with skilled human translations, ensuring a higher level of accuracy and quality control. Now that we’ve defined both machine translation and language service providers let’s look at how they compare.

Translation Accuracy

The most important factor in any translation is the final result’s accuracy. After all, the whole point of translating something is to communicate the same message in another language. If the translation is inaccurate, it will likely lead to miscommunication, which can be costly for your business.

MT engines rely on algorithms to identify patterns in data, so there is always a risk of error. In fact, it’s not uncommon for MT software to produce nonsensical results. Here is where machine translation falls short.

Machines cannot yet understand the context of what they’re translating. They can only identify individual words and phrases. Of course, the advances of GPT-3 and similar technologies are slowly changing. But for now, human translators, either on their own or with the assistance of machine translation, are still the only ones who can guarantee accurate translations.

Data Confidentiality

When working with personal or sensitive data, it’s important to consider who will have access to that information. With machine translation, you’re essentially giving your data to the software company. Their terms and conditions allow them to use it to improve their algorithms and even sell it to other global businesses. If you’re dealing with confidential data, this is not an ideal situation.

With trusted language service providers, you can be confident that your data will remain confidential. If they use machine translation to supplement their work, they’ll be using their own, highly secure systems. For example, when you work with PGLS, your data is stored on our secure servers. An NDA can also be put in place to further protect your information.


Another important factor to consider is localization. Localization involves adapting a product or service to a specific region or market. It’s important because different areas have different customs, traditions, and linguistic varieties.

A classic example is Australian English vs. American English. The subtle differences between these two varieties can lead to confusion. That’s why it’s essential to use a localization service familiar with the target region.

If you’re manufacturing products in China, you’ll also need specialized knowledge of the Chinese market. There are over 1.4 billion people in China who speak dozens of languages using one main language system. Having someone from the local area who can help you navigate is essential.

Machine translation software doesn’t take localization into account. There is always a risk of cultural misappropriation, discrimination, or offense. In some cases, this can even lead to legal trouble.

That’s why it’s always best to use a human translator for localization. They will be familiar with the target region and will be able to adapt the text accordingly.

Quality Control

Quality control is another important factor to consider. This is the process of ensuring that a product or service meets specific standards. In the manufacturing world, quality control is essential. In many cases, the quality of the products you make relies on quality translations.

A single mistake in the translation can cause big problems. That’s why it’s essential to have somebody edit the text before it’s published. Machine translation software is not yet advanced enough to do this independently. In most cases, the software needs to be checked by a human before it can be considered accurate.

Certified language service providers often have humans checking the quality of their work.  PGLS can utilize sophisticated machine translation coupled with human post-editing and outputs 99% accuracy in its translated documents through its proprietary quality control system, GlobalCheck®.

Learn more about PGLS’s translation process.

Compliance and Expertise

In many industries, regulatory compliance is essential. That’s why many businesses lean on a certified translator familiar with your industry’s regulations.

For example, if you’re advertising medical products in the EU, you’ll need to follow the strict rules laid out by the European Medicines Agency. These rules are designed to protect consumers and ensure that only safe and effective products are sold.

Most AI will not ‘think’ about compliance, which can lead to serious problems. Human translators, on the other hand, are aware of these regulations. They can also adjust when policies change, as they often do.

In addition to compliance, you also need to consider expertise. This refers to the specialized knowledge that a person has in a certain field. In many cases, you’ll need somebody with expert knowledge to translate your text correctly.

For example, if you’re translating a complex manufacturing manual for a new machine, you’ll need somebody who is familiar with both the device and the industry terminology. Otherwise, there is a risk of making mistakes that could be dangerous or deadly.


In many cases, time is of the essence. For example, you might need to get a product to market quickly or sign a foreign contract before it expires. In these cases, you’ll need a translator who can work quickly and efficiently.

Publicly available machine translation software is often faster than human translators. The software can work 24 hours a day without taking breaks. Its computing speed isn’t restricted to ‘one brain’ but depends on the power of the computer it’s installed on.

Machine translation scores its first victory over human translators in terms of speed. However, remember that quantity does not always equal quality. In many cases, you’ll still need a human technical translator to ensure that the text is accurate.

It’s also important to consider the turnaround time. This is the amount of time that it takes to complete a project. If you pass your text through MT and need to rewrite half of it due to inconsistencies, the project will take just as long as if you had used a human translator in the first place.

Leveraging a hybrid approach that utilizes sophisticated machine translation alongside human translators can be a great way to ensure speed and quality.


Finally, the cost is another important factor to consider. In general, machine translation is cheaper than human translation. The costs associated with MT are usually just the price of the software, the computing power needed to run it, and the processing time to operate the application.

Human translation costs can vary widely. They depend on the language, the topic, the length of the text, and the expected turnaround time. Of course, freelancers often charge less than LSPs. However, LSPs usually have a team of experts who can complete the project more quickly and deliver a higher quality end-product.

Once again, you need to consider the quality of the final product. How much will a legal mistake cost you? What about leaking sensitive info? In many cases, the reputation risks associated with machine translation are not worth the savings. For this factor, consider the importance of the text in question when making your decision.

Who’s The Winner?

So, who wins the battle between machine translation and language service providers? It depends on your needs. In general, language service providers are better for businesses while publicly available machine translators are best for quick, non-business-related transactions. Language service providers leverage the power of sophisticated machine translation coupled with human translation to give your business the results needed to ensure success. Publicly available machine translators are often free and can immediately translate short texts. If accuracy and text requirements are not crucial, this method is acceptable in a pinch.

Human-Assisted Machine Translation (HAMT)

One solution that has emerged in recent years is human-assisted machine translation (HAMT). HAMT involves using both human and machine translation in the translation process.

The first step is to run the text through MT software, giving you a first draft of the text. Then, a specialized translator goes through and revises the text. This step ensures that the final product is high quality and accurate.

HAMT is an ideal compromise between machine translation and human translation. It’s faster than using only human translation, but the final product is usually better than what you would get from MT alone. Many language service providers use HAMT.

How to Choose the Right Language Service Provider

There are many LSPs to choose from. How can you be sure to select the right one for your project?

Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

The Language Offered

If you’re working on a project with several languages, look for a company that can handle all of them. Make sure that the agency can translate the languages you need. This will make coordination more accessible and ensure everyone is on the same page.

The team at PGLS works in over 200 languages. We’re confident that we can handle any project, no matter how complex.

Industry Experience

Some LSPs specialize in certain industries. Make sure to ask about an agency’s experience before you decide to work with them. This can be helpful if you’re working on a project with jargon or specific terminology.

Translations in the manufacturing industry are best served with an LSP specializing in manufacturing. PGLS offers expertise in the manufacturing space and can help you reach elevate your mission through our translation services.

Alternative Services

If you’re translating for another country, chances are your international business will need more than just translation services. Look for an LSP that can also help with things like market research, website localization, and SEO.

Whenever you need to visit the location in person, you should also have a reliable interpretation service to assist you. PGLS offers all of these services and more. We’re your one-stop shop for everything language-related.

Finally, you might want to establish a presence somewhere permanently, where you’ll need fluent employees. PGLS offers a comprehensive language training program to help employees learn a new language.

Contact us today to get started!