How Machine Translation Can Improve Localized Supply Chain Efficiency

Machine Translation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) reported that even before the Ukraine-Russian war, the disruptions led to major economies losing  112.75 billion Euros in GDP in 2021 and caused inflation to skyrocket. The challenges brought by disruptions of the international supply chain due to uncontrollable circumstances showed how fragile current supply chain systems were. 

WEF addressed the need to reinvent supply chains that will make them “more resilient and agile to respond to increasing supply uncertainties, while also becoming  a key competitive advantage to enable growth.” 

For this reason, many have looked to localizing supply chains to increase productivity and cut costs and time. 

Today, we will look into how localization in supply chain management can increase efficiency. It will also examine how language plays a role here and what machine translation can do to create seamless communication.

Let’s get started!

What is Supply Chain Management (SCM)?

Let’s first define supply chain management (SCM) to get started. It’s the management of the flow of products and services. It can be the process of turning raw materials into another.  

Management of the supply chain has allowed many companies to cut costs and offer fast delivery of products to consumers. Good supply chain management prevents companies from receiving lawsuits and bad publicity from delays or recalls due to poor quality.  

The Shift from Global to Local Supply Chain

As mentioned, due to uncontrollable international events, the global trade and supply chain has been negatively affected by them. It has led to many companies focusing on international supply chains to local ones.

Here are some of the latest trends and data on the supply chain below: 

  • 38.8% of US small businesses experienced delays in their supply chain because of the pandemic. (US Census)
  • 57% of businesses believe supply chain management provides them with a competitive advantage. (Zippia)
  • 22% of businesses have proactive management and network in the supply chain. (Logistics Bureau) 
  • 24.7% reported that their biggest supply chain management issue for B2C businesses is the delivery costs. (Reuters)
  • 43% of small enterprises don’t track inventory, while 21% said they “don’t have inventory.”(Zippia)
  • 40% of respondents said they were actively looking for “near shoring solutions.” (McKinsey)

As we can see from the presented data, disruptions in the international trade and supply chain have detrimental effects on businesses. And despite most enterprises believing that supply chain management is essential for any business, many still don’t track inventory or do not have one.

For this reason, many look to localizing to supply chain. If you’re wondering what supply chain localization is, it refers to the manufacturing and shipment of products locally. But if you’re an international company, shifting your systems from international to local can be a bit tricky, especially if your supply chain management is for the operations of an international market. 

How Machine Translation Became the Heart in the Localization of SCM

According to this comprehensive article, machine translation “allows a computer to interpret and translate text from one language to another” with the help of technological advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and neural network technology.

There are several types of MT. Out of the other MT, the most advanced is neural machine translation (NMT). Unlike previous MT models, its system adapts and learns to the syntax and grammar rules of the languages it works under, leading to producing more accurate translations than the others due to understanding the text’s context.

Due to this, many businesses have begun to use automated translation in localizing their supply chain management. Creating a localization strategy for your supply chain requires the following to implement it successfully:

Overcoming Language Barriers  

Suppose you want to localize your supply chain for an international market like France. The primary hurdle you will need to address is language barriers between your English-only speaking employees and the native French suppliers and employees. 

With a machine translation system, it would lessen the language barriers when you’re sending messages or creating emails. Many supply chain management software is available in multiple languages, and some run under automated translation, making gathering data and automating the process more efficient.

Speeding Up Translation of Official Documents 

As for handling official documents, you can have it run through the text through MT engines and have a certified translator check and edit the output. Having a system producing accurate translated documents across different languages makes the process run along a lot faster. This in turn lessens the issue of delays in fulfilling requirements to transact with foreign governments. 

Increasing Local Market Research 

Lastly, with your language and marketing experts, they can use MT for local market research. MT can accommodate high-volume data from across various fields. If you’re under a time constraint, then using MT to increase the gathered information much quicker and having it translated right away is one of its most useful aspects.

It’s advised that when you use a machine translation system, it’s for a specific field to make its program specialized. 

3 Tips for Using MT in Your Localization Strategy for SCM

Besides the other considerations and tips we mentioned above, we have listed more below on how you can effectively use machine translation in your localization strategy for supply chain management:

Increase Communication with Local Suppliers 

Because of global supply chain risks, having your operations done locally reduces the risk of relying on other economies dependently. 

Going back to our example with the French market. Let’s say your business relies on textiles for the production of bags. For several years, you have relied on textiles from China. However, the international supply chain delays opened your eyes to how vulnerable your supply chain system is in the event of international issues like the pandemic. 

You decided to look for local French textile suppliers to circumvent this dilemma. It will require you to communicate and diversify where you’re getting your local supplies from. You will have to work with French language experts, but automated translations make communication more seamless.

Communicating with local suppliers diversifies your supplier network, creating a more stable supply chain that won’t be readily affected by the most global crisis. It also makes your delivery time more predictable due to steady supplies.

Localize Automated Parts of the Supply Chain Process

About 37.15% of participants from retail supply said they invested more in systems that automate issue resolution and risk identification. If you have personalized management systems for your supply chain, it’s wise to localize for your non-native English-speaking employees and retail suppliers to make the workflow run smoothly. 

With a software localization expert and your MT system, you can localize your supply chain management systems to align them more with your target market’s preferences. 

Make Your Findings Available in Their Language

Lastly, after you have gathered all the information on your business’ local supply chain, have the reports in your employee’s native language. Effectively disseminating information ensures everyone under supply chain management is aware of the company’s situation and encourages collaboration.

Information drives your supply chain management as it lays the foundation of how you will do operations and make decisions, whether knowing what your customers want or if the inventory is stocked.

Despite your employees being highly proficient in English, having the evaluation reports and documents of your current supply chain system will make it more comfortable for them to provide insights into the situation and come up with different solutions.

Final Thoughts

There are many uncontrollable factors in our global market that make us rethink how we do production and where we gather supplies. Due to this, localizing supply chain management has become appealing to many businesses.

It allows them to continue international operations while limiting the dependence on the global supply chain by connecting with local suppliers who can offer raw materials and products at a cheaper amount more reliable delivery of supplies. Hopefully, this article will encourage you to reevaluate how your business manages its supply chain.

Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on December 3, 2022.
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