These days, when buying a product from, or hiring the services of a company, you should think about how to ensure it offers some minimum quality guarantees. For example, when choosing a language service provider (LSP), it’s important to remember that quality covers a number of areas; from the relationship that the LSP builds with its customers, to the reliability of its processes for selecting the language professionals who work on its projects, through many other more specific elements of the service, such as the correct use of terminology, traceability in management processes, as well as the confidentiality and security of the information it handles. All of these factors help ensure that the quality both of the products and/or services it offers as well as the satisfaction of its customers is high.
But how can you objectively evaluate all of this? That is where the ISO quality standards come in – they objectively and independently certify that a company complies with the applicable regulations, and that the company follows a series of processes that are deemed to be optimal for ensuring that the product or service meets the customer’s expectations. Furthermore, the fact that ISO certification is audited annually provides further assurance that the supplier is following the due quality controls and processes, and is continually striving to improve customer satisfaction. But let’s look at it step by step…
What is a quality standard? The history of ISO
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) was founded with the aim of answering a fundamental question:
“what’s the best way of doing this?”
ISO began in London, in 1944, through the merger of two national agencies for the creation of standards – ISA (International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations,) and UNSCC (United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee). ISO has become the leading international standard-setting body. It comprises members from 162 countries and 3,368 technical organisations, who are responsible for drafting the ISO standards. Since it was founded, more than 17,500 ISO standards have been written, which encompass almost every area in manufacturing and technology, as well as the services sector.
The extent to which ISO standards have been implemented around the world can be seen in the organisation’s annual surveys, which reveal the ever increasing number of organisations that opt for certification.
When, how, and by whom is an ISO standard developed?
ISO does not decide when to develop a new standard, but rather it responds to a request from industry or other stakeholders, such as consumer groups. Typically, an industry sector or group communicates the need for a standard to its national member, who then contacts ISO. The next step is to appoint a “project leader”, who presents the proposal for the standard, via the Secretariat, to the other member countries of the relevant technical committee or subcommittee. The committee members vote whether or not to proceed with the proposal. If the proposal is approved, each country appoints a series of experts to monitor the development of the standard and thus ensure it meets the needs of the market and that it can be applied internationally. All decisions have to be reached by consensus.
There are six phases to the development process, during which the appointed experts meet to debate and approve the content: Proposal, Preparation, Committee, Consultation, Approval and Publication. Each technical committee consists of a number of members who are responsible for developing the standards. The committee appoints a panel of experts for each specific subject area, and this panel is responsible for monitoring the development of each of the standards. Consumer associations, academic institutions, NGOs and governments also collaborate in developing the standards. The experts involved in developing them do so on a voluntary and unpaid basis and tend to be independent professionals or representatives from organisations in the relevant industry, the civil service, professional organisations, research centres or universities, allowing for the optimal representation and coverage of all the interests of the sector.
Certification in the translation and interpreting industry
The Technical Committee responsible for drafting the standards that apply to the translation and interpreting industry is TC 37 (Technical Committee in charge of Terminology and other language and content resources), which was created in 1947. This Technical Committee aims to standardise the principles. methods, and applications related to terminology and other language resources, in the context of multilingual communications and diversity, and has already published more than 51 standards, including:
The most popular quality standards, with which language service providers must comply in order to guarantee the quality of their products and services, are the ISO 17100, ISO 9001, and ISO 13485 (for medical devices only).
So, when choosing a partner for multilingual projects, and specifically when it comes to selecting translation agencies and language service providers, in addition to the general ISO 9001 certification, it is important to check for ISO 17100, which is specific to the translation sector, and ISO 13485 (for the manufacture of medical devices, only).
- The general standard ISO 9001 sets out the criteria for a quality management system (QMS), and applies to all fields of activity. Companies acquire this certification to demonstrate their commitment and ability to provide, products and services that consistently meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
- The ISO 17100 standard applies specifically to translation services and, in 2015, it replaced the European standard UNE-EN 15038. The provisions of this standard establish the competencies and qualifications that translators, revisers, and other professionals working in this fields must have. It also establishes the basic principles of the framework for collaboration between organisations, providers, and customers in such a way as to ensure the optimum quality of both the product (translation) and the service, and the relationship between stakeholders.
- Depending on the specialisations of the language service provider, it is also important to check for ISO 13485, for the services related to manufacture of medical devices only. This standard relates to risk analysis and management for each translation project in such an important field as health, where a single error could have serious consequences for the user.
Simply by choosing a provider with at least these three standards will give you the security of knowing that the provider complies with verified quality standards to guarantee that the internationalisation of your product or service will be a success.
CPSL: commitment to quality and customer satisfaction
CPSL has been demonstrating its commitment to quality for over 18 years. In 2004, CPSL stepped up its commitment to quality and continuous improvement by obtaining ISO 9001 certification, which has been renewed annually ever since. Furthermore, CPSL also has ISO 13485 certification, which relates to medical devices, making it one of the few translation companies with expertise in the life sciences sector able to guarantee service quality in this sensitive market. Finally, in 2016, CPSL gained ISO 17100 certification, which applies specifically to the translation industry (replacing UNE 15038). But CPSL’s commitment to quality does not stop at certification and renewal of all the standards relevant to our industry; CPSL has also been actively participating in the development of new standards since 2012, when Livia Florensa, CEO of CPSL, became an expert member of the Technical Committee for Translation Services #174. As an expert, Livia is involved in developing several ISO standards for the sector, including ISO 17100. She was also the project leader for the development of ISO 18587, which regulates the post-editing of machine translations and was published in April 2017. In words of Raisa McNab, Quality & Training Manager at ATC- Association of Translation Companies, about the development of ISO 18587 by CPSL: Over the past ten years, Raisa McNab has experienced the emergence and adoption of language industry ISO standards and, as the UK Association of Translation Companies’ Lead on Standards, she welcomes ISO 18587, which was developed by CPSL last year:
“In our global world, high quality translation and localisation is now more important than ever. Savvy translation companies use automation, machine translation, and highly developed processes to facilitate more efficient localisation, and doing so within the framework of a recognised ISO standard certification means that their clients can have peace of mind knowing that they are entrusting their valuable content to a partner committed to quality”.