Nowadays, if we are going to buy a product or contract the services of a company, it behooves us to know how we can ensure that the company offers a minimum level of quality assurance. When choosing a language service provider, for example, we must keep in mind that quality covers various aspects: from the relationship that the provider establishes with its clients to the reliability of the processes for selecting the professionals who participate in projects, including more specific aspects such as the correct use of terminology, traceable management processes, confidentiality, and the security of the information being managed. All these aspects help to guarantee a high level of quality in the services and/or products offered by a company, while ensuring optimum levels of customer satisfaction.
But how can we assess all these aspects objectively? This is where ISO quality standards come into play. They provide objective and independent verification that a company complies with regulations in force and follows a series of processes deemed to be optimum to ensure that a product or service meets the client’s expectations. Moreover, these certifications are audited annually, thereby ensuring that the provider in question follows stipulated quality controls and processes and is constantly seeking continuous improvement and customer satisfaction. But let’s go step by step.
What is a quality standard? The origin of ISO
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) was founded with the idea of answering a fundamental question:
“…what’s the best way of doing this?”
In 1944, two national bodies that were engaged in drafting standards – ISA (International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations) and UNSCC (United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee) joined forces to give birth to ISO in London. Today, ISO is the world’s largest developer of internationally applicable standards. It is formed by 162 countries and 3368 technical bodies that are responsible for drafting ISO standards. Since it was founded, over 17,500 ISO standards have been produced, covering nearly all areas of manufacturing and technology, as well as the services industry.
The importance of establishing ISO standards in the world can be appreciated through the organization’s annual surveys, which show the ever-increasing number of organizations that decide to obtain certifications.
When, how, and who develops an ISO standard?
ISO does not decide when a new standard should be developed, but rather responds to a request from an industry or stakeholders, such as consumer groups. Normally, a sector of an industry or a group notifies their national member about the need for a standard, and this member contacts ISO. From this point on, a “project leader” is designated. This leader, through the Secretariat, presents the proposal of a standard to the other member countries that form part of the corresponding technical committee or subcommittee. Members of the committee vote on whether or not a proposal should move ahead. If the proposal is approved, each country appoints a series of experts who follow up on development of the standard, thereby ensuring that it meets the market’s needs and that it is applicable internationally. All decisions must be made by consensus.
The development process is divided into 6 different phases in which the experts assigned to each standard meet, discuss, and approve the content: Proposal, Preparation, Commission, Consultation, Approval, and Publication. Each technical committee includes a group of members who are in charge of developing the standards. These committees appoint a panel of experts on each subject that is in charge of following up on each standard. Moreover, consumer associations, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and governments also collaborate on developing standards. The experts who participate in developing standards do so voluntarily and selflessly. They are usually independent professionals or represent an organization belonging to the industry, a public administration, professional associations, research centers or universities, thereby providing for maximum representation and coverage of all interests in the industry.
Certifications in the translation and interpretation industry
The Technical Committee in charge of drafting standards related to the translation and interpretation industry is TC 37 (Technical Committee in charge of Terminology and other language and content resources), which was created in 1947. The objective of this Technical Committee is to standardize principles, methods, and applications related to terminology and other language and content resources within the context of multilingual communication and diversity. It has already published 51 standards, some of which we highlight below:
Therefore, when selecting a partner for multilingual projects, as regards translation companies and language service providers specifically, the latter should not only be certified in the ISO 9001 general standard but also in ISO 17100, which is specific for the translation industry, and ISO 13485, which covers the requirements for the manufacture of medical devices.
- General standard ISO 9001 specifies the requirements that must be met by a Quality Management System (QMS). This standard is applicable to any sector of activity. Companies apply for certification in accordance with this standard to show their commitment and their ability to provide products and services that consistently meet customer requirements and expectations.
- ISO 17100 is specific to translation services and has replaced European Standard UNE-EN 15038 since 2015. Its provisions establish the competences and qualifications that must be met by translators, reviewers and other professionals involved in this activity. It also establishes the basic principles for the framework of collaboration between the organization, providers and clients, thereby ensuring optimum quality of the product (the translation), the service, and the relationship with stakeholders.
- Depending on the areas of specialization of a language service provider (LSP), it is also important to consider certification according to ISO 13485 for the manufacture of medical devices. This standard involves the analysis and management of risks on each translation project in such an important area as health, in which an error could lead to serious consequences for the user.
Only by selecting a provider who is certified according to at least these three standards can you be certain that the provider meets verified quality parameters that will ensure the successful internationalization of your product or service.
The most popular quality standards that must be met by language service providers to ensure the quality of their products and services are ISO 17100, ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 for medical devices
CPSL: committed to quality and the satisfaction of our clients
For over 18 years, CPSL has proved its commitment to quality. In 2004, CPSL went a step further in its commitment to quality and continuous improvement earning its certification in the ISO 9001 standard, which it has renewed annually since then. Moreover, it has obtained certification in the ISO 13485 standard pertaining to medical devices, thus becoming one of the few expert translation companies in the life sciences industry that can ensure service quality for this sensitive market. Finally, in 2016 CPSL earned certification in ISO 17100, a standard that is specific to the translation industry (this standard replaces UNE 15038). However, CPSL’s commitment does not end with becoming certified and renewing all the standards that are relevant to our business activity; CPSL also participates actively in the development of new standards through Livia Florensa, CPSL’s CEO, who became a member of Technical Committee for Translation Services #174 in 2012. As an expert, Livia is participating in the development of numerous ISO standards for the industry, including ISO 17100. She has also been project leader in the development of ISO 18587, which regulates the post-editing of machine translated texts and was published in April 2017.
In words of Raisa McNab, Quality & Training Manager at ATC- Association of Translation Companies, regarding the development of ISO 18587 by CPSL: Over the past ten years, Raisa McNab has experienced the emergence and adoption of ISO standards related to the language industry, and as the Lead on Standards of the Association of Translation Companies in the UK, she welcomed the development of ISO 18587 being carried out by CPSL last year. “In our global world, high-quality translation and localization is now more important than ever. Savvy translation companies use automation, machine translation, and highly developed processes to facilitate more efficient localization, and doing so within the framework of a recognized ISO standard allows clients to entrust their valuable content to a quality-minded partner with peace of mind.”