Friday, August 31, 2012

Language Interpreters

English has rapidly become the major language of international politics, trade and commerce. However, this does not mean it is the world language. It still competes with other major languages such as Spanish, French and Arabic.
In the business world, using interpreters to overcome the language barrier is a necessity. Even if there are common languages between business people, interpreters are still preferred for a number of reasons.
Interpreters offer the following advantages:
oInterpreters are trained professionals in specific languages, meaning they can ensure communication between sides is as clear as possible.
oHaving an interpreter allows you to speak in your native language, ensuring you express yourself succinctly.
oUsing an interpreter helps minimise possible costly misunderstandings.
oFor tactical reasons in negotiations an interpreter can help you bide time to formulate responses.
oIf properly briefed, an astute interpreter can help you with presentations and negotiations by working with you to achieve goals.
oInterpreters assist in overcoming cross cultural differences and can act as guides in cross cultural matters.
If you are planning to use an interpreter, the following guidelines should be considered prior to any business taking place:
oFully brief your interpreter - inform them of who you will be meeting, the issues that will be discussed, any technical language that will be used and any potential uncomfortable situations that may arise.
oDiscuss your aims and objectives for any meeting or negotiations with the interpreter and your strategy.
oIf you are using an interpreter for a meeting then provide them with an agenda and talk them through it.
oIf you are giving a speech, provide a copy of the speech and ensure they understand any complicated language.
oSpeak slowly and clearly as this gives the interpreter time to digest your words.
oTake breaks in your speech regularly, for example at the end of each sentence or statement.
oAvoid long and complex sentences.
oIf you plan on making a joke, check it is culturally transferable with the interpreter.
oAvoid slang, metaphors and colloquial expressions.
oTry to let the interpreter finish before commencing the next point.
oMaintain eye contact with the audience or group and not the interpreter. However, periodically check your interpreter is keeping up and is comfortable.
Interpreters should not be viewed solely as language assistants. In addition to helping you overcome the language barrier they can also assist in many other areas such as organisation, formulating strategies and advising on cross cultural differences. It is critical to see interpreters as not working for you but with you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Using a Translation Service

In a market full of translators, translation agencies and translation directories one is forgiven for feeling confused as to where to go and who to use. Finding a good translation service or translator is a key business decision that should not be taken lightly.
The need for reputable translation agencies and translators to take out professional indemnity insurance is in itself an indication that things can and do go wrong, sometimes with heavy financial consequences.
Financial losses may occur through using a poor translation service or translator in a number of ways. For example, a badly translated business document, such as a contract or proposal, can have a devastating effect if a business decision has been based on faulty information. A brochure or advertising campaign that has not taken into consideration local cultures can lead to a huge dent in an advertising budget with only negative PR as the result. The possibilities for something to go wrong are endless.
A good translation service or translator will be able to provide you with a solid background in translation, a good network of translators to provide proof-reading in addition to the straight forward translation and an understanding of the cultural impact of language and translation.
'Cultural Assessment' or 'Linguistic Screening' is a process whereby the translation service will examine your text, brochure or advertisement and ensure that none of the words, images, photos or even brand name translate badly into the target audience.
The following translations are all examples of what happens when a good translation service is not used....
Clairol did not test market in Germany the name of its "Mist-Stick"-- a mist-producing hair curling iron. Mist translates in German as "excrement" and a "manure-stick" did not draw much interest.
A new facial cream with the name "Joni" was proposed to be marketed in India. They changed the name since the word translated in Hindi meant "female genitals."
In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into "Schweppes Toilet Water."
Scandanavian Vacuum manufacturer Electrolux translated the following in an American ad campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."
Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called 'Cue', the name of a notorious porno magazine.
Coors had it's slogan, "Turn it loose," translated into Spanish, where it became "Suffer from diarrhoea."
....or when you take the D.I.Y. approach to translation:
In a Belgrade hotel elevator: To move the cabin, push the button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.
In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.
In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.
In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.
In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
Although comical, the above examples perfectly demonstrate how easy it is for your translation to cause you problems. It is crucial one understands fully what their needs and requirements are when it comes to translating a piece of work.
Ask yourself the following before commissioning any translation service with a piece of work:
1)What is the nature of the document or text? Why does it need to be translated? Who will use it or read it?
2)Does it really need translating? Can it be summarised for gist instead?
3)Can diagrams, pictures or maps be used to replace text which may be too descriptive or complex?
4)Will it be used abroad or by people from differing cultures? Even if a piece of work is going to be used by American, Australian and British personnel ensure that a Cultural Applicability test is performed.
These basic measures can help avoid translation blunders and ensure your translation service provider understands fully the nature of the piece of work.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Managing an Elevator Cash Flow

Jannice K., a past Virginia resident, now California
resident, worked in Burger King for ten years. Back when I
was a junk food addict, she passed me the bag and drink
through the drive through window. Occasionally, I would go
inside to eat. We became friends and soon had regular times
together early afternoons during her break. It wasn't long
before I discovered Jannice's real buried passion was
grooming dogs. She sparkled whenever the topic came up.
Later Jannice and I worked together to write articles and
other materials on her passion. Now, Jannice lives in
California, owns three grooming parlors, and is quite, quite
well off. During a recent phone conversation she shared how
no matter how far she's come in just the few years, she says
she's never gotten used to living with a fluctuating cash
This is an experience shared by many self-employed
After living on predictable cash flow, having a variable
cash flow can be nerve racking. Even over time, as you grow
maturely philosophical about money, knowing that it can be
here today and gone tomorrow requires being on your toes.
And, in order to transition from toes to flat foot you must
learn to integrate a prosperity consciousness in order to
survive emotionally. A prosperity transfer means shifting
from the perception of scarcity, to being in abundance.
The secret to handling this elevator ride is to get to the
point of contentment with who you are and what you are
doing, and not have an emotional response to money. This
platform, of course, takes discipline and experience. Over
time, as you learn and become comfortable with a new way of
thinking, you also learn to stay focused, know what "really"
matters, stop wasting time, and relax into a set of
processes and systems that become the rhythm for your
business. This calm approach always accelerates prosperity
and, in turn, allows the cash flow elevator to slow down and
stop on various floors.
During the fast elevator days, tips always help to remind us
to punch the button in order to stop at the next floor.
Here are a few tips to help you push the right buttons:
1. Where you focus is what you will attract. If you focus
on your surplus, the surplus will grow. If you focus on
lack, the lack will grow. Hence, it's common sense to focus
on surplus, wouldn't you say. Learn to see abundance in all
that you do, say, and feel. This doesn't mean giving away
your services if you are business owner. It means in being
in balance with it. Be abundant with your gestures, open
the door for a person, it doesn't matter on gender.
When someone takes you to lunch, see that as surplus, the
money didn't come out of your pocket. It's abundance from
their life to yours. Yes, the good ole, attitude of
gratitude, philosophy is what I'm talking about. It
actually is a secret weapon of the wealthy. Again, of
course, in balance. This same attitude is available to
everyone, including you and I. If it takes fewer muscles to
smile, then of course, it takes less energy to be nice.
2. Know what you're worth and be consistent about it. If
you take a long lunchtime or spend time browsing the book
aisles or Net, associate your hourly rate to this. When you
associate time to money consistently in your thinking
process, cash flow will follow. With a focus on what
"really" matters and you follow that up with massive action,
it all begins to sink in. This internal awareness will, of
course, again, be attractive.
3. Some is better than none. Partial payments are better
than no payments if you can't meet your obligations. Even
the telephone and utility companies can cope with partial
payments. Send what you can with an explanatory note.
We both know that bill collectors aren't the most
compassionate souls. If you deal with them, try not to be
defensive nor try to ignore them. Silence isn't golden in
this instance. However, you can't let them intimate you or
make you feel guilty either -- and they surely will try too.
Bring no emotional attachment to their call, conversation,
or even after you hang up. This will affect your energy and
zap your progress.
Just imagine having one of these a day, and if you do, it's
a-no-wonder why you're feeling drained, unattractive, and
not making any money. This spiral emotional ride puts you
on the fast elevator ride to the basement.
4. Maintain a list of emergency money generators. These
are items that you can use that require little or no
planning, either because you have it done or it just doesn't
need it, that deliver short-term cash. This is an insurance
cash flow list for your business. Everyone needs this
whether running a business or not, even if it means
unloading boxes at your brother-in-laws warehouse.
If you list a temporary agency, who are they, have you gone
over there already and established a relationship. Set up
the groundwork so that it's easy to jump into when "you"
need it. Being mindful of all your options, and not
mindless, adds to your confidence and ability to manage your
cash flow during shortage.
5. Separate emotions from money and separate thoughts of
debt that is an investment and debt that is due to
irresponsibility. If you are going to operate a business,
be accountable, especially if you have employees. People
say to me that one of their number goals is to be debt free.
If you have a habit of creating irresponsible debt then even
when you become debt free it will not last because the
mindset and habits didn't change.
Change your attitude and remove the emotions. Separate
investment debt from the other. Why wait to be happy, live
your life with a debt free mentality now. Most children
grow up without understanding money and base their knowledge
on emotional expressions they hear from others. Then as
adults they are thrust into the world and told, "You're
suppose to know better."
Take a class on money management, stop reading the books if
they aren't helping. If you already taken a class, hire a
money coach. Keep debt manageable and be an responsible
adult and business owner. There aren't any excuses for poor
money management.
6. Don't spend yourself poor with feast or famine. Don't
be tempted to pay off all your old bills and leave yourself
impoverished all over again. Your mental health will be
stronger if you set aside some money and watch it
accumulate. Just knowing you have even the smallest of
funds stashed away will lighten your walk and smooth your
7. Get smart about your money. I mean, SMART. Get
Specific, Measure it, be Accountable, make them achievable,
Realistic and the Time is now. Our beliefs today have no
resemblance to the beliefs of money our parents have, nor
will the next generation have with yours. Challenge all the
early assumptions you have about money. Challenge them
every day until. Do it until you learn to manage it. Do it
until it works for you.
Get off the elevator cash flow ride, have less paper, scotch
tape, and paper clips around, and put some money away for
that rainy day. I don't think either of our grandmothers
where wrong on that philosophy.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Costing At No Cost

Cost estimation is always a crucial topic in many industries. For converters, it may be one of the keys to success... or to failure.
The estimation comes into play for several reasons: to prepare production budgets, for cost management and to define the prices and to make offers to customers.
Here we want to concentrate our attention on the problem of cost estimation in the cutting business.
We must make distinct considerations according to the material type to be cut.
Materials can be divided into two big categories, man-made and natural. It would be possible to make further classifications but these two are enough for our purposes.
The problem with man-made materials
As a first case, we deal with man-made materials, for which apparently the cost estimate of cutting is easy: the material is usually defect-free and comes in regular shapes, typically sheets or rolls of a standard size.
It may be simple to make a rough estimate of the quantity (and therefore the cost) of material needed to fulfil an order but it is important to consider a couple of factors:
  • The final products (the cut parts) are hardly differentiated, so, for a given material, the distinguishing points of an offer for a cutting job can only be price and delivery time. Delivery time can be managed, since each company has a known average throughput and on the market there are many software products that can manage the production schedule to provide in time the parts to be shipped to the customers.
  • Price is a much harder question since it is often the point on which the customer's decisions are based. For this reason it is extremely important to have a sound basis to make a price, knowing exactly which is the cost of the material needed.
The problem with natural materials
Natural materials, such as leather or wood, are a completely different story. They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and can have defects and holes. Moreover, the parts to be cut often have placing constraints (orientation, quality and so on) that make much harder to figure out how they can fit on the available piece of material.
There is no way to make a reliable estimate of the quantities to be used on natural materials.
All the available methods are based on mid- and long-term statistics, that can be helpful only as far as the main features of the material are similar across different batches and the parts to be cut are similar across different articles.
But in a real production environment these conditions are rarely respected and the estimates are always prone to errors and, of course, the offers based on these estimates are wrong.
The only way to obtain a perfect estimate is to place the parts on the actual material to be cut and then calculate the actual consumption.
The ultimate question
How to make an accurate and reliable estimate, quickly and at a reasonable cost?
We propose the ultimate answer to this question: do not estimate the material consumption: get the actual cost before cutting!
And the only way to get the data of the actual placements of parts is to perform the nesting for the whole order on the actual material batch to be cut.
This was almost impossible in the recent past, because it was a time-consuming process and required the availability of a high-performance computer with a (expensive) nesting software. In a few words, the automatic nesting for costing purposes was too expensive to be an option.
This is no more true for those companies who use the innovative technology of CUTWEB.
CUTWEB is a web-based application that allows the management and sharing of all the data related to nesting and cutting and provides the access to an on-line nesting service that uses high-performance nesting strategies, fine-tuned for different scenarios.
A web-based application like Cutweb can be used from any (cheap) internet-connected PC and a nesting server deals with all the calculations, getting rid of the need of a in-house dedicated workstation and of the need to buy a software license for each PC that access to nesting and cutting data.
Costing with CUTWEB becomes a breeze:
  1. upload the parts and the material data
  2. upload the order
  3. start the nesting.
  4. See the actual material cost
All this can be done quickly and at a negligible cost, just a few eurocents for each test so it becomes possible to run as many tests as you need.
In a few minutes the layouts will be calculated, and you will see exactly how and where the parts will be eventually cut and get a detailed (and of course customisable) report about the nesting.
You can keep the nesting on CUTWEB as long as you wish, and when the order is confirmed by the customer, then (and only then) you download it and cut at once, since the CUTWEB setup ensures that the downloaded data are compatible with your cutting machine.
The nesting cost is just a few Eurocents, you actually pay the nesting service when you download the data needed for the cutting.
There are many benefits that you can achieve organising the work on this way can be summarised in some key points:
  • you pay for the nesting service only when the order is confirmed and you download the data for actual cutting
  • there is no risk to waste your money on nestings that you will not use in production
  • you can prepare precise offers based upon actual material cost not estimations
  • you will spend less time and money in the costing and offering process
  • higher chance to gain orders owing to the more accurate offerings
  • improved overall production efficiency and throughput
The advantages for the control over the material cost
The cost of material plays a capital role in the cutting business and it is crucial to keep it under strict control.
This is especially difficult when dealing with natural and irregular materials, because even the basic operations such as the measurement of the area are subject to errors.
The use of an automatic nesting service requires a tool to digitise the materials. These tools are usually a table with one or more digital cameras placed upon it. A specialised software application automatically recognises the contour points and the holes in the material and calculates the actual area and uses the data collected to feed the automatic nesting system.
The advantages of this technology are several:
  • It is possible to check if the material billed by the supplier matches the supplied one
  • The data of placement yield are accurate
  • It is possible to keep under control the material used to cut the orders.
  • The advantages for a company with cutting subcontractors.
A company that delegates the cutting to subcontractors can greatly benefit from the CUTWEB technology for many reasons:
  • It is possible to have a single interface to manage the communication and data transmission
  • The control over the material quantities to be used for cutting is accurate and therefore it is possible to supply to the subcontractors with exactly the materials needed for the parts they must cut and there is no need to rely (or bet) on the efficiency that they can achieve: everything is clear and precise.
I work for a small and dynamic Italian software house whose mission is to provide innovative and efficient solutions for the nesting and cutting business leveraging the power of the Internet.