Some companies view the export of their goods and products as a long-term possibility, while a great many companies start to export their goods and products more by chance than by any deliberate action. There are a great many things that have to be considered, before you begin exporting goods and products. When it comes to technical documentation, it is important that it is tailored to suit the new market. Perhaps the layout needs to be changed, the language changed, or a completely new type of documentation has to be created.
When it comes to exporting machines, the documentation must comply with local market regulations in Europe, including the EU Machinery Directive. This specifies which documents must be supplied with the machine, and in which form the documentation is to be delivered. There are corresponding standards for other industries.
Here are a couple of examples to illustrate how your technical documentation can avoid pitfalls.
A Danish manufacturer of salt spreaders recommends that salt is used in its machines in Denmark. In Norway, where the ice on the roads is harder, and icy conditions last longer, salt has no effect. In fact, salt will often only melt the surface layer of the ice, creating water on the road, making the road even more slippery. This means that the text of the Norwegian manual needs to be edited to ensure that the correct material is used in the salt spreaders – so the manual’s content now matches the Norwegian circumstances.
In Denmark, we often associate the colour blue with peace, calmness, harmony, trust and selfconfidence. In other countries, the associations are different. In Columbia, the colour blue is associated with soap. In the Middle East, it is seen as a protective colour. In China, it is associated with among other things, immortality, and in Jewish culture, the colour is associated with holiness. The wrong colour can result in countless cultural misunderstandings, which in the final analysis can damage a company’s exports. So there are good reasons for considering the use of blue and other colours in your technical documentation.
The wrong formatting can lead to an error in the translation of your manual. When a text is translated using a CAT application, the text is divided into smaller segments. The segmentation is based on punctuation, formatting and codes. If a sentence is divided up into several segments, because of incorrect formatting, e.g. an incorrectly placed line change, an error can happen in the translation, because the sentence can be misunderstood, or gain another meaning. So you have to be very careful with punctuation and formatting when you write your technical documentation.
You can save a lot of frustration when exporting to foreign markets if you think about the potential pitfalls beforehand, and actively do something about them when you are preparing your technical documentation. This may mean that you have to put some extra effort into finding out about colour associations, or the local circumstances, before you start exporting. By doing so, you will avoid unpleasant surprises like your product being rejected because the manual contains errors as regards content or a work accident in a foreign country because the translation contains errors due to wrong formatting.