Case Study: Technical translation for operating manuals and HMI strings

Executive Summary

Our client, a global provider of packaging solutions, received overseas orders for machines used for bottling pharmaceuticals. The machine labels, strings for the human-machine interface, and operating manual all required translation into multiple languages.

The Challenge

The content was highly specialized.  Finding technical translators with subject matter expertise was the first challenge. The translators then faced a second challenge: machine labels and fields for HMI (Human-Machine Interface) strings placed limits on the size of the translated text. Spanish requires more characters than English; a translation from English to Spanish can “expand” up to 30%. Therefore, the translation team would need to formulate new abbreviations and ensure their consistent use across all the material.


As the first step in the process of translation for operating manuals, the Scriptis project manager created a glossary of the specialized and technical terms involved in the project. The team then translated these glossary terms. The client’s internal reviewer approved the bilingual glossaries prior starting the translation of the files. Preparation of glossaries ensured that specialized terms were translated accurately by involving, when feasible and requested, the client in the process. In addition, the glossaries are used as term-bases that ensure consistency throughout the translation.

Because of logistics and shipping timeline of the machines, the translation of the label plates and HMI strings occurred before the manuals. Best practices typically call for translating the user manual first, because it provides context and explanation for technical terms. However, we made an exception for this project, allowing the team to finesse the terminology and develop abbreviations (when necessary) to fit in the limited space allowed by the HMI fields and machine labels.

Following completion of the localization of HMI strings, termbases and translation memories were updated before the launching the translation of the operating manuals.


Our client and their customers were pleased with the results and happy with the personalized approach to the challenges involved. The intensive work on the front end established strong translation memories to be used for the client’s future technical translations. Scriptis continues to carry out similar projects for this client in additional languages including Czech, French, German, Italian, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.