Translation for the logistics sector

Logistics encompasses all the means and methods necessary to carry out the organization of a company or service, especially with regard to distribution. It therefore encompasses all the operations required to get a product into the hands of the consumer, including, among other things, order processing, materials handling and packaging, transportation of goods, storage and stock control, and customer service.

The business world is developing at a vertiginous pace in which geographical barriers no longer exist; and, in this sense, logistics processes are closely linked to the activities derived from export and international trade. It should also be noted that logistics plays an important role in the final price of the product, so that poor management of the logistics process can result in substantial losses for the company.

Logistics translation as a specialized branch

After this brief introduction on what logistics is and the scope it covers, it is worth considering to what extent we can speak of logistics translation as a specific specialty. The truth is that there are hardly any academic or other publications that deal with this issue, so it is difficult to define this supposed modality of translation on the basis of a series of characteristics of its own.

In fact, the most striking aspect of logistics translation probably lies in the use of specialized terminology, which, in a way, can be related to the field of technical translation; likewise, the predominant communicative function in logistics texts is usually informative, with catalogs and brochures, as well as commercial offers, being paradigmatic.

However, the field of logistics translation would also include all those documents related to legislation (on dangerous goods, safety instructions for aircraft, European regulations, etc.); therefore, if we focus on this type of texts, the logistics sector would perhaps be closer to legal translation than to technical translation.

Thus, given the prevailing ambiguity regarding logistics translation, it would be more appropriate to speak of translation of logistics texts or specialized translation in the logistics sector.


Anglicisms in logistic texts

If we had to highlight an essential feature in the translation of logistic texts, possibly the most outstanding characteristic would be the presence of a specific type of lexical interference in the form of anglicisms. This is not surprising, especially considering that the logistics sector is closely linked to the internationalization of a globalized world, where the progressive imposition of English in non-English-speaking societies is the dominant note.

In this regard, we can highlight concepts such as kitting, a logistics strategy that mainly consists of bringing together the different pieces that make up a product to create a package; bottleneck, which defines those actions or processes that reduce the activity capacity or slow down the final set of the supply chain; or cash & carry (“buy it, take it”), a commercial formula similar to a commissary, evolved from traditional wholesale, with the particularity of being aimed solely and exclusively at professionals and operating on a free service basis.

Likewise, it is important to become familiar with all the terms that define the roles involved in the logistics process and which, in many cases, are usually formulated in English: carrier, forwarder, shipper, supplier, consignee, shunter, etc.

Document Management in Transportation

When dealing with the translation of a text in the field of logistics, and, more specifically, transport, we must bear in mind that each means of transport works with a specific type of documentation. Some examples of these documents are: the Convention on the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CGR), for land transport; the Bill of Lading, an international trade document specific to maritime transport; the multimodal Bill of Lading (FBL); or the Air Waybill (AWB), a document evidencing a contract for the carriage of goods by air.

In this regard, one of the paradigmatic texts in the field of logistics would be the consignment note. This is a legal document of a declaratory nature that proves the existence of a contract of carriage, stating all or part of the conditions for the completion of a contracted shipment of goods. The waybill, despite not being a mandatory document, usually accompanies the goods in the logistics process, which is issued in the traffic of goods related to the transported cargo.

In contrast to this type of legal documents, we find commercial texts (catalogs and brochures with practical information on transport, commercial offers, passenger magazine publications, etc.), which make up the other characteristic variety within the logistics sector.

As is evident, the translation strategies for dealing with one type of text and the other are different. Thus, while in waybills it is convenient to maintain a high register, inherent to the legal specialty itself, in commercial documents we will focus on the communicative intention of the message —that is, to persuade the reader in some way—, which will allow us to make use of a more relaxed register.

At FAST.txt, we have the best translators specialized in more than 50 languages, also in the logistics sector. If you need to hire a translation service for a specific document in the field of logistics, do not hesitate to contact us: you can trust in FAST.txt.

Carlos Sánchez Luis