Designed to orbit Mars as the first interplanetary weather satellite, the Mars Orbiter was lost in space in 1999 because the NASA team used metric units while a contractor used imperial. The $125 million probe came too close to Mars as it tried to maneuver into orbit, and is thought to have been destroyed by the planet’s atmosphere. An investigation said the “root cause” of the loss was the “failed translation of English (i.e. American) units into metric units” in a piece of ground software.

Sometimes when you’re working across multiple countries and cultures, it might feel like things get lost in space. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as the change in time zones, varying languages, terminology and difference in units measured. There’s also the challenge of dealing with multiple currencies.

If your business management software does not have the flexibility to calculate between different units, particularly for seed count units, and even between currencies, then this will cause an overhead for your staff in manually making sure that the quantities and values are correct and that costly mistakes are avoided.

While these mistakes are innocent, they can be costly and frustrate parties in both locations. For example, a U.S. company contracts the production of 60 pounds of raw tomato seed from India. You need to tell the producer that you are actually looking for 27.216 kilograms. If the producer misreads the 60 pounds for 60 kilograms, you could end up receiving twice the seed needed, and that would be an expensive mistake when dealing with a high value, low volume product.

Software applications that have the flexibility to calculate these conversions to units and currency can prevent many mistakes. You may be surprised that there’s a great deal of software on the market that doesn’t perform this way.

Now, the U.S. company needs to pay the producer in Rupees and the price was INR 11,496 per metric ton. How does that translate to U.S. dollars per pound for inventory valuation and accounts payable? The ability to deal with multiple currencies and assign the exchange rates to each transaction is not just a convenient function; it lessens user error and gives both parties involved increased confidence.

Then there’s the challenge of providing documentation in multiple languages. If your invoices aren’t getting paid, is it because of a language barrier? It might be. For instance, when working in Canada, everything has to be in English and in French. The opportunity to have multiple languages on documentation, such as invoices, can make the difference in getting your invoices paid on time, if at all.

If you’re working across multiple countries, the same should be expected of your software. Don’t let things get lost in space due to simple errors or a misunderstanding.

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