If not managed well, special orders can be a production challenge and a timing disaster. Here's how to make them work for the company and the client alike.

Document in writing — in job descriptions and the SOP manual — who is responsible for placing and tracking special orders. I generally like for the production manager or salesperson to order long-lead items, and the project lead to order the rest.

In the sales-to-production handoff, include a form that tells the project lead what special orders have been placed, where they're coming from (and contact info), and when they should arrive.

In the job binder, include a spec sheet that lists all special orders' product numbers, finishes, styles, and installation instructions. The more detailed the better, so the lead can monitor orders and identify concerns.

Schedule when and where special orders will be delivered and who is responsible for them: the lead for jobsite deliveries, or a designated warehouse or office employee for those deliveries.

Open the box and inspect! Check for damage, review against the spec sheet and, if there's problem, arrange for return immediately, with clear redelivery instructions.

Document inspection results in a log or the job binder. You'll want to refer to these notes if and when damage occurs. —Tim Faller, Field Training Services, www.leadcarpenter.com.