To err is human, and Todd Virts, vice president of Gaithersburg, Md.-based P.A. Portner Inc., knows this. So when he refers this fabrication form as a “dummy-proof checklist that a third-grader could fill out,” it's not a knock on anyone. “Fewer mistakes means less money down the drain,” says Virts, noting that one error could spoil expensive material.

The company uses these forms anytime a project calls for a special piece to be made. Lead carpenters fill out most of these forms, but they often get faxed to outside designers to complete. On occasion, Virts himself fills it out, placing it in the job book or personally handing it to the fabricator afterward. “Whoever is in the best position to get the answers fills it out,” Virts says.