CDO Group is the chief engineer when it comes to shift stacking — a new way of organizing construction schedules that’s revolutionizing the way projects are done.

To learn more about how shift stacking came to be, we sat down with CDO Group President, Anthony Amunategui. Check out our video interview above, and a brief summary of the interview below.

How did your experience leading CDO Group end up with the creation of shift stacking?

CDO gives companies the ability to do what they do best without having to focus on their construction components. As we’ve grown over the last 22 years, it’s always been about how we can find the best-in-class project managers and development team to bring to each one of our clients.

Our clients have loved our work, resulting in repeat business over the years, and our goal who has been able to do it faster, less expensive, with ease of use without impact to their operations team.

That’s where shift stacking came from. Back in 2018, we did an analysis of all our projects across the country. We put cameras on and watched — how are things moving from this part of the project to that part the project? How efficient are we? We noticed that our job sites were crazy busy from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

However, we realized that from 2 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the next day, the job site was virtually empty, and we were focusing our efforts on trying to squeeze more people from the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot.

We started looking at changing the times by which we worked. We gave our employees the option to do a shift from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., or they could come in from six o’clock at night, onward. We even offered to let them do their work in the middle of the night, or show up at 2 a.m. and do a really early shift. When we gave them that flexibility, we started getting some great feedback.

Through communication and conversations, we created shift stacking, and spread the amount of work that we’re doing on a project over the entirety of the day, which made everybody much more comfortable. The job site itself was easier to use, the people that were working on job site weren’t stealing or bumping into each other as often, and we weren’t using the same tools in a sample location. It created some real leads.

And that’s where shift stacking came from.

What were some of the challenges you faced taking shift stacking to the market?

The first thing everybody said was, “No way, no one’s going to want to work late hours.” We understand that no one’s going to want to work late hours if you ask them to less than a day in advance. But when you start planning people’s months out, and when we are able to give people their net, they are more receptive.

What’s great about the programs we work on is that we really focus over the next several weeks. We’re able to give subcontractors a look at their work for next 30/45 days out. When they have the freedom to schedule when they’ll be on the job site and their scope of work is laid out, it’s a lot easier of a conversation, as opposed to showing up and figuring it out when you get there.

So the requirement on our behalf was to know the project out of a million, support them and communicate with them exactly what we want them to do and when. Once we were able to do that, the doors will open up well.

What are the key benefits of shift stacking from an owner’s perspective and construction manager’s perspective?

I think some of the benefits for the owner AND construction managers are:

  1. Jobs happen faster with a lot more quality. When we don’t have people working on top of each other in cramped spaces and we give people plenty of space to work in, we get better quality.
  2. We find efficiencies. When people no longer have to spend all day long moving things around on their job site, they become more efficient. When I can take an electrician, and give him all of the walls and open at one time, their crew can go in there and knock them all out at once, as opposed to walking on a job site that’s partially done and get things done segment by segment. The latter route makes their days a lot less efficient.

Focusing on people and giving them clear runways as to what we’re going to have them do and when well in advance, that’s the secret.

How have you seen construction costs impacted throughout the adoption of shift stacking?

When we first started the idea of shift stacking, the first several projects we did, people were like “this is going to cost you more money.” And for the first three or four projects we did, there was definitely an impact on cost. But by store number four, we saw a dramatic experience. The prices went back to where they were before, if not lower. Subcontractors were loving it. They’d say, “I can get in and out much much faster.”

Projects that were six and eight weeks, we were doing in 11 days, and how we got that done was all predicated through shift stacking. Being able to give subcontractors clear paths of travel, open areas to work in, with the same scope of work happening in half the time (or less), and giving the ownership of that subcontracting company the ability to get in and get out of there dramatically changed the pricing for us.

Is shift stacking used only for certain program-level projects, or does CDO use this method with all construction projects?

Absolutely across the board. The number one thing that we can change today — the easiest thing that we can do as the general contracting side, or the program management side — is to utilize underutilized hours every single day at a job site. So when we start a program or a project, either on the GC side or on the CM side, we’re looking at all those underutilized hours that go from the to 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. on a standard standard project.

Are there any specific industries that would benefit from shift stacking?

All industries. Any project that we work on — and the longer/bigger the project is, the more efficient shift stacking becomes. So obviously, the bigger projects that we do give us more opportunity to implement shift stacking. But if you look at the smaller projects we roll out, the same thing happens. It gives people a much clearer space to work in, so we don’t have so many elbows in the same spot, especially today with social distancing. Shift stacking has been one of the key factors to keep our job sites going throughout the COVID pandemic.

What’s been some of the feedback from your clients?

They love it. When we were able to go through and show the impact of this to clients, they’ve asked us to train other GC’s and other other companies that we work with how to do this and bring this to the market.

A lot of Legacy contractors had a hard time making the adjustment. But once we showed them that we’ve done 150+ projects this way and the subcontractors/teams love it, the quality of the project (and quality of life) goes up, and projects turnover faster, it becomes pretty easy for them to catch on.

Why should a client or company partner with CDO Group?

We’ve done a lot of projects over the last 22 years, and we have a really deep bench of project personnel. Our project personnel are always looking for the techniques to do projects smarter and better. How do we work with both sides — the subcontractor and the owner — and find ways to marry them together to deliver the best product?

The days of abusing subcontractors and not supporting them — those are gone. Today, subcontractors communicate about owners and they’re looking for the right owners to work for. The way that we get the best pricing and the best quality is getting great subs, and great subs want to work for great teams. Great teams come with great management. That’s where we really excel. CDO group really brings in great management to those teams and programs.

If you have any additional questions around shift stacking or would like to learn more about the CDO Group construction management process, please contact us.