Maximizing productivity: The future of landscaping with robotic equipment

August 30, 2023 -  By
Person setting boundary on robotic mower (Photo: Greenzie)

An operator using a mower equipped with Greenzie’s autopilot technology can create an outer boundary, and the mower will take it from there. (Photo: Greenzie)

Designing products for the customer and with the customer in mind sounds simple, but it isn’t always, and many smart entrepreneurs have failed by losing sight of the people who will use the product or service.

Take the introduction of autonomy into the commercial landscaping industry. Robotic mowers are great technology, but they are not large, not very fast, nor are they robust enough to tackle the large jobs most professional landscapers do in the little time they have to get it all done and go to the next job. Plus, landscapers don’t have room on the trailer for some specialty robot that can only do one thing, nor can they buy one to leave on a property for every site they maintain.

A landscaper once told me: “If you can give me autopilot on my existing equipment, that’ll save me a ton.”

Boring for you, great for them

Robots love boring, repetitive tasks. That’s what they’re suited for. And that’s what makes autonomous technology so exciting.

Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) work to offer autonomous mowing software on their commercial mowers. Factory-equipped autonomous mowers are commercial and dealer-supported mowers with cutting decks and controls that are familiar to landscapers with the added benefit of autopilot or cruise control, which reduces the repetitive, grueling aspects of the job, such as mowing a big area on a 100-degree F day.

OEMs can add feature functionality and capabilities over time as well.

These features include dynamic handling of slopes in real time, where the mower can replan and retry just like a skilled operator might tackle the job on bigger slopes.

Cutting labor costs

Autonomy will never replace the skilled landscapers out there each day. Autonomous mowing software helps reduce the cost of labor and takes job openings, not jobs, and really helps contractors do their best work with these systems.

Landscapers are some of the hardest working people in the nation, and they have a big job to do and not enough labor to do it. In fact, there’s a labor shortage — in a survey conducted by Landscape Management, 73 percent of all landscape leaders say labor is the No. 1 thing keeping them from growing.

When you think about the process of mowing a lawn with a traditional mower, you first mow the outer boundary, which is detail work that humans are really good at. We still do that with the autonomous equipment. When you’re ready for the robotic software to take over, you press one button and the mower will cut out the middle — the repetitive, sweat-inducing parts of the task. And the landscaper is still on site to supervise that equipment.

Safety is essential in all industries, but especially in the green industry, where landscapers work with heavy, potentially dangerous equipment each day. Through the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), industry leaders work together on safety standards for large-scale autonomous mowing. Functional safety is crucial.

Landscapers didn’t get into the business to manage risk. They want to create beautiful landscapes. Autonomy must help them do this faster and safer.

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