Robotic mower at Messiah Village
Mr. Mow it All

Messiah Lifeways in Mechanicsburg, PA, is addressing workforce challenges head-on with the help of robots. A robotic vacuum and a robotic lawnmower — affectionately called Roving Rosie and Mr. Mow It All, respectively — joined the team at the continuing care retirement community earlier this summer.

Roving Rosie is a Makita Robo Pro, which has the battery power to clean approximately 5,380 square feet of hard flooring or continuously work for up to 200 minutes. Mr. Mow It All is a Husqvarna Automower that can mow up to 145 minutes or 1,430 square feet per hour.

The robots are not meant to replace human workers, Senior Director of Campus Services Chris Weidenhammer told the McKnight’s Business Daily. 

“If we can free up some additional time mowing, for instance, [workers] can focus on other areas like trimming bushes, trimming trees or that type of thing,” he explained.

The use of robots is a pilot project at Messiah Lifeways. 

“We’re seeing, first of all, if they work. Secondly, if they work for us here at Messiah, is it worth investing in future technology?” Weidenhammer said.

The CCRC purchased a small model lawnmower to test out the technology, he said. Mr. Mow It All can mow approximately an acre on a single charge before returning itself to the charging station. It heads back out when fully charged. With 80 acres of property, if Messiah Lifeways decides to continue with the robots, a larger mower would be needed in the future, Weidenhammer said.

Mr. Mow it All has several safety features, he noted. The device will shut itself off if it comes in contact with a person or pet. The blades themselves are made of plastic, not metal, Weidenhammer added.

Roving Rosie’s vacuuming responsibilities are confined to public areas — meeting spaces, executive offices, the enrichment center, and the restaurant areas — when they are not in use. 

“There’s no one in those areas when the vacuum is working,” Weidenhammer said. “We’re very careful about where we run the vacuum. We don’t run it in any areas that are traversed by the residents or visitors” because of the potential tripping hazard.

While Roving Rosie works its assigned areas, housekeeping staff members can clean and disinfect in residential areas, he said.

“The idea is not to reduce the number of employees we have. It is simply to assist,” Weidenhammer said.