Source: Milwaukee Business Journal

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Briggs & Stratton Corp. invests nearly $20 million a year to find ways to make lawn cutting and other chores easier.

Eliminating the work entirely could be the next innovation, through robotic lawnmowers that Todd Teske said the company is exploring.

Teske, chairman, president and CEO of the Wauwatosa-based business, set “within 10 years” as the likely time frame for a Briggs-produced autonomous mower, one that works while the homeowners rest or clean out the garage. He mentioned the robotic mowers, "in one shape or form," as the next Briggs innovation in a series that has included push-button starting on riding lawn mowers, engines that require no oil changes and motors that run 60-80% quieter.

Teske shared his lawn mower and power products insights at the May meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

Robot mowers have gained market share in Europe, where the smaller lawns suit the low-powered alternatives to gas-powered machines, Teske said. There are versions of autonomous and remote controlled mowers from Husqvarna, John Deere and LawnBott already on the U.S. market.

The products don’t serve the suburban homeowner with a large lawn well, and didn’t impress Teske as he observed one cutting the 40 acres of grass behind the Briggs plant. The price, at roughly $2,500, also makes the robotic mowers a tough sell in the U.S.

“We need to have robotics different than what you see in Europe,” he said, suggesting that an innovative company producing consumer power products could do better.

Teske’s discussion of robotic lawn mowers tracked with his overall theme of improving the Briggs & Stratton (NYSE: BGG) bottom line by focusing less on cost-cutting and more on product improvement. Providing new features that meet customer demands will allow Briggs to increase its profit margins, an easier needle to move for a company that already holds a dominant market share and is the world's largest producer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment.

The company reported net sales of $1.9 billion in 2014, and net income of $28 million.