How I Do It: Milosi Invests in R&D to Stay on the Cutting Edge - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How I Do It: Milosi Invests in R&D to Stay on the Cutting Edge

Photo: Milosi

An R&D department sounds like something only multimillion-dollar corporations can afford to have, but Milosi, based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, has started a bit smaller by creating an R&D committee at the end of 2022.

Taylor Milliken, owner and president of Milosi, says he’s wanted to start an R&D committee for years.

“With Create and Innovate as one of our five core values, it seemed fitting that we would be heavily focused on continuous improvement,” Milliken says. “We have always done an average to good job on this core value, but I wanted to formalize it and create some traction.”

Exploring Innovations

So far, the R&D committee has looked into everything from herding goats to autonomous mowers. They are currently field testing an autonomous mower at their office.

“This spring and summer, we used plant growth regulators on five different clients’ tall fescue lawns and monitored our real labor savings,” says Keenan Baird, PHC and fine gardening manager. “We are also employing plant growth regulators on trees and shrubs.”

He says despite some hiccups during the trials, they achieved up to 16% labor savings on the treated lawns.

The company has also been exploring different software to map properties and use some of the “done for you” measurements on large properties to get a jumping off point.

“The lenses that we are looking at technologies and innovations through is whether they help us reduce labor in one place so that we can deploy it to somewhere that it’s more needed and whether they improve the aesthetics of the properties we take care of,” Baird says. “If it helps our team do their job better, it’s on the table for discussion.”

Photo: Milosi

Because the innovations they are researching vary, the company does not have a formalized process for how long they will test something out before implementing it companywide.

“Some of our R&D research has returned discernable results within a few days of an experiment or implementation and some of our research goes on for a full season,” says John Butler, maintenance division operation manager. “We also have projects that will take years for us to determine their benefit and best applications.”

Butler says they live and die by their core values and so does their research.

“Successful concepts must help us with safety first; details matter; we listen because we care; creating and innovating; we do what we say, and our core purpose of ‘let’s grow beautiful together,’” Butler says.

Milosi’s team finds ideas and innovations to test by attending industry conferences and connecting with peers. Baird says that good ideas come in a lot of different sizes.

“I also like to leverage what my connections on LinkedIn are doing in the landscape world to see if any of it would ‘fit’ Milosi,” Baird says.

They are also open to exploring better ways to perform their work by creating solutions internally.

“This fall, after aerating, we overseeded a section of our property with five different seed blends in test plots so we can watch their performance over the next year and help ensure that our customers are receiving the best products available,” Butler says.

Investing in R&D

While the company doesn’t have a full-blown R&D department, it still calls for an investment of money. This year Milsoi had a budget $20,000. Baird says this covered the chemicals, tools and labor for their plant growth regulator trials.

“The budget also allowed us to pay for the autonomous mower system at the office,” Baird says. “Taylor is really big on proving return on investment. If you have an idea, he’ll say, ‘Show me the numbers, ’ and because of this, we are really diligent at tracking what we did and how it turned out.”

There are currently four employees on the R&D committee, but Butler says it is open to anyone with a passion and dedication to going the extra step towards world-class landscape services.

“There are no bad ideas; some are just better than others and there is no way to know who has the best ones without listening to your people,” Butler says.

Bill Petry, a sales consultant, notes that the industry is everchanging and advises embracing the change and doing something about it. Once you make the decision, you have to make it a priority in your company.

“A company must also understand the costs of all the changes,” Petry says. “Some materials, products and processes will be outdated. One of our core values is ‘Create and Innovate.’ To live that core value, we are all encouraged daily to think of ways that help us perform better, make us more efficient and share new ideas. We chose to create an R&D team to invest in the research of materials, products and performance for the future.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.