Vanke hiring robocops for premium concierge service

November 18, 2015 08:14
Employees walk in front of the China Vanke headquarters in Shenzhen. The property giant expects its workforce to hit one million-strong in a decade and many will be robots. Photo: Reuters

You next patdown may be from a gentle robocop and your friendly street sweeper may be an android.

That is going to happen soon, China Vanke chairman Wang Shi says, as the country's biggest property developer by sales ramp up plans to offer premium concierge services to attract buyers.

He said robots will provide those services, starting with security and maintenance, Reuters reports.

A robot waiter is available for for 40,000 yuan (US$6,300) on Alibaba Group's Taobao, China's leading online market place.

But Vanke is developing its own, mostly for janitorial, security and transportation services, which are more labor-intensive than its core business of land acquisition, project planning and construction.

"We estimate that with today's growth and the changes to China's personnel structure, that at least 30 percent of our jobs will be replaced by robots," Wang Shi recently told a university forum in Hong Kong.

Vanke rolled out a driverless car and a patrol robot earlier this year and plans to introduce a floor-sweeping robot at the end of this month.

In August, Wang said eight robot chefs already work in the restaurants that serve its developments.

He said that in 2017, it would open a robot-managed hotel in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Vanke expects its workforce to hit one million-strong in a decade from 40,000, although the company has not said if some of those will run on batteries.

China's urbanisation push and aging population has made especially younger workers much more footloose and less willing to work in smaller cities, resulting in a spike in wages across the country.

Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, which employs more than one million factory workers in China, is also stepping up the adoption of robotics to ease a labor crunch.

Chairman Terry Gou once said the company is aiming to build a million robots.

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