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PC vendors may be finally bowing to pressure to build more flexibility into the supply chain amid reports that Acer is to start shipping PCs by train. Forty carriers are already en route to Europe.

Disties have been calling for alternative transportation techniques following the growing mountain of notebooks in the region caused by the consumer slowdown and compounded by container loads already in transit via ship.

The problems faced by Acer were more severe than those of its rivals – and dealt with more publicly – but the firm is piloting a new method: shipping computers 11,000 km (6,835 miles) by rail via Chongqing in China, through Kazahkstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and into Germany.

This takes around 18 to 20 days, undercutting sea freight by roughly one week to ten days, and though it costs more as fewer containers can be loaded up, is still cheaper than shipping by air.

PC vendors have long talked of sending kit by rail – Compaq and Acer have considered this strategy, but sources reckon that concerns over the "infrastructure and security" put pay to those discussions.

Taiwanese giant Acer recently lost its top three position in the global PC market and its inventory management – channel stuffing – policies came under close scrutiny from market watchers and frustrated distributors.

In the pilot phase, Acer will send one train per week, but if all goes according to plan the rate could rise to one per day and efforts will be made to cut transportation times to 13 days.

However, due to the climatic changes en route – temperature and humidity – Acer is assessing the impact on its hardware. ®

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