The train line, which HP describes as a “modern day silk road,” covers two continents, six countries and more than 6,700 miles from Chongqing, China to distributors and customers in Duisburg, Germany. The three-week journey roughly follows the path of the ancient silk road land trading route.
Despite the distance, the journey is cost-effective and better for the environment than air transport, and it’s faster than ocean shipping, HP says. Air transport from manufacturing sites in inland and western China to Europe is costly, and transporting products to the coastal cities from which they can then be shipped by sea can take up to 35 days. HP’s rail solution is the best of both worlds: it costs one-third the price of air transport and takes approximately three weeks. Furthermore, rail transport results in one-thirtieth of the carbon footprint of air transport.
In 2010, HP developed factories and infrastructure in inland and western China to take advantage of economic incentives provided by the Chinese government. This development would improve the employment conditions of tens of thousands of factory workers in Chongqing who would no longer need to migrate from their homes to coastal cities to find work, HP says.
These inland factories do not have easy access to HP’s coastal shipping routes, so HP needed a new way to ensure quick, cost-effective delivery of products. A cross-continental rail route was an operative solution and HP set to work making it a reality.
For a year, HP navigated government and rail import/export requirements in the six countries through which the train travels: China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany. Pilot trains began test routes in March 2011, and in March 2012, HP launched the rail route being used today.
As well as the above green benefits, the goods on board are packed in a green manner. In the fall, as the train makes its way from China to Germany, the temperature in certain areas can be below -4 degrees Fahrenheit. To protect HP products, the supply chain organization developed packaging that regulates temperature without requiring external energy.
Earlier this month, Unilever’s Green Express train, which is intended to drive more sustainable logistics in Europe by taking trucks off the road in Italy, made its first ice cream delivery. The transportation initiative will save 2,600 metric tons of CO2 annually, Unilever says.