Published April 21, 2015
Volume 23, Number 4

SynchroNet Matches Shipping Containers with Products

SynchroNet Marine

By Zoe Francis

SynchroNet was green long before it was trendy for companies to consider their impact on the environment.
The Hacienda-based global firm matches products with shipping containers to ensure that energy is not wasted moving empty containers back to their points of origin.
“Empty containers moving around means pollution,” Barbara Marsh-Wetherell, chief marketing officer, explained. “It means trucks and trains and ships creating pollution. The original founder said, ‘This is ridiculous. We need to make a change.’ ”
SynchroNet has two distinct parts of its business. The original part, SynchroNet Marine, was founded in 1996 strictly as a port-to-port business functioning solely on the water.
“When a container comes into a port, everything in that container is ultimately offloaded and emptied, and then you have an empty container,” Marsh-Wetherell said. “The company was founded to be able to find materials to put into those containers so they would not be shipped empty.”
The second part, SynchroNet Intermodal Services, Inc. (SIS), was formed in 2009 to service containers moving within North America.
“Our domestic company will then find something domestically that needs to be put in it (that container),” she said. “We make sure that container gets back to the port and gets taken to wherever it needs to go.”
The company recently rebranded with a new logo and launched a new website that merges the two divisions into one easy site for customers. Both SynchroNet Marine and SIS are represented on the website.
The logo features two containers that create the letter E and the tagline “Innovative Container Solutions.”
“We’re quite excited that we can come out with a fresh look,” Marsh-Wetherell said. The improved website “is about streamlining the customer experience and everything is at their fingertips.”
SynchroNet is a trailblazer in the business of filling containers as they are moved across North America or shipped between continents.
The movement of empty containers is “a $13 billion business of loss to the steamship lines annually,” Marsh-Wetherell said. “Every time they ship an empty container, it’s a loss to them.”
When the company first started, the logistics of filling empty containers with products were all done by hand.
“Back when we started this, we had this huge worldwide map on a wall in an office,” she said. “You had people using pins and sticky notes and telexes and faxes to figure out where all these containers were.”
As the Internet expanded, SynchroNet’s business was moved online and grew into the technological firm it is today.
“We have a large database where we have imported information about where a container is, what type it is, where it’s going and where it needs to go back to,” Marsh-Wetherell said. “There are number of optimization algorithms that are used in this database.”
Matching containers with products is complex because SynchroNet must work with a variety of sources – steamship companies, truckers, railroads and more. There are even companies that put together partial shipments to ensure each container is fully loaded.
“It looks simple, but it really isn’t because you’re talking about so many moving pieces,” she said.
SynchroNet has continued to expand its services to better serve the market. It is piloting RateNow!, a program that determines shipping rates based on information people enter into the system. It will launch in late April.
“Part of what makes RateNow! so unique is it’s looking at 7 million rates and 10 billion routing options,” she explained. “It gives you the most cost competitive rate you can get.”
The company’s expansive reach places it far ahead of any competitors.
“We don’t have any (competition) in the worldwide market, but we do have competition within regions,” Marsh-Wetherell said. “Inside North America, we don’t really have a competitor that does everything we do. They do parts of what we do. Nobody has done what we do in total, so that’s what’s kept us able to stay afloat for so many years.”
Learn more about SynchroNet at synchronet.co.


Also in this issue...