About Us


Pallet and unit load research has a long history at Virginia Tech. For more than four decades a cooperative arrangement has been in existence with the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. That arrangement was solidified and made permanent in 1976 when the Association provided funds for the construction of the William H. Sardo, Jr. Pallet and Container Laboratory. Since then the Center, which has changed its name to Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, has been involved in various research activities to move the design of packaging, pallets and unit loads into the 21st century.

The Center always has been in the forefront of pallet and unit-load research. With industry and government support, Virginia Tech researchers have developed reliability-based designs and analysis methodologies. The research results are packaged in the Pallet Design System (PDS) software which allows pallet producers and users to tailor pallets to specific applications. PDS is currently one of the most widely used pallet design softwares with hundreds of users all over the world.

Since 2010 with the hire of new packaging experts, the Center expanded its focus towards packaging designs that incorporate primary and secondary packaging with the existing pallet and unit-load focus. Currently, we are researching the interaction between packaging, pallets, and material handling equipment. This knowledge will provide the tools to design more sustainable packaging systems. We also have new research areas including biodegradable plastic container development and smart packaging.

The Center always works in collaboration with the industry. Our industrial affiliate program was designed to develop technologies which will serve the needs to our members and will improve the life of the people in the Commonwealth and all over the world.

In addition to research, the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech offers contract testing for our member and non-member companies. Because we are the only laboratory in the US with facilities to evaluate all aspects of unit load and material handling design and efficiency, we can provide a comprehensive evaluation for our clients. Instead of just providing testing results or pass and fail information, we work with our clients to identify the weak points of their packaging system designs and provide solutions to eliminate issues.

The Center has collected and developed a huge amount of information throughout the years on how to design more efficient packaging, pallets, and unit load solutions. Therefore, the Center is represented on various technical committees to build this information into the next generation of ASTM, ISO, and ANSI standards. We also maintain an online database called SLICK which contains articles about everything that is worth knowing about pallet and unit load design.

Brooks Center under construction.