Innovative Services Available Through Center for Unit Load Design Memberships
Package testing and design services from Center for Unit Load Design provide strategic advantage for leading pallet companies.
By DeAnna Stephens
Date Posted: 4/1/2010
Is your company looking for innovative ways to attract new customers? Would you like to have a marketable incentive beyond pallet prices? Do you want to join the ranks of many forward looking pallet companies?
Membership at the Center for Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia may provide you with these abilities and more.
Becoming a member of the center would allow your company to offer customers the ability to develop more efficient pallet, packaging, and equipment designs that meet their specific needs. The Center for Unit Load Design has been an invaluable resource for the pallet industry since its beginnings as a pallet laboratory. Today, it encompasses far more by providing technical assistance, testing services, new product development and unit load systems design.
“Virginia Tech has the reputation and tradition of being a knowledge source for the pallet and packaging industry,” said Tom Winch, sales account manager at Ongweoweh Corp, a pallet managing company based in New York.
The Center for Unit Load Design is a non-profit entity that relies completely on memberships and testing services to fund operations and research. In exchange, members gain priority access to the technical assistance team, research laboratories, member’s only section of the Website, and copies of all non-proprietary research and publications. Membership is open to companies, firms and individuals interested in unit load based material handling efficiency.
Reasons to Join – Strategies Used by Leading Companies
Why should a pallet company in this poor economy support the Center for Unit Load Design? This may seem counterintuitive at a time when many companies are cutting back. To find the answer, you have to look at what some of the most forward thinking companies in the industry have done. A list of the current and past members of the Center for Unit Load Design includes many of the most innovative companies, such as Buckeye Diamond Logistics, The Nelson Company, Ongweoweh, Pallet One, The Pallet Alliance, CHEP, PECO, J.F. Rohrbaugh Co, among others. These companies know the value of having an independent testing lab and technical center at their disposal.
During a recent trip, Pallet Enterprise assistant publisher, Chaille Brindley, toured the CHEP Innovation Center in Orlando, Florida. This facility provides testing and research for CHEP customers. By providing technical assistance and testing, CHEP helps its customers save money and cut down on unsaleable product. CHEP has spent a large sum of money developing its Innovation Center. While almost no pallet company could afford to match this expertise on its own, by joining the Center for Unit Load Design, pallet companies can be ready to provide customers answers beyond what is the lowest price they can match on a pallet.
Legacy and Reputation
Even companies with their own testing capabilities, including CHEP, work with the Center for Unit Load Design because the center provides an independent testing voice that is respected by many major corporations. The center also has expertise in systems-based design concepts that are unmatched any where in the world for transport packaging. No other program in the country has the legacy of the Center for Unit Load Design when it comes to pallets and unit loads.
“The center is not only well known here in North America, but it’s also internationally recognized as a leader in unit load formation and testing pallets, regardless of the material that makes up the pallet,” said Ray Niemeyer, managing executive and director of membership for Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA). “They consistently work with industry, the end user, and people developing unit load boxes, or totes, or whatever the case may be to safely and efficiently move unit loads through the supply chain.”
IFCO, a center member for several years, frequently utilizes the center’s testing services, often as a benefit we can provide to our customers, according to Jon Holthaus, director of business development at IFCO.
“We send our clients directly to Virginia Tech to utilize their services,” Jon said.
When a customer asks where they can receive verification of a wood pallet, IFCO often puts them in contact with the center. This enables their customers to receive independent information without any fear of bias.
Ongweoweh is another company that has been a member of the Center for Unit Load Design for several years. It has ongoing research at the center due to the yearly testing requirements of many of its Fortune 500 accounts. Tom said the center provides testing, knowledge, and the expertise needed, along with detailed reports on the results of that testing, that they can share with their customers in a timely fashion.
“We trust Virginia Tech,” Tom said. “We trust their testing capabilities, their knowledge, and their technology.”
Beyond its history and base of knowledge, the center’s staff plays a big role in its success and ability to help companies with their research. Many of the people who work there are well known and respected in the industry and receive praise from members for their invaluable technical assistance.
“Working with the lab has been as easy as picking up the phone,” Jon said. “Throughout our long membership, the response time has been very prompt.”
“It’s very interactive,” he added. “They allow you to come in and assist with the trials so you can see firsthand what the results look like. It also helps in the design process as we typically bring an engineer with us to understand where some design changes may need to be made.”
Beyond testing and access to research, members also receive assistance in promoting their products and services. Member company information is displayed on center Web pages relevant to the company’s services. Member information is also included in SLICK, the center’s Searchable Library of Integrated Center Knowledge, which is searchable by keyword and description.
In addition, members receive priority registration and fee discounts on the professional seminars and courses offered by the center. Ongweoweh account managers have taken part in numerous center courses offered to the industry and said they see these classes as one of the advantages of the center, equally important as the research services and a vital resource for their company and those in the industry who strive for ongoing development.
Ray said he would recommend the center’s classes to material handling consultants and anyone who manufactures conveyers, racks, packaging equipment, Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, system integrators, or fork trucks and their attachments.
“The classes provide insight on the effects of a poorly designed pallet and its impact on material handling equipment touching the unit load through its movement in the supply chain,” he said.
By supporting the Center for Unit Load Design, smaller pallet companies can keep pace with those at the front of developing technology and designs by providing the same type of services to their customers as international companies. With the help of the center, you can do more than say you have the cheapest pallets around. You can help your customers find, design, and test the best pallet for their specific needs – supported by an internationally recognized leader in pallets and unit load design.
For more information, visit the Center’s Website at www.unitload.vt.edu or call 540/231-5370.
Level I: $500 minimum/yr
Level II: $3,000 minimum/yr
Level III: $10,000 minimum/yr
Benefits for Level I (self-service level)
• Access to the affiliate-only sections of website, including SLICK
• Promotion on the center’s website
• Discounted fees on seminars
• Priority access to testing services
Benefits for Levels II and III
• All benefits of Level I
• Access to center team for technical assistance
Additional Benefits for Level III
• An option to obtain license for use of intellectual property generated by the center under sponsored research
• Early access to confidential research
Unit Load Design Short Course Schedule (Blacksburg, VA):
• April 13 – 15, 2010
• September 21 – 23, 2010
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