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Center for Unit Load Design Taps New Director
Virgina Tech''s Center for Unit Load Design taps new director, looks to launch a bigger packaging program.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 10/1/2011

            The Department of Wood Science and Forest Products at Virginia Tech recently appointed Dr. Laszlo Horvath as the new director of the Center for Unit Load Design (Center). The move comes as the Center reorganizes to involve more faculty support, which it hasn’t had since Dr. Mark White was the director of the Center. This allows for the Center to be partially funded through the university and reduces its reliance on research grants and projects for full funding.

            Dr. Barry Goodell, department head, said “Strong faculty commitment is essential to shape the future of the Center to be a global leader in packaging distribution and beyond. Dr. Horvath is well positioned to take the reins of the Center and provide dynamic leadership.”

            Before coming to Virginia Tech, Dr. Horvath received an MS in Wood Engineering and an MS in Engineering Management from the University of West Hungary in the country of Hungary. He received his Ph.D. in Forest Biomaterials from North Carolina State University. Horvath has strong expertise in secondary packaging, advanced wood mechanics, timber engineering, and industrial engineering, according to Goodell.

            All of these changes come as Virginia Tech has sought to develop a full-scale packaging program including an emphasis on unit loads and pallets. The Center has faced severe budgetary pressures over the last few years due to the poor economy as well as the loss of Pallet Design System (PDS) revenue. When the National Wooden Pallet Container Association chose to take in-house the customer support and research functions for PDS, this reduced industry dollars going directly to fund the Center and the William H Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Research Laboratory.

            Horvath is familiar with working with the forest products industry because he was a project manager at his family’s furniture manufacturing company in Hungary. He is tasked with growing the Center’s research ability and its support basis as well as strengthening the link between the Center and the Department’s academic goals.

            Dr. Marshall (Mark) White, professor emeritus and former Center director, said, “I am eager and committed to working with Dr. Laszlo Horvath to insure the future growth and development of the Center to carry on the legacy of excellence.”

            This legacy includes continuing the global recognition of Virginia Tech as the leader in research and instruction on pallet structural design and performance through the activities of the Sardo Pallet and Container Research Laboratory. Dr. White maintains strong ties to the Center and the Department and serves in an advisory role to the Center. Ralph Rupert, the former Center director, is leaving to pursue another opportunity in the industry.

            Horvath is joined on the Center team by Dr. Young Teck Kim, a fairly new faculty member, and Dr. Robert Bush, a long-time veteran of forest products marketing and Va. Tech faculty member. Dr. Kim brings expertise in compostable packaging polymers, “smart” packaging, and engineering. Dr Bush brings expertise in packaging marketing and management.

            The undergraduate curriculum is undergoing a redesign to better reflect the scope of the industry and to prepare graduates to work in a broader range of positions – including a stronger background in Center activities. The new curriculum has a strong focus on sustainability, emphasizes experiential learning, and teaching continuous improvement such as lean manufacturing to the students.

            The Center for Unit Load Design will continue to serve as the outreach arm of the program –providing testing services related to unit load design and short courses/workshops.

            Dr. Horvath can be contacted at lhorvath@vt.edu. For more information about the Center, visit http://packaging.woodscience.vt.edu/service_oureach/index.html.

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