Laszlo Horvath of Blacksburg, Va., assistant professor of practice in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, has been named director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Unit Load Design

The center, based in the Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, tests and develops technologies to optimize material handling efficiency and includes experts in packaging, palletization, material handling, and unit load design.

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

Horvath, who has strong expertise in secondary packaging, advanced wood mechanics, timber engineering, and industrial engineering, will work to expand the center and open up new dimensions for packaging distribution research. He has worked with industry and in personnel management as a project manager for his family’s furniture manufacturing company in Hungary. Horvath holds master’s degrees in wood engineering and engineering management from the University of West Hungary and a doctorate in forest biomaterials from North Carolina State University.

“Working as a team player, Dr. Horvath will grow the center’s capacity for research and continue to build its service-to-industry mission,” Goodell said. “In addition, he will strengthen the link between the center and the department’s academic mission to enhance both education and outreach opportunities for students and industry.”

“The department’s goal is not only to provide excellent service to both small and large businesses through the center’s activities, but also to produce high quality and well-trained professionals to work in the field,” Goodell continued.

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

Virginia Tech is a recognized leader in research and instruction on pallet structural design and performance through the activities of the Center for Unit Load Design and the William H. Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Research Laboratory. White, who serves in an advisory role to the center, maintains strong ties to both the center and the wood science department. Former center director Ralph Rupert will remain on the team of faculty and staff members who are “committed to furthering the excellence of the center through teamwork,” according to Goodell.

The packaging educational program at Virginia Tech has gone through significant changes in the last year, including the hiring of two new faculty members, and has grown to better serve the needs of students, the packaging industry, and the citizens of Virginia. Building on its traditional strength in distribution packaging and unit load design, the program has expanded to include additional areas in the field of packaging.

Horvath joined the faculty in 2010 along with Assistant Professor of Practice Young Teck Kim, who brings expertise in compostable packaging polymers, “smart” packaging, and engineering. Longtime faculty member Professor Robert Bush has also joined the packaging program, contributing his experience in forest products marketing and management.

The undergraduate curriculum, which is being redesigned to better reflect the scope of the industry and prepare graduates to work in a broader range of positions, includes a strong focus on sustainability, emphasizes experiential learning, and teaches continuous improvement principles such as lean manufacturing.

The development and implementation of standardized procedures at the Center for Unit Load Design will facilitate more undergraduate student involvement. With proper training, students will participate in non-confidential research and interact with industry partners on testing and research.

The center will continue to serve as the outreach arm of the packaging program by offering short courses and workshops, and providing testing services to the packaging industry.

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