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About The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design

The Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design (CPULD) is one of the leading packaging research facilities in the United States. Using state of the art technology, CPULD researches every aspect of the material handling system from primary packaging all the way through unit load design.

About Us - Students inspecting box before vibration testing


Social Media and Newsletters

Social Media and Newsletters

CPULD releases quarterly newsletters and is active on social media! In order to learn more about us, read past editions of newsletters, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, click the link below.

Our Mission

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vision industry outreach

Industry Outreach

Solve problems that matter

Our researchers work collaboratively with the pallet and packaging industry to provide rapid solutions to their most pressing problems from Amazon certification to custom test development.

vision research

vision research


Optimize the Packaging Supply Chain

Our researchers and students are developing information and technologies which will optimize the relationship between the design and the performance of packaging systems and maximize the efficiency of the packaging supply chain.

vision education

vision education


Educate through real-life projects

We involve our students in every aspect of our operations - from testing to website design. Industry projects from our partner companies allow us to educate our students by having them help solve relevant, real-life problems.

Students inspecting unit load before vibration testing


The Center is part of the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, thus we have a strong focus on sustainability and natural packaging materials.




The Center was established in 1976 to be the premier research facility for pallets and unit loads. For almost 50 years, our research has focused on developing standards and design methods to optimize wooden pallets. Over the years, we have expanded our focus to investigate the interactions between the components of unit loads, the performance of protective packaging materials, and to develop innovative packaging materials for all supply chains - recently expanding again to include cold chain packaging design and research.

The Center has been an ISTA-certified laboratory for more than 15 years and is part of the Amazon APASS network since 2018. We are also the only facility in the Americas that is certified to conduct corrugated testing for IKEA.


1940s-1960s - The Beginning

Dr. George Stern, a refugee from Nazi Germany, came to the U.S. in 1941 and began researching fasteners at Virginia Tech. In the 1960s, Bill Sardo with the National Wood Pallet Manufacturing Association partnered with Dr. George Stern to promote their joint interest in wood fasteners and their application to the pallet industry.

Dr. George Stern testing fasteners in the 1960s


1970s - New Buildings:

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association funded the building of a brand-new, state-of-the-art laboratory in the Brooks Forest Products Center at Virginia Tech in which new research on fasteners and pallets could be conducted.

Building the Brooks Center in the 1970s

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1976 - Lab Opens:

The grand opening of the William H. Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Research Laboratory.

The distribution packaging (pallet testing) lab in 1976

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1984 - PDS is Created:

Virginia Tech and NWPCA created a new software called the "Pallet Design System (PDS)" that is still currently in use in over 24 countries.

PDS is created jointly with NWPCA in 1984

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1993 - The Center:

The  Center for Unit Load Design was created to broaden the lab's research focus to include studying unit loads as well as fasteners and pallet design.

The Center for Unit Load Design in 1993

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2010 - CPULD:

The  center was renamed the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design when it came under new leadership and the research focus was again realigned to include primary and secondary packaging testing - include biodegradable and 'smart' packaging.

The Center was refocused and renamed (to CPULD) to include primary and secondary packaging testing

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2018 - LEAN Transformation:

The Center adopted LEAN management principles in 2012 and completed the first phase of its next transformation in 2018.

CPULD underwent a LEAN transformation starting in 2012

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History of CPULD poster





Learn even more about CPULD by downloading a PDF showing our history. On it you'll find the story of CPULD's creation and growth over the last 50+- years.