Quantum computing offers new solutions to complex logistics

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Forward-looking organizations are increasingly adopting new technologies to navigate an increasingly challenging business environment and stay competitive.

In a recent Gartner survey Among the wants and needs of supply chain technology users, 34% of respondents said they plan to adopt new technologies in the next five years. As manufacturing executives consider refining their digital strategies in the era of Industry 4.0, quantum computing promises to become a valuable part of the CIO’s toolbox.

Quantum computing is becoming an important way to help companies solve their most complex business challenges. Simply put, quantum computing harnesses the power of quantum physics to solve difficult problems (often called NP-hard) problems. While a classical computer uses bits, which represent a 0 or a 1, a quantum computer uses qubits, which can represent a 0 or a 1, or both.

Suppose you are looking for the best way to cross a valley and you want to use a computer to help you navigate. A typical computer would scan the valley and try each route, one at a time, to see which is the best. This is a time-consuming process, and it will take you a long time to find the most efficient way to pass. A quantum computer, on the other hand, can try each route at the same time and quickly report the most optimal path. It can also quickly take in additional information (like changing road conditions) to provide enhanced options in real time.

Most commercial quantum computations will be hybrid, meaning problems will be solved using both classical and quantum resources. Much like the value of a graphics processing unit (GPU) in classical computing, quantum computers are accelerators. A hybrid quantum approach offers the best of both classical and quantum solvers, automatically determining which parts of problems are best suited to classical or quantum solutions and, in turn, allowing companies to see the early quantum value of their current computational problems, while preparing them to solve more complex problems in the future.

There is a specific type of quantum computer suitable for optimization problems, known as annealing quantum computer. Annealing is the only quantum computing model that, in a hybrid quantum approach, can efficiently solve large enterprise-scale combinatorial optimization problems, tackling problems involving a large number of variables and constraints. These types of issues make up a large portion of the manufacturing issue space at all levels of the supply chain, such as distribution center bottlenecks, material sourcing, bin packaging , aircraft loading, plant maintenance, route optimization, pricing, staffing and scheduling.

Enabling Port Flexibility

The Port of Los Angeles is known as America’s busiest port, and at a time when the world is facing a multitude of supply chain challenges, it’s critical that the port operates at the level of highest possible efficiency. SavantXa quantum analytics company, created a specific quantum application at the port’s third-largest terminal, Pier 300, by deploying the HONE (Hyper Optimization Nodal Efficiency) quantum artificial intelligence engine to optimize cargo handling and scheduling. trucks using an annealing quantum computer.

The purpose of the work was to speed up delivery out of the terminal while increasing the amount of cargo that could be handled. The terminal handles more than one million containers per year and up to 5,000 trucks per day. Its area is limited, so the only way to get more goods through its door is to increase the speed at all stages of the process.

This optimization had three major components: reducing the back-and-forth movement of gantry cranes, creating more efficiency for truck rendezvous, and optimizing the truck call-out process in the delivery area. SavantX has created a digital twin of port operations and run thousands of simulations, testing optimization schemes against a wide range of terminal conditions such as truck rendezvous methods, queue variations waiting, traffic patterns, number of trucks in the terminal and number of no-shows.

HONE works continuously to optimize the movement of the crane, decide which trucks are called into the terminal and when, and set the schedules for the trucks to come. With HONE, truckers use an app that directs them to the correct container based on a crane’s current location, reducing crane movement while increasing crane productivity. The result is a reduction in waiting time for truckers and an increase in the movement of containers out of the port. Deliveries per day and per crane went from 60 to 97 following the implementation of HONE, a 62% increase in productivity.

Increase the efficiency of traffic flows

Drivers routinely rely on the comforting voice of a GPS navigation system to guide them to their destination, but many of us have also had the experience of being stuck in endless traffic jams. Volkswagen has demonstrated an effective solution to this challenge using quantum hybrid approaches, regularly guiding drivers along optimized routes in real time based on traffic conditions.

The company selected a traffic-intensive test case: managing a fleet of buses transporting attendees to the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Volkswagen’s solution was to develop an Android-based app that regularly communicates with a cloud-based Quantum Web Service (QWS) platform. This in turn was directly coupled to a quantum computer, which provided bus drivers running the app with the best route to their destination given current traffic conditions.

During the four days of the conference, Volkswagen’s nine Quantum Shuttle buses completed 162 QWS-guided trips. Using a quantum hybrid approach in planning these routes, solving a total of 1,275 optimization tasks, the researchers noted that none of the three bus lines consistently followed the same path, highlighting the importance of QWS guidance. to adapt to current road conditions. Thanks to this real-time guidance, the buses were able to achieve consistent travel times regardless of the time of day. Quantum traffic optimization tools such as this can be an integral part of facilitating the movement of goods.

Given the abundance of complex optimization problems in manufacturing, logistics, and supply chain, the category is ripe to harness the benefits of quantum computing. Orchestrating the more efficient movement of goods is a set of problems well suited to quantum computing. The technology is beginning to demonstrate that it can figure out how to move more product with fewer trucks, a crucial capability given the continued shortage of truckers. It can also be used to unlock bottlenecks in regional distribution centers, identify optimal shipping and transit routes in bad weather, and find optimal air cargo loading when fuel prices soar. .

Forward-thinking manufacturing, logistics, and mobility companies can secure a first-mover advantage today by starting to explore specific problems that can benefit from quantum computing. In combination with classical computing, there are limitless possibilities for what companies can achieve with quantum technology in all areas of supply chain management. From planning to shipping to packaging, there are many potential areas that quantum computing could revolutionize. It’s up to companies to take advantage of this promising technology before others catch up.

Murray Thom is Vice President of Product Management at D-Wave System, Inc.

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