(HPCWire) Fujitsu Limited and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), a major global shipping company, today announced the introduction of Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired Digital Annealer technology to significantly streamline complex stowage planning for car carriers, leveraging the technology’s world-class combinatorial optimization capabilities. The Digital Annealer will play a role in automating aspects of the stowage planning process for NYK’s dedicated car carriers, an enormously complex task involving a vast number of possible stowage patterns depending on the number of vehicles loaded, models of vehicles, and the number of ports called along the shipping route. After successful initial tests, Fujitsu and NYK have launched a real-world operational trial of the technology on September 1st with an aim to commence full-scale operational use in April 2022.
NYK operates a global automobile shipping business that links Japan and other parts of the world—each ship in its fleet of car carriers holds more than several thousand vehicles. Cars are loaded one by one onto these car carriers at a predetermined distance in accordance with a prepared stowage plan. When a car carrier with a maximum loading capacity of about 7,000 cars and 12 decks loads and unloads more than 60 types of cars of different heights and widths while calling at more than 10 ports, for instance, the number of possible patterns for loading and unloading can exceed 10 to the 2,000th power. Planners face many complexities and challenges when creating stowage plans that can satisfy conditions including how to load vehicles at a loading ratio close to the maximum capacity of the ship or how to secure enough space on the ship to safely load and unload the car carriers.
In order to solve these problems, NYK has introduced Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer to help optimize its stowage planning. Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer is a computing architecture inspired by quantum phenomena, offering users the ability to rapidly solve complex combinatorial optimization problems at speeds significantly faster than general-purpose computers and without the added complications and costs typically associated with quantum computing methods. With the introduction of the Digital Annealer, Fujitsu built a cloud-based system that automatically completes the work of planning the optimum stowage position of a vehicle that takes into account various conditions, which is the most important task of creating a stowage plan.