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Nippon Steel Tested Quantum Computing to Help Improve Plant Scheduling

By IQT News posted 02 Jul 2021

(TechRepublic) Nippon Steel, one of the world’s largest steel manufacturers, is testing how quantum computing can help solve supply chain disruption—a problem that has become the norm as of late. The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic saw shortages of toilet paper, canned foods and hand sanitizer. At the same time, other goods stacked up at ports and in storage as nonessential businesses closed and millions of people quarantined.
This challenge is not unique to steel manufacturing, Nippon noted. Similar optimization problems are ubiquitous throughout global manufacturing, transportation industries, and distribution systems in which goods and services move through several steps.
Nippon Steel said it collaborated with Cambridge Quantum Computing and Honeywell to develop an optimal schedule for enhancing efficiencies in the products it uses during the steel manufacturing process.
Due to the number of variables, streamlining or optimizing the production process and scheduling is challenging. But it also represents an area in which to make significant gains in efficiency and reduce operating costs.
Quantum computers harness certain quantum physics phenomena to represent multiple solutions at once and find the best one, the company said. This makes them “uniquely suited to tackle such optimization challenges.”
However, today’s quantum systems are still nascent and cannot yet solve for all the variables present so CQC and Nippon Steel experimented by formulating a representative problem. The Honeywell system was able to find the optimal solution after only a few steps, the company said.
“The results are encouraging for scaling up this problem to larger instances,” said Mehdi Bozzo Rey, a quantum expert at CQC, in a statement. “This experiment showcases the capabilities of the System Model H1 paired with modern quantum algorithms and how promising this emerging technology really is.”

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