Nippon Steel Tests Quantum Computing for Plant Scheduling
The Tech Republic reported that Nippon Steel is testing how quantum computing can help solve supply chain disruption—a problem that has become the norm as of late. The company 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. The companies developed an algorithm and tested it on Honeywell's quantum System Model H1. Nippon Steel chief researcher Mr Koji Hirano said "Scheduling at our steel plants is one of the biggest logistical challenges we face, and we are always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations in this area.”
Nippon Steel said “The multistep process involved in manufacturing steel has changed very little in decades. Plants begin by processing iron ore, coal and other material into slabs of steel that are then converted into products. It is a balancing act to figure out if a plant has the right amount of raw materials and intermediate products on-site to complete orders. Couple this with factors such as multiple orders, order type, grade of steel and size, production count, deadlines and other specifications and the complexity of operating a steel plant significantly ratchets up. 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.”
Even with today's supercomputers, it is difficult to find optimal solutions. Quantum computers harness certain quantum physics phenomena to represent multiple solutions at once and find the best one. 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.
Honeywell Ventures has invested and partnered with two of the companies that do that, Zapata Computing and Cambridge Quantum Computing.