Managing Supply Chains, Logistics and Scheduling with Quantum Computing

Medical gloves[1], sneakers,[2] lumber[3], and microchips[4] all have one thing in common: their supply chains were completely derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, consumers experienced firsthand what happens when manufacturing and supply chains are disrupted. The pandemic cast a spotlight on the vulnerabilities of an already fragile system: Demand was hard to predict, and supply very volatile, given the limits on certain raw materials. Coupled with compounding weather conditions and labor shortages, the carefully calculated art of global supply chain went immensely awry.

Whether it’s a matter of surplus or shortage, manufacturers depend on accurately gauging supply and demand and maximizing efficiencies to stay in the green, making the current disruptions extremely costly. While consumers may have seen bare shelves for their much-needed products, they did not lay witness to the bounty of non-essential goods stacking up at ports and in storage.

Luckily, such extreme disruptions as we saw during COVID-19 are rare. Nevertheless, it highlighted the urgency of which businesses must invest in technologies to alleviate supply chain challenges in the future. One potential solution to help mitigate these disruptions? Quantum computing.

While quantum computers are still in their infancy, they’re maturing at a rapid rate. A decade ago, commercial quantum computers did not exist. Now, there are numerous competitive entrants into the space that have proven it’s possible to extract results on extremely complex computations with this technology.

The use of quantum computing will ultimately span industries and help just about any business operate more efficiently. However, given quantum computers utilize an extremely efficient approach to evaluate possible solutions to a problem, the technology may be uniquely suited to solve high dimensionality problems such as optimization of supply chains and logistics networks.

Take manufacturing steel as an example. Manufacturing steel is a multi-step process that has remained largely the same for decades. Plants start by processing iron ore, coal, and other material into slabs of steel that are then converted into products.

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