The speed of operations is a big development in business improvement. Not only can we now completely optimize the massively complex combinations of steps in product, service or process delivery. But we can do it at a speed that is ‘always-optimal’
The outcomes are profound, unlimited, and already changing how we work, produce and live. In rapid drug development billions of molecules – including theoretical compounds that don’t yet exist in nature – can be analyzed. While promising leads are quickly being found for new therapies. City-wide traffic is being optimized second-by-second so vehicles can always follow the fastest, less-congested route. While manufacturing is also being optimized with refined processes that increase the output from existing plants and avoid expensive capital investment.
Breaking the optimization barrier
Optimization as a business improvement method is hardly a new concept – it’s been around for decades. Lean manufacturing solutions focuses on eliminating waste through organizational optimization and dates back to Toyota's operating model ‘The Toyota Way’. First developed in the 1930s, this led to transformation in the car industry and eventually in the wider manufacturing environment.
But until now there have been strict limits on the complexity of what can be optimized. Some combinations were simply beyond the capability of current computing to process quickly enough to be worth the effort and cost. Consequently, only partial optimization on simplified models was viable, resulting in processes that might have improved but couldn’t be described as ‘optimal’.
In cases where the stakes were higher, the amount of compute time needed to run all the numbers went through the roof – amounting to days, weeks or even years. Again, the result has been a compromise. The model has either been simplified so any talk of ‘optimal’ is meaningless, or the optimization produced has become quickly out-of-date due to the time needed to arrive at the answer.
This is the barrier that has held optimization back until now.
What if always-optimal were possible?
To take a simple example, all factories must hold stock of raw materials and components. How accurately they calculate their real stock determines the amount of excess stock and therefore cost they’re carrying.
If this is only calculated annually there will be a lot of excess stock on your books. The more frequently you run the calculation, the less cost and waste you’re carrying because you can keep close track.
However, in large factories with multiple lines, processes, products and variation in demand for products, the complexity of the calculation quickly goes off the scale. Calculating the combination of just 40 from 100 stock items that would reduce stock overhead to a minimum could result in several possibilities exceeding one million times the number of stars in the universe!
Current computing wouldn’t be able to do this rapidly enough to be useful. Yet Fujitsu’s Quantum-Inspired Optimization Services now makes that calculation possible in seconds – so fast that you can repeat the calculation as often and as necessary to become always-optimal.
It’s not magic
If this is starting to sound like magic, then I’m failing you. Quantum-Inspired Optimization is already solving extraordinarily complex business optimization challenges across many industries.
I’ve mentioned rapid drug discovery and robotic optimization already. Other examples include portfolio optimization in financial services, investment minimization in mobile cellular network role out, reduced van fleets for urban logistics delivery, as well as fewer miles walked and time taken in warehouse operations.
This is the tip of an iceberg that we can’t fully see yet because we haven’t had the tools to solve the challenge before. We simply haven’t given much thought yet to the possibilities. That’s starting to change rapidly. We’re now talking to organizations which stand to benefit massively from the ability to optimize at speed and obtain new business advantages with extraordinary outcomes.
Always-optimal is becoming the new normal and getting started is quick and low risk, with as-a-service, cloud-based options available. You don’t need to plan a major revamp of your data center or wait six months to start interviewing talent. Fujitsu already has all the algorithm expertise you’ll need and with Quantum-Inspired Optimization Services, you can be testing and proving a business value case in days. We’re excited to hear about your use cases. Contact me today for an initial discussion or for more information visit our webpage.