Japanese shipping company NYK has announced plans to introduce a quantum computing-style system to optimise stowage planning for its car carriers, in cooperation with compatriot technology company Fujitsu.
The vessel operator will implement Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer technology to automate aspects of the stowage planning process for its dedicated car carriers, a 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 launched a real-world operational trial of the technology on September 1st, with the aim of commencing full-scale operational use of the system in April 2022.
Digital Annealer is a computing architecture built to mimic quantum phenomena, offering users the ability to rapidly solve complex combinatorial optimisation problems at speeds significantly faster than general purpose computers, but without the added costs typically associated with quantum computing machinery.
During testing NYK contributed its specific operational expertise to help Fujitsu to develop a new algorithm for the Digital Annealer to work on the stowage problem, which the partners leveraged to successfully reduce the time it takes to create a stowage plan for a dedicated car carrier from 6 hours to 2.5 hours per ship – an improvement that could result in a potential reduction of 4,000 working hours per year.
The system is cloud-based, drawing on information from NYK’s internal systems on the size of vehicles to be loaded and the port in use to automatically complete plans for the optimum stowage position of vehicles in approximately 30 minutes.
Moving forward, Fujitsu and NYK say they will continue working together to further improve the technology by increasing processing speed and improving the accuracy of output results during trial operations.