LEAN SIX SIGMA WORLD CONFERENCE
Quantum Computing Will Blow Up the Operational Excellence World
Presenter: Don C. Johnston, Vice President, Roxtar Consulting, Inc., Titusville, FL, USA
Keywords:Simulation, Optimization, Performance
Optimizing complex processes is a daunting challenge even with the latest software tools and methods; but there’s a new kid down the street that could change the game dramatically. Quantum Computing is a radical approach to solving tough analytical problems. Traditional digital computers work with binary bits, single units of information that can take on one of two values, either a ‘1’ or a ‘0’; hence the term ‘binary bit’ and binary programming languages. Quantum computers work not with binary bits, but with ‘qubits’. A qubit can take on the value of ‘1’ or ‘0’ or both values at the same time! It does this by taking advantage of the strange properties of subatomic quantum particles and their ability to assume multiple states simultaneously. The implications are mind-boggling: while a digital computer can simulate the state of a process, say the speed of a conveyor and the location of equipment, a quantum computer can theoretically represent all the possible states of a process simultaneously. While a conventional high-speed computer may take hours or days to simulate all the possible arrangements of a process, the quantum computer could do so in seconds. More importantly, many problems in Operational Excellence, such as optimization, have solution spaces so vast that no current computer can come close to finding an optimal solution, while a quantum computer could jump to the solution with ease. Current programming approaches to optimization employ search algorithms that seek to minimize some objective function such as cost; the algorithms typically seek short paths to better solutions, like a hiker in mountainous terrain seeking to find a river by traveling downhill. The problem in OpEx is that many of these solution terrains are wildly complex with many peaks and valleys leading to dead-ends. Even modern approaches such as genetic algorithms can take inordinate amounts of time and still not find the best solution. Quantum computers, properly programmed, can actually “see” all the possible solutions simultaneously, like giving the hiker a satellite view of the entire mountain range. Quantum computing is in its infancy and has many challenges to overcome; for example, making more than a few dozen qubits work together has proved difficult. But the result will be such a huge step forward that the world of process optimization will be fundamentally changed.