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Logistics Infrastructure Business Division, Sumitomo Corporation

Beloved by Workers or Employees of Distribution Centers : Utilizing Quantum Computer Technology

- Optimal Employee Arrangement System in Operation at a Distribution Center -


Members of Logistics Infrastructure Business Division, Sumitomo Corporation


Mr.Ohno, Mr.Takahashi, Mr.Ueda, Ms.Souma, Mr.Yokoyama, Mr.Makiuchi (From left to right)
Logistics Infrastructure Business Division, Sumitomo Corporation

Takuji Hiraoka
President and CEO, Fixstars Amplify Corporation
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In October 2022, Sumitomo Corporation began operating an "Optimal Employee Arrangement System (magiQanneal)" for logistics centers. The system was developed using the quantum computing cloud service called "Fixstars Amplify." We interviewed Mr. Ueda, the leader of the Digital Transformation (DX) and Quantum Computer Technology Utilization (QX) promotion project in the Logistics Infrastructure Business Division of the Sumitomo Corporation Group, and Dr. Doi of Fixstars Corporation ("Fixstars"), who was involved in supporting the development and implementation of systems using Fixstars Amplify. The topics of the interview are about the motivation for the use of quantum computer technology, the efforts in leading to its introduction, and the results achieved after its introduction.


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    We aim to leverage the emerging technology of quantum computing to pioneer new business opportunities.
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    Through the development of applications that address challenges in the logistics industry, we seek to drive a transformative change in the industry's structure.


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    We have released the employee optimal arrangement system called "magiQanneal" developed using Fixstars Amplify.*
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    We strive to achieve improved productivity at logistics centers, establishing a system that is beloved by on-site staff.
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    Discovered the applicability of this system not only to the logistics industry but also to a wide range of labor-intensive industries.

* The research, development, social implementation, and evaluation are part of the Strategic Innovation Program (SIP) "Society 5.0 Realization Technology Using Photonics and Quantum" (Research Promotion Corporation: National Institute of Quantum Science and Technology) led by the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.

1. History of Quantum Computer Technology Utilization

Mr. Ueda, from Sumitomo CorporationOne of the Sumitomo Group's business principles is the "enterprising spirit". This spirit expresses the importance of being proactive and one step ahead in the face of changing times. I believe that this spirit also includes the value of contributing to society at large through the active use of new technologies. Around 2018, as I was exploring the market with this "enterprising spirit," I came across quantum computer technology, which was in its infancy, and felt that if I could apply this new technology to my business, it would have the potential to largely contribute to society. Specifically, the logistics industry is relatively slow in digitization, but it encompasses numerous areas necessitating optimal solutions for delivery routes and employee arrangements. I thought that quantum computing technology, which instantly leads to optimal solutions, might be a good fit for this industry.

However, back then, there was naturally no department within the company that specialized in quantum computers, and there was no forum where quantum computer technology could be discussed. Therefore, we decided to start a cross-sectional "Business Research Group on Cutting-edge Technologies" with a total of about 60 volunteers to discuss business applications and commercialization methods of cutting-edge technologies such as quantum computer technology. The study group met twice a month for three years. We often invited experts to come to the meeting, and Fixstars Corporation was once invited to participate in the discussions.

Image Mr. Ueda, Team Leader for DX Promotion, Logistics Infrastructure Business Division, which promotes digital transformation (DX) and quantum technology utilization (QX) in Sumitomo Corporation's logistics organization

In the summer of 2019, when we were deepening our consideration of in-house applications through the activities of the study group, the "MCPC (Mobile Computing Promotion Consortium) Quantum Computer Promotion Working Group," which is the Corporate Planning Department of my organization at that time was participating, decided to conduct a "demonstration experiment for the implementation of industrial applications of quantum computers. *1". As I had hoped to take a step forward from my previous desk studies and get a feel for the actual implementation, this free-of-charge demonstration experiment was a very-welcome opportunity for me, and we naturally decided to participate in it.

Nine member companies of the project were divided into three teams to collaborate on quantum computer technology research. Sumitomo Corporation and Fixstars Corporation were on the same team. This demonstration experiment led us to collaborate with Fixstars Corporation to explore the application of quantum computer technology, specifically in optimizing employee arrangement at logistics centers, and to implement it in society.

At a distribution center, which is typically a labor-intensive environment, using the cutting-edge technology of quantum computers was to find the optimal arrangement of employees a challenge that no one had taken on yet. I felt that it was extremely important for people who would not normally be involved to think and discuss together beyond their respective positions. I oversaw consolidating and communicating the voices and technologies of the field, and Fixstars Corporation was proactive in making professional proposals from an equal perspective, rather than contract development based on fixed specifications. They also provided consistent and friendly support throughout the entire process, from upstream consulting to downstream system development, which made me feel very secure.

For instance, initially, our focus was on improving productivity metrics by minimizing the number of employees assigned. However, during discussions with Fixstars Corporation, they raised an important point: 'Wouldn't it be beneficial to strive for a method where everyone contributes equally while maximizing overall work efficiency (the equal maximization problem) to optimize the worksite? This was pointed out to us. It is true that even if our goal is to 'minimize the number of employees,' we cannot send staff members who are already at work home in the middle of the workday even when they are not needed. We highly appreciate the proposal from Fixstars Corporation, as they demonstrated a solid technical understanding and accurately identified the on-site challenges.

In 2020, we made further advancements in the MCPC initiative. We conducted a demonstration test on employee arrangement optimization in collaboration with Fixstars Corporation, as part of the SIP *2 project led by the Cabinet Office. Furthermore, given the Cabinet Office's expectations for societal implementation, we have proceeded with the study to commercialize MCPC for real-life logistics centers.

In October 2022, as a result, "magiQanneal," an employee optimization arrangement system developed using quantum computer technology, was introduced to the Sumitomo Corporation Group's distribution center, and the service was launched. Specifically, it is being deployed as an optional function of Smile Board Connect *3, a business intelligence (BI) system developed by Sumitomo Corporation for distribution center operations. The staff at the distribution center has been pleased with the optional functions , and other logistics centers (that have not yet adopted the system) have asked us to introduce the system as soon as possible. I have implemented many systems, both internally and externally, but this is the first system that has been so well received by our users.

Dr. Doi from Fixstars CorporationWe are delighted to learn that not only was the system implementation completed, but it also received high praise from the users at distribution centers, with plans for expansion on its user base. We believe that this success is largely attributed to the active discussions we had with Sumitomo Corporation, which led us to visit the warehouse regularly and actively listen to the opinions of the on-site staff. We believe that the key to our success was creating a system that naturally aligned with the needs and preferences of the on-site staff. By carefully listening to their voices and accurately understanding their needs and preferences, we were able to develop a system that met their requirements effectively.

2. Development of "magiQanneal," an Optimal Employee Arrangement System

Mr. Ueda from Sumitomo CorporationThe magiQanneal is a system that uses quantum computer technology that instantly proposes the optimal solution (Employee Arrangement Plan) for where, when, and in which groups of approximately 100 employees will work at a distribution center, considering the number of shipments for the day, the skills of the group, and fairness in terms of shift hours and arrangement locations. In the course of this development, engineers from Sumitomo Corporation and Fixstars Corporation went through extensive considerations and trial-and-error processes. Among them, the most challenging and debated aspect was the fundamental and essential question of "What defines an 'optimal solution' derived through quantum computer technology?

The optimum environment in the field cannot be measured by a single yardstick, as it depends on the position of each person, the situation of the day, etc. For example, during busy periods, the optimal solution may be to increase productivity by "combining highly productive members," or conversely, during quiet periods, the optimal solution may be to "stimulate staff motivation and growth by assigning them tasks that they are not normally responsible for," and human resource development may be the optimal solution. In this way, the optimal solution may vary depending on the situation. Since the optimal solution will change depending on the situation, we discussed the importance of being able to control the weight of multiple indicators.

This idea was obtained through repeated visits to the distribution center site by Sumitomo Corporation and Fixstars Corporation to understand what the on-site staff wanted and what was truly important at the site. As a result, we have been able to produce results that are comfortable for the people working onsite. We believe that this ingenuity is the reason why the system has been accepted by the people on site and has led to the realization of a system that is utilized with even greater satisfaction.

Our goal is not to have on-site staff work like robots but to respond as much as possible to the growth and needs of each worker to create a vibrant and sustainable workplace. We can look back on the development of this system as a unique point in that we defined the "happiness index of people and workplaces" as the optimal solution and solved it with a quantum computer, in the hope that all the on-site staff would always have a smile on their faces.

Dr. Doi from Fixstars CorporationDuring the development of magiQanneal, we had many discussions about the most important concept of the "Happiness Index" mentioned by Mr. Ueda of Sumitomo Corporation. There are many different interpretations of how to approach each person's emotions, and they are strongly influenced by complex intertwined factors, so it was a very rewarding theme. We created not only a system that calculates at high speed while considering various indicators, possibilities, and priorities but also a system that gradually learns through operation and flexibly grows into a form that matches the daily on-site situation.

3. On-site utilization of "magiQanneal," an Optimal Employee Arrangement System

Feedback from On-site Staff at Logistics Centers Utilizing the Employee Optimal Arrangement Automated System 'magiQanneal’
"Image is for illustration purposes"

Operation of "magiQanneal," an automatic system for optimal employee arrangement for logistics centers
"Image is for illustration purposes"

Mr. Ueda from Sumitomo CorporationSince the system is used daily, we would like it to be loved by the staff who actually use it as a daily on-site situation. The magiQanneal system, which we developed with Fixstars Corporations using Fixstars Amplify, has never been so well received by our staff in the field, and we feel like we are being carefully nurtured by them every day.

When a machine directs optimal staffing, some people may feel anxious, wondering if they will be forced to work as hard as robots. However, magiQanneal does not only focus on efficiency, but also takes into consideration the thoughts of the people who are in charge of the daily arrangement of work, (for example, fairness in work arrangement and grouping so that each person can work to the best of his/her ability). We recognize that it is a "harmonious and natural solution" derived from the nature of quantum computer utilization technology. And we feel that many of these harmonious solutions are easy to convince people in the field because they are not unreasonable.

Furthermore, this solution is ultimately completed by the people. In other words, the solution that the system produces is about 80 points, and people make the final adjustments to bring it to 100 points. There is the problem of high costs to achieve perfection, but I believe that designing a system that is "ultimately completed by people" will have the effect of reassuring those working in the field that the system will be accepted by them. People and machines work in concert by multiplying each other's strengths, and the system learns and gradually grows every day for the 20 points that are lacking. This kind of cycle is ideal, and I think it is being done naturally in the field today. Since work is assigned according to one's abilities, skills, and requests, a system design that considers the emotions and happiness of the employees who work there, as well as the comfort of the work site, will lead to a sense of trust in the system by the on-site staff, their willingness to use the system, and ultimately to the creation of a vibrant work site.

In addition, the time saved is significant because the proposed employee arrangements are output with the push of a single button. Thanks to the introduction of magiQanneal, the total time required, including the final human adjustment, has been reduced to about 10 minutes, whereas it usually would take about three man-hours of labor before. Another significant effect of this time savings has been the flexibility to make changes in employee arrangement plans as circumstances change. Furthermore, one of the most significant benefits is that it has reduced the psychological burden on those in charge of creating employee arrangement plans. In fact, the person in charge of creating the employee arrangement plan was under strong pressure to create an optimal employee arrangement plan that would meet the needs of people in various positions, and the daily mental burden was quite heavy. For example, when preparing employee arrangement plans, A hardworking staff in charge would take notes of all the various requests he received from the on-site staff, and even after returning home, He or she would go through a trial and error process in an attempt to meet those requests, worrying about what would happen if He or she could not find the optimal solution. However, with the introduction of magiQanneal, the machine has taken over the responsibility and satisfaction for the solution, and the mental burden of creating placement plans for the employees in charge of it has been greatly reduced.

I believe that one of the wonderful benefits of mechanization and digitalization is that "the system lubricates relationships in the workplace and brings everyone together amicably" We expect that this system will create a virtuous cycle of revitalizing the work site and further enhancing its cohesiveness and productivity, thereby contributing to the creation of a sustainable work site.

The operation of magiQanneal at the distribution center has achieved certain results, and interest in and understanding of quantum computer technology is growing within Sumitomo Corporation. We have also established a good relationship with Fixstars Corporation, an encouraging expert in quantum computer technology, through joint research activities, and are now envisioning the next steps toward social implementation.

4. Future Prospects

Mr. Ueda from Sumitomo CorporationmagiQanneal has received many inquiries from media coverage of social implementation and from Sumitomo Corporation's sales activities. For example, we have responded to inquiries not only from the logistics industry, but also from companies in labor-intensive businesses in a variety of industries, such as the creation of deployment plans for workers on factory floors and the creation of work shifts for caregivers at nursing care facilities. We are proud that our system, which aims to improve productivity by optimizing human resource arrangement, is a highly versatile solution that can be widely applied in many industries.

In the logistics field, there are many needs for optimal solutions. Starting 2024, a bill related to work style reform in the logistics industry will come into effect, and this bill will focus attention on efficient truck dispatching, efficient loading of cargo, and methods to optimize delivery routes, while considering the working hours of drivers. We hope to address these new needs based on changes in the logistics industry by utilizing the optimization platform we have developed with Fixstars Corporation. We believe that there are countless such optimization problems in the logistics industry, and that there are many other business opportunities.

I sometimes use the term "lateral development" to describe the approach to and deployment of new issues within the same industry. I use the term "depth development" to refer to deployment to issues in different fields with similar characteristics. For example, the "development within the logistics industry" mentioned earlier is " lateral development," while "development in labor-intensive industries" is " depth development. In general, business often requires lateral development. In horizontal development, there is a clear entity to proceed within the company, and related knowledge and experience are available, so it is easy to work within the company. However, as a system, it tends to have little proximity and surprisingly little application. This means that new systems often must be created from scratch.

On the other hand, depth deployment requires different domain knowledge to be deployed in different industries, and the promoting entity is often not clear. However, because of the generalizable nature of the issues, it tends to be relatively easy to build on similar systems. We often have discussions with Fixstars Corporation about which deployment priority to address and what society needs now, while assessing our current resources and situation.

Image Dr. Doi, Senior Director of Fixstars Corporation, team leader of the Joint research and development project with Sumitomo Corporation

However, regardless of whether we choose lateral or depth development, Fixstars Corporation believes that it is important to broaden the base and develop it as a platform. Furthermore, we expect that Fixstars Amplify will enable us to develop an optimization platform that takes advantage of powerful quantum computer technology. In order to realize this, we believe it is essential for Fixstars Corporation, which has the latest technological knowledge and implementation capabilities, to collaborate with business companies such as Sumitomo Corporation, which have industry-specific issues and data faced by various sites.

In the future, we would like to promote digital transformation (DX) and quantitative transformation (QX) in various industries by utilizing Fixstars Amplify for horizontal and deep development, and actively challenge to contribute to society and create new businesses in cooperation with Fixstars Corporation.

Dr. Doi from Fixstars CorporationFixstars Corporation has received inquiries from various industries. Although each industry and company has slightly different concerns and requirements, we offer flexible proposals that utilize Fixstars Amplify along with our knowledge of utilizing the latest quantum computer technology and computer acceleration technology. The Fixstars Corporation Group's strength lies in its software and hardware acceleration technology. We would like to continue to provide you with the best possible use of quantum computer technology, so please feel free to contact us for further information.


*1 Fixstars Amplify > News > Report on the results of the quantum computer demonstration conducted at MCPC (6/26/2020) Japanese only)

*2 Fixed Stars > Case Studies > SIP Open Symposium 2021 sponsored by the Cabinet Office: Development of Social Implementation of Optimized Staffing in Logistics Centers decoration(Note: Japanese only)

*3 Smile Board Connect, a BI system developed by Sumitomo Corporation specifically for distribution center operations decoration(Note: Japanese only)

*All information in this article is based on information available at the time of the interview (May 2023).

Interviewer Comments

The development of magiQanneal is a long-lasting project that has continued since the early days of Ising machine utilization research in Japan. We were able to speak with two of the core members of the project at the time when it was about to go into actual operation. It was very impressive to hear the same two people talk about how they devised ways to make the machine more usable by people working in the field.

Fixstars Corporation and Fixstars Amplify Corporation provide training, consulting, and system development services in the implementation and use of quantum computers.

For full-scale system development, we can also introduce you to Sumitomo Corporation and other partners.

Please feel free to inquire.

Interviewer: Takuji Hiraoka (President and CEO, Fixstars Amplify Corporation)

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