Lorry-stock-picResearchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in the UK have developed a quantum computing programme designed for logistics companies to calculate the best routes and times for the delivery of goods.

According to a statement from the university, the Quantum Annealing Optimisation algorithm is one of the first in a new generation of optimisation techniques, which could revolutionise logistics for businesses and a range of other applications.

Dr Alan Crispin, principal lecturer in the School of Computing, Mathematics and Digital Technology, and MSc student Alex Syrichas developed the algorithm to solve the vehicle routing problem (VRP). The programme finds the optimal set of routes for a fleet of vehicles to traverse in order to deliver to a given set of customers. The aim is to deliver goods located at a central depot to customers who have placed orders for those products – with the VRP optimiser minimising the total route cost.

“The new optimisation technique promises to plan future services – reducing time to deliver – thereby growing sales and reducing operational costs and improving customer service levels,” said Dr Crispin.

MMU is now working with IT technology company ServicePower Technologies PLC, which specialises in providing software for logistics firms.

“We're working on expanding the research with ServicePower to make this applicable to the real-world market and to be used in business,” said Dr Crispin. “This type of technology can have lots of applications for firms and solve a range of scheduling problems, including employee timetabling.”

ServicePower has made applications for three patents covering the Quantum Annealing Optimisation algorithm.

Marne Martin, ServicePower's chief executive, said, “Quantum annealing is expected to take our scheduling products to the next level, providing the highest in cost reduction to our clients and improving their abilities to provide exceptional services to their own customers."