back to article Every Little Helps: Former Tesco boss Dave Lewis to advise UK govt on supply chains

The UK has appointed Sir David Lewis, formerly the CEO of Tesco, as the government's supply chain adviser. He will be advising the country's prime minister, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and its "Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster" – aka minister without portfolio Michael Gove – on both "immediate improvements and any …

  1. codejunky Silver badge

    Good luck

    I hope he can make a positive contribution. Not sure what he can do about the short term but the faster we can get resources available for a boom of growth the better.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Good luck

      There's no denying, Tesco's knows a thing or two about logistics. Whether that expertise translates into a whole national economy, though, is not yet clear.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good luck

        Tesco are pretty much a whole national economy, Tesco takes £1 in every £8 spent in shops by British consumers, maybe even more since the pandemic, as they had were ahead of the game in terms of home deliveries.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Good luck

      The phrase 'Pearls to swine' springs to mind. Johnson posses a Read only Memory and is not capable of receiving let alone utilising any new information.

  2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Maybe they should have thought about supply chains BEFORE breaking everything ?

    1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      But... but... but... what about that 350 million a week for the NHS...

  3. IGotOut Silver badge

    Here is an idea.

    Tell the media to shut up about constantly banging on about shortages. If the brain deads stop panic buying, we'd be OK.

    OMG there is a shortage of Kellogs cornflakes! Well, buy that other fucking brand right next to them.

    99% of the "shortages" just mean you have to buy a different brand, or (insert deity) forbid, you don't buy that item this week

    #firstworldproblems

    1. myithingwontcharge

      Re: Here is an idea.

      It's not panic buying if there's a real shortage. It's not panic buying if you can see the shelves are already empty. It's not panic buying if over 1/4 of garages are not getting deliveries and you need to get to hospital. It's the media's job to report that and they would be failing if they didn't.

      Buying the next brand is fine until it runs out, or you're allergic to one of the ingredients, or there are no other brands left. Stop blaming the problem on the symptoms, we should all know the actual cause of the problems by now.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Here is an idea.

        @myithingwontcharge

        "It's not panic buying if there's a real shortage"

        Panic buying causes a real shortage. Thats why people were acting stupid and dangerous (and illegally) as they put petrol into water containers and bin bags. There was no fuel shortage until demand jumped 500%. At the best of times that cannot be handled. Same when toilet roll ran out after brexit, there was plenty of it but it was in the warehouse because such excessive demand could not be known in advance.

        1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Here is an idea.

          Even an 'implied' shortage of something will send people into a frenzy and end up causing an actual shortage.

          Scenes of mile long queues at petrol stations, blocking roads, hindering emergency vehicles... stopping said emergency vehicles from getting fuel... all reported by the media caused it to be far worse than it was.

          There was no shortage of fuel... just a few dozen fewer delivery drivers... that's it. By the time they drafted in army drivers to fill the gap... of the 100 or so people... more than 50% of them were support... not actually drivers ... the 'alleged; shortage went away... that was it... a few dozen drivers cannot cause the mass disruption and hysteria we saw.

          So why was there a shortage of drivers to begin with... it's not solely because of a lack of HGV testing during lockdowns and it's not solely because of EU drivers leaving the UK after brexit.

          It's because for years they have paid crappy wages for backbreaking work that keeps you away from home for long periods... and people no longer want to work in that kind of environment.

          Then there were companies enticing workers away from one part of the supply chain to another by increasing wages and offering starting cash incentives... If you worked in that industry and could take a better paid job...with a bonus just for signing on... Yeah... you probably would.

          So a literal... few dozen people leaving one specific sector of the supply chain... coupled with the medias irresponsible reporting, and peoples general sense of selfish entitlement and the power of the moronic group mentality... caused the problem.

        2. Commswonk

          Re: Here is an idea.

          Same when toilet roll ran out after brexit,

          Er... correlation is not causation. IIRC bog rolls vanished off the shelves in late March / early April when lockdown happened. Ditto dried pasta...

        3. veti Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Here is an idea.

          And that's why there's no shortages in Northern Ireland. Because... the people are so much more level headed than the mainlanders.

    2. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      Re: Here is an idea.

      last year I couldn't get pasta or flour for weeks or more because of the panic buying.

      I made something else to eat instead, I learned that you can use peeled leeks instead of pasta sheets in a lasagne, I found recipes for flour free foods... I adapted and I survived... although my waistline didn't during the first lockdown due to trying out all these alternate recipes and gaining 8kg between March- August. :)

      But I did eventually lose 9kg to make up for it.

    3. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Here is an idea.

      Ok - I'll not buy the blood test bottles that I need to get blood tests done. Those blood tests are required to monitor the health of my liver since one of the drugs I am on is known to be liver toxic.

      The GP can't prescribe a shared care drug without the blood test, but the consultant can' issue the blood test.

      Nothing bad could happen, after all last time I stopped taking the drug I only ended up in hospital for three weeks and permanently disabled.

      Fortunately the consultant did issue a direct hospital prescription, but that was alot more stress than I needed.

      Shortages are not an "oh well buy the next brand" issue. They are life and death for various people.

      Additionally the shortages are of greatest effect for those who are already in, or on the edge of, food poverty. If you struggle to put food on the table each day then the increase in cost, and the secondary increase in cost because the closest alternative is a more expensive brand doesn't make it any easier.

  4. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

    Focus on essentials first

    If they want to fix things, they start with the essentials... because well all know 100% that your average person one the street will panic and turn into a selfish wanker at the merest hint of a supply issue... Toilet roll, flour, pasta... petrol... We've seen them all over the last 18 months or so. Not because there was any real serious shortage of anything, but because the implied shortage caused mass hysteria that caused the shortage.

    So focus on essential supplies... resources to industry and food chains... food stuffs to shops... fuel to petrol stations... and so forth and so forth.

    The last thing people need is a 1 day rush for a bit of wrapping paper from amazon because you want to get ready for xmas... non essentials can wait a few days.

    If people stopped being selfish and entitled... a lot of these 'so called shortages' would never happen to begin with.

    Also

    Fuck the media for stoking those fires and making it 10 times worse... if they'd stopped fanning the flames every couple of hours... things wouldn't get as bad.

    1. myithingwontcharge

      Re: Focus on essentials first

      "Focus on essentials first "

      You mean all the things brexit broke and the country (including all my local Tesco stores it seems) now has no staff and resources to fix. I wish him good luck. :-)

      Hint: That was actually the original issue and blaming the press and public for it is just gaslighting.

      1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

        Re: Focus on essentials first

        Focusing on a single issue... IE Brexit... is a narrow minded way to look at the whole picture. It's just a single part of the problem.

        There isn't a worker shortage... there's a shitty job/wage environment problem. Pay people crappy wages, treat them as disposable and toss them aside whenever you can... and people won't want to work in your industry.

        That existed long before brexit... leaving the EU only showed what a shitshow it was before. It's highlighted the problems and done nothing to fix them... only broke them further.

        But it's not the 'cause' of turning non existant shortages into actual shortages.

        So what if people can't their new shiny for a few extra days... if arseholes stopped being selfish inconsiderate arseholes for a few moments...and if the media stopped creating bigger issues than actually exist... things would be better for everyone.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Focus on essentials first

          "There isn't a worker shortage... there's a shitty job/wage environment problem."

          This isn't an either/or situation. It's a long and short term situation.

          Employment factors combined with Brexit might have left us short of HGV drivers but that doesn't mean that simply upping wages will suddenly materialise a sufficiency of drivers. It simply means that drivers are being shifted to whoever can pay the most. In some instances that means your rubbish won't be collected because bin lorry drivers are being poached by transport companies.

          New drivers have to be trained and tested. The capacity for both is limited. Even if training suddenly stepped up there needs to be an increase in testing and that means either training more testers (which takes time and presumably means diverting some existing drivers into doing that with short-term knock-on effects) or shortening with the existing testing. HMG seems to have settled for the latter; we'll have to see what the road safety consequences of that are in the coming months.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The main thing I observed about the (previous) CEO of Tesco...

    The day he joined Tesco his eyes sparkled and he joked about the Lynx effect (having being a key player in promoting that brand for P&G).

    The day he left Tesco, he looked a broken man - completely dead behind the eyes.

    1. Fogcat

      Re: The main thing I observed about the (previous) CEO of Tesco...

      Just because someone is the head of an organisation with a large supply chain does that really mean they are an *expert* in supply chains? I would have thought the person you really wanted was not a "suit" but someone like the national warehouse manager. But they they probably don't go to the right cocktail parties to get invited to apply.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The main thing I observed about the (previous) CEO of Tesco...

      I'm sure Mr. Tesco will soon perk up once he collects his clubcard points for the zillion-pound government contract he signs with his former employer.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "a series of measures to relieve pressure on vital supply chains, including by streamlining the testing process for HGV drivers, creating skills bootcamps to train up HGV drivers, as well as introducing short-term visas for fuel drivers, food haulage drivers and poultry workers to ease pressures facing these supply chains."

    There's a list of fire-fighting activities if I ever saw one. If Lewis's is expected to concentrate on that things aren't going to be fixed. A lot of our problems are decades old. They stem from governments keeping retail price inflation* down by sourcing more and more stuff from the cheapest manufacturers world-wide. The retailers were complicit in that. Appointing someone from a manufacturing background would have made more sense.

    * By ignoring housing as part of the cost of living they let actual inflation rip, fuelling it with low interest rates.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      On second thoughts just in time logistics used by manufacturing hasn't helped either.

  7. Big_Boomer

    6 P's

    For those who don't know what the 6 P's are "Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance". Something that those who promoted Brexit seem to have completely ignored/forgotten. Yes, there are driver shortages worldwide caused by everyone always wanting everything cheaper than everything else. That puts pressure on companies to keep wages low which means that people got out of the crappy low paid jobs and found better ones. People will do crappy jobs, but ONLY if they pay well.

    In Britain we had a substantial part of our economy reliant on cheap labour from the EU, primarily from Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, to do those crappy low paid jobs. Due to the rampant xenophobia following the Leave vote they pretty much all went home with the last of them leaving because of the final straw of the Covid lockdowns. I don't blame them for going given the way we as a nation treated them, but I do blame our incompetent government for not seeing the problem coming and doing something about before it reached the stage of shortages. It's the same every time with this shower and it's never their fault.

    As for the media being at fault, are you referring to the same media that made a mountain out of a molehill over EU membership? You swallowed their bullshit then but now all of a sudden you find it distasteful when it starts to affect you directly?

    1. Commswonk

      Re: 6 P's

      For those who don't know what the 6 P's are "Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance". Something that those who promoted Brexit seem to have completely ignored/forgotten.

      Um... IIRC (and it is if) there were no cries of "we'll finish up with a shortage of HGV drivers if we leave" from the pro - Remain camp.

      One possible reason for this might be that the current shortage has got something between little and bugger all to do with leaving the EU...

      1. R Soul Silver badge

        Re: 6 P's

        One possible reason for this might be that the current shortage has got something between little and bugger all to do with leaving the EU...

        Dream on.

        EU supermarket shelves aren't empty and Johnny Foreigner's petrol stations haven't run dry. How come?

        Perhaps a lack of Polish HGV drivers hasn't buggered things up for us by much. But the extra checks and customs paperwork to get trucks through the channel tunnel will have a lot to do with the current shortages and supply chain problems.

        1. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: 6 P's

          "EU supermarket shelves aren't empty"

          Even the New York Times disagrees with you:

          https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/05/business/germany-economy.html

  8. Dr Scrum Master

    Fragility

    Fragile, over-optimised supply lines don't help.

    Centralising distribution and relying on HGVs reduces the number of points required for a system to fail.

    Closing small abattoirs means more transport required for animals to be butchered, and increases costs in the supply chain.

    Interrupting the supply chain to a large abattoir or a large distribution centre interrupts the supply to a larger area and a larger number of customers.

    Reliance on cheap foreign labour is a fragile over-optimisation.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Fragility

      It only takes a cough for "just in time" to become "oh, too late"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    supply chain logistics

    If only there could be a multinational trading bloc which provides frictionless moverment of goods, people and services....

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: supply chain logistics

      @AC

      "If only there could be a multinational trading bloc which provides frictionless moverment of goods, people and services...."

      Without forcing political union with a focus on ever closer union.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: supply chain logistics

        while pro-EU in general, and anti-brexit in general, I hate to agree with you that this has become an EU agenda over the last 20 years or so. Ironically though, it's mostly likely going to fail (though I'm not rejoicing), because nobody in Europe (well, not on the 'mainstream public / voters) is happy for such... direction and goal, and the harder the political elites push the plebs, the harder they resist. Even though, even more ironically, becoming United States of Europe would, probably, benefit Europe, overall. It would be interesting to read why it worked with the US of A, and probably won't with Europe. Perhaps just down to 'different times, different context', etc.

        All that said, this was not a major brexit agenda, though possibly lurking in the background.

  10. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Sir David Lewis

    Maybe with his reputation he could sort out the government while he's there.

  11. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Will it be " green advice" ?

    Because that's the colour of the meat every time I've bought from Tesco (opened on day of purchase 10min walk from local TescoEXTRA x 3 occaisions)

    If they cannot get that right, how "good" will his contribution be?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All well and good...

    ...assuming that Mr Lewis actually has any ability in supply chain management as opposed to a knack of hiring people at Tesco that were good at supply chain management.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least we don't have a Wain Drain

    One of the benefit of Brexit is our HGV driving UK nationals cannot swan off to the continent and easily work over there.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "quickly resolve acute, short term issues"

    in the spirit of post-brexit Schadenfreunde, I'm happy to announce that in terms of quickly resolving acute, short term issues, the number of EU-HGV applicants for the privilage of working in Great Britain, has (according to last night's news) hit the '300' mark. Of which, I haste to announce, 20 have been issued a (sort of) work permit already! This great result will go, no doubt, a long way to relief (re-live?) a shortage of approx. 100K and there's nothing to worry about, Boris said again.

    We already requested our extended family in Eastern Europe to get ready to send us food pre-xmas food parcels, but I'm a little concern about delivery... Perhaps, if food parcels can't reach us here, we can reach the food parcels overthere? As long as we don't run out of air pilots / retired attendents. Apparently they sent out those letters to retired Luftwaffe staff to help us out in crisis...

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