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

Turkeys on tables, petrol in cars, chips in 'puters, etc... or that's the idea, anyway


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 necessary long term changes to UK supply chains for goods", working with officials to "quickly resolve acute, short term issues".

Gove, as some might remember, was the head of Operation Yellowhammer, a task force that looked at "Reasonable Worst Case Planning Assumptions" in the event of a no-deal Brexit, so, for better or worse, he has some form in this area.

The last The Reg heard of Lewis, who was knighted earlier this year "for services to the food industry and business", was back in 2015, when Tescocard developers learned that Britain's largest food retailer – at the time headed by the man himself – was appointing a team of advisors to explore "strategic options" to sell them off. The business had acquired big data and data science wrangler Dunnhumby back in 2004, with then Tesco chairman Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth, saying of the loyalty card devs: "What scares me about this, is that [they] know more about my customers in three months than I know in 30 years."

Lewis joined Tesco in 2014. Despite the best efforts of the exec – nicknamed "Drastic Dave" for his penchant for making serious cuts – who'd hoped in 2015 to dump its network and data operations to cut capital expenditure by £1bn and achieve annual savings of £250m, Dunnhumby is still a Tesco subsidiary. The segment was valued at as much as £2bn when they appointed Goldman Sachs to explore options. The firm, started by Edwina Dunn and Clive Humby – both formerly employees of the UK arm of American software business CACI – appears to still be making coin. According to its accounts made up to 29 February 2020 filed with Companies House, it made £356.63m in revenues down from £374.5m in fy2019, and £3.5m in net income for fy 2020, down from £14m the year before.

"Dave" Lewis will work closely with the Prime Minister, No10 and the Treasury, and will be based in the Cabinet Office. He has been appointed until the end of the year.

He will also co-chair the new Supply Chain Advisory Group, consisting of external experts in the field, and the new Industry Taskforce.

Johnson said in a canned quote: "There are currently global supply issues which we are working with industry to mitigate and Dave brings a wealth of experience which will help us continue to protect our businesses and supply chains."

In the US, President Joe Biden signed an executive order ordering a 100-day review of weaknesses in critical logistics networks, including semiconductor supply issues, back in February; in March the country rolled out a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that included a $50bn bipartisan pledge – via the Chips for America Act – to boost chip R&D and fabrication. By June, the US government had pledged an additional $195bn for tech R&D to help stabilise supply chains and stimulate industry.

In the EU, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen last month talked up the bloc's upcoming European Chips Act, although it has not been said how much funding would be attached.

With regards to the UK's specific supply chain pain points – which are broader than semiconductors – the statement yesterday added the government had "acted quickly to introduce 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." ®

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