I’m no expert on the world of supply chain but one thing I do know is that there’s no bigger name in that vital yet unglamorous part of the retail world than Lawrence Christensen.
I’m no expert on the world of supply chain but one thing I do know is that there’s no bigger name in that vital yet unglamorous part of the retail world than Lawrence Christensen. So I was delighted that he agreed to be our speaker at Retail Week’s Supply Chain Directors’ Club last night, and he didn’t disappoint. He was a really thoughtful guy and despite having been around for a long time, is also a very progressive thinker on issues like the green agenda.
As ever with our clubs the detailed proceedings were off the record but it was very interesting hearing Lawrence talking about the enormous mess he faced when Justin King called him in to sort out the mess he had inherited in Sainsbury’s supply chain. Under Sir Peter Davis the company invested heavily in automated warehouses but the catch was they simply didn’t work, and availability fell off a cliff.
With a lot of hard graft and difficult conversations, Christensen - renowned in the supply chain world for his 30 years with Safeway and its predecessors ahead of the takeover by Morrisons - managed to get it back on track but ultimately took all the automation out and went back to manual operation of the warehouse.
It seems an extraordinary thing to do in this age of technology, but a straw poll of those with experience of the grocery world around the room showed that others have also followed his lead in taking out or at least reducing the scope of automation in their warehouses. The rising cost of energy - huge amounts of which is needed to power automated warehouses - and ready availability of immigrant labour for warehouses are two reasons why this trend may continue, at least in the short term.
George and I had lunch today with Retail Week’s longstanding columnist Neil Kennedy, to mark his stepping down from a regular slot after some 20 years. Neil is a renowned figure in the advertising world, and great company over lunch, and I’m delighted he’ll still be penning the odd regular piece for us.He has some great stories from the golden age of retail advertising in the 1980s - life sounds like it was a lot of fun in those days.
We had a lot of fun thinking about the features we’d really love to write in Retail Week: maybe ‘Retailers and their Helicopters’, or even better, ‘Retail’s biggest womanisers.’ Anyone got any other suggestions.
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