Tim Cummins started out his professional life as a shopkeeper in the village of Galbally in Co Limerick before training as a chartered accountant. He then became a shareholder and eventual group director in Walsh Western, a supply chain provider for tech, which sold for $1 billion in 2013. It was in this role where he developed a zeal for logistics and furthered his love for retail.

He dabbled in security as well, having worked as managing director for Chubb for almost four years. After this experience, he decided to create his own security firm called Omada, which joined with three others in 2003 to become Omada Fire & Security Group. The company had annual revenues of €50 million and employed up to 500 people.  

Despite being the founder and CEO of a successful security firm, Cummins still had a passion for logistics. This interest was piqued once more at a football match in Dublin in the early 2000s when he met Dan Geoghegan, who founded the supply chain company Primeline.

“We hit it off and thought we had a similar vision in terms of building a business for a fast-moving consumer goods supply chain,” says Cummins.

“Transport was in his blood, from his assets, from a young age. He had his own trucks, he had a European transport business where he had trucks going to Germany and France,” adds Cummins about his business partner.

Geoghegan keeps a low media profile, as does his company Primeline. The last time they made headlines was when Primeline acquired Johnson Brothers, one of the biggest sales and marketing distribution firms in Ireland, in 2017. Primeline did a smaller deal recently with Dublin Food Sales. The company was in receivership and Primeline invested €1 million in the company.

“Turnover is vanity and profit is vanity. Cash is reality.”

Tim Cummins

“That business has been very much challenged with Covid. It has scaled down by about 50 per cent. We know the owners there, two young guys, so we put an investment in. And it’s complementary to what we do,” says Cummins.

Although Primeline may have a low profile, it is a leading supply chain provider in the country, employs around 700 people and has another 300 indirect employees. These are drivers who have a contract with Primeline, for example.

When Cummins first joined Primeline, he was still working with Omada. He realised he wanted to devout all of his attention to Primeline and left Omada in 2003.

“I was selling security in the morning and doing logistics in the afternoon,” says Cummins.

Cummins states that Primeline is already using supply chaine routes that bypass the UK.

Through the years, the company has formalised itself somewhat. Cummins explains that he and Geoghegan together worked equally on the business and had a majority share in the privately-owned B2B company. To expand it, though, they used their job titles more and Geoghegan assumed the role of chairman while Tim Cummins became CEO.

Since Cummins joined in the early noughties, Primeline has enjoyed the boom days, suffered during the bust and diversified.

“We’re kind of joined at the hip and do all the things that you need to do to sustain and grow a business. We’ve come through 2008/2009 and we came out of that. And Covid-19 is no different,” says Cummins.

A twofold business

When Cummins and Geoghegan began working together, they initially focused on just warehousing stock and the logistics side of the business. Primeline also owns a subsidiary called Primeline VNE, which is a logistics service for telecommunications operating out of its warehouse in Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

“The background of the business was very much a transport-orientated business and we turned it into a fully-fledged supply chain by spending millions on IT systems. Which you’ve got to very heavily invest in as you interface very heavily with your customers,” says Cummins.

In 2011, Cummins and Geoghegan decided to add a marketing and sales piece to the business, which has boosted turnover by €150 million. The logistics division accounts for €100 million of annual turnover, bringing the total to €250 million. These numbers, though, are not the be-all and end-all to veteran businessman Cummins.

“Turnover is vanity and profit is vanity. Cash is reality,” he says.

Primeline’s sales and marketing business enables it to represent a brand in Ireland. By doing this, Primeline can dictate deals on certain products such as ‘2 for 1’ sales and is subsequently responsible for growing the reputation of products on the island of Ireland.

“You’re guarding against all the dock areas in the UK and Ireland being queued and you can’t get stock in.”

Tim Cummins

“We are a distributor for a lot of the large multinationals. Take Mars bars from Mars, we sell them to other retailers such as Dunnes Stores. This piece of the business is similar to the logistics side, however through the sales and marketing piece, Primeline takes ownership of the product in large quantities of stock that they own,” says Cummins.

“Basically, what we do here is we buy the product, then our salespeople and forecasters, who forecast the demand, and 100 sales-reps on the road are going around taking orders from people,” says Cummins.

Primeline dispatches its fleet from a 700,000 sq. ft warehouse in Rathcoole in South Co Dublin where the stock from its clients is stored. Then the clients’ retail partners put in orders to get stock delivered and Primeline puts the product on the shop shelf.

“If you take a bar of Kit-Kat that’s manufactured in York in the UK, we put them on the shelf in most of the retailers and wholesalers in Ireland,” says Cummins.

Tackling both Brexit and Covid-19

While Covid-19 may be playing on everyone’s minds this year, there is another issue in the background which may finally be coming to an end. Or at least the end of the beginning as the UK officially left the EU on January 1, 2021, after nearly five years of Brexit.

Supply chain issues were one of the topics at the centre of Brexit negotiations. Many businesses chose to stockpile goods, which led to huge queues of lorries in the UK.

“A lot of our product, 80 per cent of our product, is coming in from the UK. The key thing that we are gearing up for now is that we’re, in some cases, holding three months of stock and building up huge stock, and that’s been only a logistic side,” says Cummins.

“We’re happy to hold the stock because likes of Musgraves and Dunnes Stores are saying: ‘Guys, you need to hold the stock.’ So that’s holding millions of stock that we’ve had to buy and negotiate for with our brands. There’s huge financial pressure on businesses like ourselves,” he adds.

I spoke to Cummins before the lorry queues began to make headlines. He was already holding stock for his customers to avoid being part of the more recent stockpiling that caused major traffic in the UK.

“But you’re guarding against all the dock areas in the UK and Ireland being queued and you can’t get stock in,” says Cummins.

“We’ve temperature control stations in every single building now. Look, it’s a new world and you’ve got to respond to it.”

Tim Cummins

Ensuring there will be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been a non-negotiable part of Brexit talks for Ireland. The EU and even US President-elect Joe Biden also stated they were opposed to a hard border as it would go against the Good Friday Agreement.

“Obviously the respective Governments will ensure that there isn’t a hard border. It’ll become very much a paper-based exercise after you supply the customer. You’ll be doing your Vat returns every two months. So, you’ll do your return and what you shipped in after the fact,” says Cummins.

On the sales and marketing side, Primeline is already reaching out to places in the EU where it can sell the brands it represents directly.

“So you’re opening up an alternative supply chain route, bypassing the UK. There’s five or six brands we’re actively doing that with,” says Cummins.


Despite the rush to stock up on items like toilet roll at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis here in Ireland, some supply chain services witnessed their business slow down during the lockdown months, and Primeline was no exception. Not only did business slow, but, like everyone, Primeline had to look at ways to combat Covid while staff work.

“We saw our turnovers drop substantially from March to June. We, unfortunately, had to lay some people off. Being a private business and not a Plc., we were able to keep other people on. So, we had a mixture of four-day weeks, we made salary reductions from director level down,” says Cummins.

Some Primeline employees are working from home, which has meant further investment in tech and laptops as well as ensuring broadband works in each employee’s home, says Cummins.

“We still have the guts of 200 to 300 people working here in Ashbourne in various warehouses,” he adds, and social distancing is being enforced while people are working.

“You have to be hugely cognisant of the fact that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And we’ve had instances and people tested positive. So, we’ve temperature control stations in every single building now. Look, it’s a new world and you’ve got to respond to it,” he adds.

Maintaining the flow of the supply chain

As many businesses are still nursing the trauma that the pandemic continues to spread, Primeline and other supply chain companies had highs and lows this year.

“We’re obviously deemed an essential service, given that we’re providing food and essentials into retail and just keeping that flow of supply chain robust to date,” says Cummins.

“We’ve a network around the country, different depots around the country. They’d be dependant on Primeline for 80 per cent of their business,” adds Cummins.

Primeline has a UK-to-Ireland express business for clients that don’t want to hold stock in Ireland. The company picks up goods in the UK and uses consolidation centres in Warrington, outside of Manchester. It then transfers the goods overnight to its main facility in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

“We’re taking the product primarily from the UK. Our customers would be the likes of Nestlé, the likes of Mars, the likes of Ferrero Rocher,” says Cummins.

The UK-to-Ireland model is used for companies like Volvo who use Primeline to deliver spare parts from the UK to garages across Ireland in a timed manner. This express delivery system can complete up to 10,000 deliveries on a weekly basis.

“We’d be probably in about 4,500 to 5000 outlets in Ireland, in all of Ireland, North and South, on a daily basis.”

Tim Cummins

Primeline deals with both the immediate and the more relaxed supply chains. Through its express delivery process, it collects goods from the UK and can have them delivered the next day. It also warehouses many goods for partners such as L’Oreal, and those products can be delivered to retailers on a weekly basis.

Other clients include toothpaste brand Colgate, Premier Foods, which make Bisto gravy, and German pharma-chemical giant Bayer. Primeline supplies wholesale distributors to large supermarkets like Tesco and smaller grocers like the one he once worked in – and where his brother works today.

“We would move probably about 60 million cases of product a year. We moved probably about €2 billion worth of food and drink. We’d be probably in about 4,500 to 5000 outlets in Ireland, in all of Ireland, North and South, on a daily basis,” he adds.

Primeline is also a distributor for alcoholic drinks manufacturers Diageo and Molson Coors, owner of beer brands such as Miller and Blue Moon, into 1,500 pubs and clubs. Molson Coors is operating at about 10 per cent of what it was, according to Cummins.

“That business has just died from last March. That’s the other side. While we’re up on one side, we’re very much down on the other side,” says Cummins.

While many restaurateurs and shops were unsure what to do about the supplier costs, Cummins was on the other side of that, wondering if he would see the cash for the supplies.

“You’re carrying all the receivables so then you’re just wondering to yourself, ‘Jesus, am I going to get paid?’,” he says.

“You have a huge financial challenge when you’re holding stock and you have a lot of balls to juggle to make sure that you’re keeping everything moving, if you like,” adds Cummins.

Although the sales and marketing side of the business works with many food and drink companies, Primeline also works with other retailers such as pharmacies and beauty counters on behalf of clients including Shiseido, a Japanese cosmetic brand.

“They’d be going into your department stores like Brown Thomas and Arnotts and into all of your pharmacies selling fragrance and skincare,” says Cummins.

Primeline works mostly on a reactionary basis depending on the activity of their customers. For example, after Woodies reported a growth in sales, Primeline had to invest to keep up with this demand.

“We opened a new distribution centre last year, which cost us about €10 million, to manage the Woodies business. They’re bringing their product in from China and from the UK and we consolidate here. And then we service 37 superstores,” says Cummins.

“They’ve seen their business double. And we were like, ‘Woah.’ So we’ve gone to 24/7 with them,” he says.