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AEF’s Managing Director, Tom Finn, shares his insights into the energy, commitment and innovation driving 52 years of success.

Optimism is in the air at AEF, as the dynamic company sets its sights on further growth and innovation after over fifty years in business. AEF, based in Kingswood Business Park, South County Dublin are nationwide suppliers of Construction, Engineering and Industrial products. Now Hardware goods have joined the line-up.

This upbeat assessment from Managing Director Tom Finn says it all: “Like all companies today, the supply-chain and pandemic have been a challenge for us. But with the support of customers and supply partners, and above all, our fantastic team, we have come through it.”

“Over the last 10 years our growth has been bolstered by our inhouse expertise, our service and repair facilities and our exceptional staff championing key brands.”

Since taking the helm in 2020, Tom has ushered in new developments and expansion across many areas of the business and looks forward to keeping up the momentum.

Fifty years a-growing

Founded in the early 1970s, AEF Limited began life as Auto Engineering Factors in Dromartin. Since then, the expanding firm has moved location and in 2008, they bought four purpose-built units in Kingswood Business Park.

The company’s current premises stands at an impressive 12,000sq ft, including a warehouse, a 2,000sq ft office and showrooms.

Last year, AEF doubled its pallet space and added 1,500sq ft of mezzanine floor area, giving Tom and his team extra capacity to deliver services to their diverse customer base.

Services include inhouse servicing and repair.

This additional floorspace also helps the team improve stockholding of a wide range of products for the construction, engineering and industrial markets, and include hardware supplies.

Strong supplier partnerships are central to offering the trusted products AEF customers want.

As Tom explains: “We take pride in aligning and partnering ourselves with high quality, globally renowned brands like Alvenius, Cat, Irwin Hilmor, JOBOX, Metabo, FLEX, RIDGID, Signet, Oerlikon, Eclipse and WASK/Crane.”

Delivering for customers

While AEF’s customer base are primarily Merchants and Engineering resellers, the company also hold national tenders with big groups such as Gas Networks, Dublin Bus, Bus Eireann and Boliden Tara Mines.

In recent years, AEF has expanded even further by moving into the promising hardware sector and tailoring their product offering specifically for that market.

This growth has given AEF greater scope to meet the high expectations of their customers.

“We have seen increasing demand in recent years from our customers for more flexibility and availability of stocks,” says Tom. “Resellers expect us as distributors to have the stock they need when they need it.”

AEF’s nationwide distribution network, using their own vans, ensures all customers receive a next day delivery service, with many customers in the Dublin area receiving a same day delivery.

Prompt, reliable delivery is yet another way in which the team can demonstrate their full commitment to excellence in customer service.
“We have always prided ourselves on going the extra mile. It is this customer-focused approach that has meant our customer base have been ultra-loyal in the past and continue to be today.”


To stay relevant in such a fast-moving industry, Tom’s number one rule is to not be complacent.

“We are always open to new ranges, areas and innovations. When it comes to innovation, especially when it enhances service to our loyal customers and potential new customers, we regard ourselves as ‘early adopters’”.

The latest examples include the introduction of a new AEF B2B website this summer, enabling customers to order 24/7, check invoicing quotations and stock availability.

The firm is also rolling out new sales rep software. And AEF have introduced a streamlined finance package to reduce the manual input into vendor invoicing and payments. All designed to improve efficiency and communications.

Tom highlights the importance of information and transparency in customer relations.

“I believe the market is getting more savvy, both end-users and the retailers. This means information is needed to help them make the decisions easier. The brands that supply that in an easily accessible format will win.”

“I have always been very open to technology and how it can make your business more efficient. That is why we are investing in this now, to cut out manual administration wherever possible so that staff can perform their roles more effectively.”

Teamwork wins

AEF boasts a 24-strong loyal team, all with an in-depth knowledge of their products and customer base, which Tom says cannot be bought or underestimated.

With an average tenure of 12.5 years (nine staff having been with the business over 25 years), this wealth of product knowledge and experience has been at the heart of, and testament to, AEF’s culture of constant growth and evolution.

Training has always been critical, but Covid prompted AEF to adapt their approach, with online training now regularly used. “Our suppliers expect us to keep our product knowledge updated. Covid made that more difficult, but like most other companies we just had to adapt and do it through different mediums.”

The team learns from its customers too. Customer feedback (positive and negative) is regularly shared, so staff are kept aware and can adapt.

In the last three years, key retirements prompted structural changes to the management team. AEF now has four department heads: David MacNeaney, Finance Director, Ray Timmins, Head of Sales, Eoin Moore, Digital & IT Transformation Manager and Joe Furey, Head of Buying. As MD, Tom`’s own role includes involvement in every facet of the business from marketing, buying, HR, finance and of course sales.

Reaching out

AEF has undergone a major brand revamp since Tom joined the business.

At the same time, the company also began engaging with their customer base through different media – Instagram, email marketing and LinkedIn. Tom and his team plan to expand on these communications in coming months.

“We are partnering with social media influencers that help us show the brands in the best light possible. Going further, we work with these influencers to help the stockists of the ranges we supply to develop their own brand.”

AEF also nurture their long-standing industry relationships, including with Hardware Association Ireland. “We work with HAI and find the supports and tools they provide invaluable. Especially for SMEs like us.”

Recycle, repair, rethink

“Focus on what we can influence,” is how Tom sums up the AEF approach to sustainability.

Sustainability has become a major concern for business and society alike and AEF promotes it in their operations through the use of recycled pallets and boxes, and as members of WEEE, recycling any electrical components and batteries that are beyond repair.

“By offering an in-house repair service, we aim to encourage our customers to repair power tools before deciding to replace them,” Tom states.

Fast forward

There will be ongoing challenges, but Tom believes AEF’s ongoing commitment to innovation and growth will help them prevail, now and in the future.

“The barriers for the hardware sector are no different to others; the market uncertainty, supply chain issues etc. We pride ourselves on having what customers want and we do that by ensuring we stock as much as possible of the range in the brands we represent.”

“I do believe that sometimes as a sector we talk ourselves into decline. There are headwinds on both a global and domestic level. But headwinds for some are tailwinds for others.”

Tom and his team’s primary ambition is to keep growing. “We have been developing new areas with new product ranges over the last 18 months and will continue to do so. We are always looking at opportunities for growth both organically and through potential acquisitions.”

Top Tips and success secrets

Tom’s top tips are: “Ensure your culture is strong, that your staff feel valuable and empowered. I think this keeps them engaged, loyal and an advocate for the business. This helps with staff retention and recruitment and filters out to the customer experience.”

As for AEF’s secrets to success, Tom says “it’s a combination of staff culture, knowledge of the sector, never being complacent, and having products and brands that customers feel add value to their business.”