Making it Work

How an engineering firm started in a Dublin shed grew to employ 150 people

EES Ireland provides engineering and machinery parts to large businesses and has picked up some major clients over the years, including Hewlett-Packard and Diageo

Robert Keatinge, the company’s chief executive EES Ireland Picture: Fergal Phillips

EES Ireland may now have 150 staff across Dublin, the US and Britain, but Robert Keatinge, the company’s chief executive, is fond of its humble origins. Catherine Hynes, Keatinge’s sister, started the business with her husband Tommy out of a small shed back in 1991.

EES, which is headquartered in Clondalkin in Dublin, provides engineering and machinery parts to large businesses.

“The growth really started around 18 years ago, when Hewlett-Packard was seeking a single supplier for all of its parts. We were the smallest firm doing what we did, but they loved our honesty and how upfront we were,” Keatinge told the Business Post.

“That was the step change for the business. We expanded into supplying more products, from cleaning supplies to TVs to office lamps.”

The breadth of what his business provides means that Keatinge said even he finds it difficult to explain what EES does, but it has picked up some significant clients over the years – it supplies to 50 sites for Diageo alone.

“We’re a single source supplier of predominantly engineering material. We come in and manage the supply chain. We take over everything, procurement, delivery and storage of parts, all the way to the scrapping and recycling of parts,” Keatinge said. “It’s full end to end. The value for a client like Diageo is that they can concentrate on making beer while we make sure the machines are kept running.”

The business took on investment of €10 million from MML Capital in 2019, a year after Keatinge took charge.

“Our ethos is about being low margin and high volume over many years, whereas other suppliers may seek to max out the first short-term contract. The result has been that we’ve never lost a customer since day one of the business,” Keatinge said.

“Companies have come and gone in Ireland, but we’ve been able to move with them internationally. Likewise, when people we’ve worked with from one client move to another, they bring us with them to their new employer. We’re an open book with no pages missing, we stick to what we’ve shown the client with costs from the start.”

Keatinge said this has enabled organic growth for the company into international markets, first to Britain with Diageo. That, coupled with the MML investment, has allowed the business to move into the US where it is working with Abbott, the pharmaceuticals giant.

“All of our customers who have operations in the US are quite interested in seeing if we can replicate what we do in Ireland and Britain in the US. It’s very exciting for us,” Keatinge said.

He said that support from Enterprise Ireland has been crucial in the business growing internationally.

“When we took on the investment from MML, we were choosy about who we worked with. Enterprise Ireland backed them and us. They provided technical support, gave us grants for equipment, and have introduced us to key contacts in the US,” he said. “They definitely accelerated our success. As we grow into the US, that support will stand to us.”

This Making It Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland