Transmission & Fluid Equipment, Inc., also known as TFE, Inc., is a family owned company headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Owned by Robert Hughes and his son, Chris, TFE was founded in 1964 by Robert and six other stockholders to distribute fluid power and power transmission products throughout Central Indiana. In 1993, Robert bought out his final, remaining partner, and brought his son, Chris, into the business as a partner.
Since 2000, TFE has opened locations in Indianapolis and another in Fort Wayne. TFE is proud of its superior customer service which includes 24 hour emergency service. Chris Hughes, co-owner and president, is proud of TFE's 24-hour emergency service.
"A lot of our customers work through the night, with third shifts and that sort of thing," he says. "We just want to be there for them during all their active hours. We’ve built a pattern of being there when they call us for any kind of emergency. We feel that helping someone at 3 a.m. may have them think of us during regular hours too."
Over the years TFE has diversified into manufacturing by adding machining, cable and hose assembly to their distribution business. TFE builds to specification and does custom manufacturing and also provides online ordering, bar coding and kits in addition to Kanban or Just-In-Time ordering for customers.
They also provide on-site plumbing of hydraulic systems with hose, tubing and hydraulic adapters. These services complement the full line of Power Transmission products from manufacturers like Dodge/Reliance, Rexnord, Martin Sprocket & Gear, The Gates Rubber Company, IDC-USA and Hub City.
Gates Rubber Corp., a hose, belts and hydraulic hose manufacturer in Denver, has anointed the distributorship a certified hydraulic hose assembly fabricator, and TFE distributes the manufacturer's full industrial hose and hydraulic hose product line. Gates was one of the first lines they picked up, and now TFE is their largest independent distributor in the state.
In recent years, TFE has seen its counter sales and on-line business expand, enabling them to better serve their customers. ISO 9001 certified, TFE is a member of NAHAD (National Association of Hose and Accessories Distributors) and PTDA (Power Transmission Distributors Association).
TFE started with good, high-quality lines, and hasn't diverged from that path. Chris takes pride in the fact that TFE is an independent distributor without hundreds of locations across the country like some of their competitors. Chris keeps on top of the marketplace by his involvement in a small business forum, serving on the board of the Distributors Cooperative-USA (IDC-USA) and other local organizations.
TFE started utilizing Tribute in 1998 and has continued to add Tribute products over the years. “Tribute offers us so many ways to track our business and allows us the flexibility to create reports that are specific for our management needs. The counter sales program has been a very good fit for us,” says Al Ensley Jr., TFE’s controller.
“The key for me is the knowledge of Tribute’s support staff. The person answering when the support call is made does not guess at an answer - they will take the time to make sure that the solution for our problem is correct. That is very important to me,” Ensley states.
The family atmosphere that the Hughes’ work hard to have at TFE and longevity among employee staff is a point of pride with Robert and Chris Hughes. Hughes states, “We know that, especially in a tough economy, that the most important asset is our employees."
Fort Wayne & Indianapolis