Anyone who has ever had a dog hide under their kitchen table during the fourth of July fireworks can understand where Susan Hansen, of Burlington, WA, was coming from when she decided to develop CrittEar earplugs for dogs. Canines have uniquely strong hearing that can make loud noises physically painful for them. Susan Hansen recognized this and came up with a fantastic way to combat the issue and anxiety causes by loud noises, by using uniquely structured veterinary medical products.
Susan was relatively new to the invention process, as well as mass-market manufacturing when she came to us with her idea. We collaborated with her to create a solution to a common pain point she discovered and learned a bit about the manufacturing process ourselves along the way.
Four Takeaways From Developing CrittEar
“When you’re green, you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you’re rotting.” Those words, spoken by American business tycoon Ray Kroc, are particularly pertinent in the research and development industry where there is always something new to learn. At Pacific Research Labs, we take every opportunity to grow our knowledge from the products we develop. Here are just a few of the things we learned while working on Susan’s unique CrittEar project.
#1: Partnership is possible at any stage
When Susan came to us, she had an existing 3D printed prototype. However, rather than simply continuing in the process, we reviewed that prototype to see how it could be improved and made adjustments with Susan’s understanding & permission. We cast a silicone mold from her existing design and made a few test products for her to evaluate. After a few iterations, we had samples that were adequate for her to test in dogs.
#2: Function comes before fashion
The samples we created for Susan weren’t aesthetically perfect, as she wanted a different, more eye-catching color. However, the model and design materials were down, which meant that Susan could move forward to the testing phase, and we could work on the aesthetic portions of the product based on that feedback.
#3. First-person feedback isn’t always possible
While it’s great to get actual user feedback when workshopping a product, it isn’t always possible. That was the case with the CrittEar. The dogs using them couldn’t exactly tell us if they worked. However, Susan could, by testing them in various circumstances and evaluating the results. In some cases, we have to rely on customer evaluation to create feedback, but luckily, Susan was able to provide the detailed information we needed to improve on the design.
#4. Scalability is as important as the design
The ability to create a product is just as important as the ability to produce it on a mass scale. We worked with Susan to tweak the formula to the CrittEar and produce the first 300 sets. From there, we further fine-tuned the process, to include purchasing tooling and establishing molds, to achieve consistent quality and begin adding the next sizes.
Choosing a Partner for Veterinary Medical Products
Susan initially came to us because of concerns with the scalability of her prior supplier. From that, we were able to glean a few tips for selecting the best possible production partner for a new idea.
#1: Take a tour
One of the things that gave Susan confidence in our ability to provide the best possible production was a tour of our facilities. By becoming familiar with the space, our equipment, and the tools necessary to develop products, Susan was able to gain greater confidence in our production methods.
#2: Choose a company with a passion for products
Susan has a passion for her product and her business. That makes it fun for us to do the work and makes us more prepared to explain our processes to her and ensure she’s on board. Working with a collaborative product design partner ensures that the person who creates your idea is just as invested as you. That starts when the company’s passion for design equals your own.
#3. Only move forward with full confidence
Creators need to be careful with the partners they choose. When Susan came to us, she did so because she’d had some concerns about the ability of her prior partner to create her product for the mass market. Luckily, she was early enough that little money was wasted, and we were able to pick up the process quickly. However, choosing the wrong partner early in the process can create issues that are difficult to fix if too much time passes. Proper vetting now can save thousands of dollars in the production phase.
Veterinary medical products are unique and require a partnering company that’s just as unique to manage their development. A good partner is prepared to learn along with their client, so they can continuously improve their process. With smart vetting, creators can form connections with producers that take them through the design stage, all the way to mass production, with as little interruption as possible.