How The Muzzle Movement muzzles are made?
This is the first of a series of blog posts showing you the behind the scenes process, how we got to where we are and what steps we have learnt along the way!
This time we are going to walk you through our design to manufacture process from start to finish! Remember the muzzle movement is only just 2 years old, prior to this we had never ran a business before! Let alone launched an entirely new, ground breaking product!
We had to learn everything as we went, we don't have any angel investors, or silent partners. We are a tiny team, but we have got big dreams!!
We start with measurements based on a 'type' of dog we would like to create a size for, this is usually based on customer feedback but sometimes because we feel this is a size that is likely to be popular. We begin creating a 3D model of this size, at this early stage we aren't worried too much about the 'aesthetics' we are really focused on making sure that this muzzle is going to be functional and fit the dogs that we wanted it to.
Sometimes this is easy, if we are releasing a size that is closely based on a pre-existing size but with some changes like additional pant room.
Other times, this is very challenging, because we are designing our muzzles from scratch, we aren't using another muzzle companies measurements or style, because we want to create something that is uniquely designed with the wearer in mind.
Once we have an initial design we are happy with, we get this model 3D printed.
Before we ever try this size on a dog, we look for obvious flaws in design like if the nose band will sit as intended, if there are any large gaps or holes that need to be made smaller, if there are any bars that are going to impact the dogs comfort and we go back to the drawing board and make any edits required!
We usually work our way through a couple of prototypes at this stage, without yet even trying them on the intended faces!
Once we are happy with the basic shape and fit of the nose band, we will search through our contacts in rescue looking for dogs that fit within our anticipated range!
We then ask our friends to get us some video footage of the desired dogs doing some fun muzzle training. We try and make sure we get a variety of different dogs that we think are likely to fall within this new sizes recommended range. Some of these dogs are completely muzzle trained, others have never seen a muzzle before.
We would never ask anyone to put a muzzle on a dog, unless the dog was pre-conditioned to a muzzle and comfortable with the process. These prototype sessions are usually good fun for both the dog and the handler!
This stage can take weeks, as we are working with rescues, and due to having worked in rescue ourselves we know the time pressures that come with this type of environment!
We also ask our rescue friends for any feedback, such as was the treat hole in the right position and we usually ask for photos to better understand any feedback provided.
We analyse the video footage, looking specifically at how the muzzle fits on the different dogs faces.
What we are look for at this stage is:
- Do these dogs have enough room to pant?
- Is the treat hole in the right postion?
-does the muzzle fit well on the dogs cheeks?
- Is the muzzle the right length?
- is there anything that is obstructing the vision?
- are there any areas where we think the holes are to big?
- does the nose band sit correctly on the dogs face?
- are there any other fit related concerns?
Usually there is lots of work that needs to be done! We will often go back to the 3D drawing and make lots of edits, before reprinting and starting the process over again, trying it on the same dogs a second time if we can, but hopefully by this stage they have gone home! So often it is a new lot of dogs!
These 4 stages can take months, usually we have a minimum of 5 different prototypes printed, before we release anything publicly!
Okay now we are confident we are on the final prototype, we do a few things simultaneously!
1) We go back to our rescue friends and ask them to gather as much high quality video footage and photos as possible, and we start to explore family and friends who might have dogs that fit within this size range. The aim here is to begin gathering content to use to show you this size on social media.
2) we get the final measurements, including with the two different widths of nose band, and we upload these measurements to our pre-order store so people can pre order this size based on measurements alone (which should be all you need, as you cannot size based on breed!)
3) We do a size comparison on our instagram highlights, showing this size compared to our other pre-existing sizes, this is saved into our 'new size information' highlight.
and finally 4) we add the final touches to the 3D model, such as branding, size name, bevel any edges, and make sure we are happy with how to muzzle looks aesthetically.
The muzzle now begins the fund raising phase! Manufacturing an injection moulded muzzle is extremely expensive. The tooling for the injection mould costs around £18,000-£30,000 (per size!).
In order to raise these funds, we save money from the sales of our current sizes, but we also raise funds through pre orders. We set a target, which is usually the amount of muzzles we need to sell of this size, in order to be able to start manufacturing, to allow people to order their desired size, without being charged until the manufacturing process begins.
During this period of fund raising we are in discussions with our manufacturers to make sure that the predicted quotes don't change. As sometimes, it can take months from when we initially release a size for pre-order, to beginning manufacturing. And during this time there can sometimes be additional costs incurred such as the price of materials changing.
We have hit our target and no have the funds we need, so we pay our manufacturers 50% upfront and start building the injection mould.
This is an extremely lengthy process and takes approximately 12-16 weeks, depending on the time of year and what other projects they have happening at the same time.
Throughout that 12-16 week period, we continue to gather footage of prototypes on dogs and promote across social media in order to raise the funds for the second payment which is due in order to begin making the moulds themselves.
The injection mould tooling is finished! We now get what is called a final sample, which instead of a 3D print, is an injection moulded sample of our final product. this is the last opportunity we have to make any additional changes - and even then the changes that we can make at this stage are extremely limited and usually incur an additional fee.
We use this sample to ensure that we have an accurate understanding of what the strapping and nose bands need to be and once we are happy we pay the second instalment and we proceed with making the moulds!
At this stage, it's all things go! We have lots to do, and very little time to do it!
Usually we have sold a huge number of muzzles in advance of the moulds arriving with us at our warehouse. Which means we have hundreds of different biothane parts to make!
So whilst we are busy making all the nose bands and straps, a stage that we can't do until we have had the final sample and are certain that all measurements are correct and final. This usually means that we have to rope in additional hands, like temporary workers, friends and family.
We also update all of the people that have pre-ordered this size, because ship date is now almost upon us! which means everyone needs to confirm their address hasn't changed and that they don't want to make any last min changes to their order.
At the same time, the manufacturers are injection moulding hundreds of muzzles!
Our muzzles are made from Polyethylene, which is a commonly used plastic that can be used for anything from food and drink containers to replacement knee joints!
Each time the manufacturer switches the plastic colour, the machine has to be flushed clean. Which means that we have a minimum order we have to meet, we can't simply order 30 or 40 pastel pink, we have to make sure it's cost effective for both us and for them! This is usually costly, because although we have usually sold lots of muzzles at this point, we are normally ordering even more than we have sold.
Now we have all of the biothane parts ready, the muzzles are delivered to our unit in the hundreds or thousands!
We now have the mammoth task of attaching all of the strapping, which is all done in house at our own unit. The reason we do this ourselves, is to give you the choice to pick everything from hardware colour, to biothane colour, to fastening type.
If we were to outsource this we would loose the ability to remain flexible and you wouldn't have the ability to design and choose your perfect colour scheme! Plus it's the best bit anyway! Making your muzzles by hand brings us so much joy!
We have a number of different machines that help us save time, keep an eye our for a future blog where we can share the lessons we have learned along the way!