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Many businesses are deciding to invest in franking machines thanks to Royal Mail’s generous discounts combined with the convenience and efficiency of having a franking machine in the office. Any business that is sending regular outgoing mail can reap the benefits; saving time and money with every piece of mail sent.
Franking machines are available in a wide range of sizes and include a host of features as well as optional extras, this means every business from small start-ups to huge corporations can find one to suit their needs. It’s all well and good deciding to get a franking machine but not many people have used them before, this makes the process seem daunting and complicated at first for many employees. Luckily, they are simple to use and have been built with usability in mind, so read on as we take you through all you need to know.
How a Franking Machine Works
In order to be able to use the franking machine effectively, we first need to have an idea of how it works and the key parts that we will encounter when we want to use it. As the appearance and features change depending on whether the model you are using is low volume, medium volume or high volume we are going to discuss using a standard, low volume machine. These tend to be manually operated compared to the higher volume options that are mostly automated.
The key parts of a standard franking machine are:
- Scales – the majority of models have a built-in scale, although sometimes the scale will be external and offered as an additional extra. Weighing the items is vitally important to calculating the correct postal price (this is why it’s so important for the scale to always be in proper working order).
- Display screen – some models have a high-tech touchscreen display, for example Frama manufactured machines come with Frama ComTouch technology, whereas others have a small LCD screen.
- Keyboard/ control buttons – There will often be several control buttons around the screen to allow the easy input of information. Buttons often include a keyboard/ number pad, a start and stop button and navigation keys.
- Printer slot – This is where the envelope or label will be inserted in order to print the franked mark. Medium and high-volume machines will usually have an automatic feeder that takes the envelopes through the printer for you – they will appear on the other side of the device franked and ready to go!
On medium and high volume models you will most likely also have:
- Automatic envelope feeder
- Automatic envelope sealer + stacker
- Franking Mail for the First Time
Before starting, make sure you have plenty of envelopes (and labels if necessary) available, it is also recommended you do a test run on your first use.
When you want to frank a piece of mail you first need to weigh the item on the built-in scale, the weight system means there is no chance of you overpaying for the postage (something that is very common when using stamps). On models with mechanical scales, you have to type the weight in on the display whereas when using digital scales this happens automatically.
Next, you will need to select the appropriate size and service of the mail you are sending. If there are any special requirements e.g. airmail you would include this information now.
Then, you can add any business or promotional message you wish to include. This is done on the simple, easy to use screen and keypad/ touchscreen. Using all of this information the correct postage cost will be automatically calculated and now you are ready to print.
To print, either insert the upwards facing envelope or label (if you are sending larger mail) into the printer slot. Some models, especially medium and high volume ones, will automatically feed the envelopes into the printing slot. Your letter will then be ready and waiting on the other side of the machine. Once the mail is franked you can sort and send, simple!
The above process can vary depending on the model you are using but the fundamentals remain the same. Using a low volume model will be notably different from using a high volume model. The low volume machine will be small, compact and mostly manually operated. High volume machines are incredibly fast and automated, with the ability to frank thousands of letters per hour with very little assistance. You can send first class, second-class and special delivery mail to UK and international destinations.
The Royal Mail offer refunds on any incorrect prints so if you do happen to make a mistake it’s not a problem. In order to qualify for a refund, the claim needs to be submitted within 6 months of the incorrect print and the total claim must equal more than £10. You will receive a refund minus a 15% administration fee. If your franking machine breaks down, Royal Mail can frank your mail for you as part of their breakdown service – this will cost the postage fees + 20%.
Important Points to Remember
Now that you can confidently and efficiently use a franking machine, there are a few important things to remember:
- The post needs to be sent on the same day it is franked.
Always make sure the date is correct before you frank mail as if the date is incorrect or if you miss the last post on that day, you will need to re-frank the mail with the correct date.
- The mark needs to be clear, readable and applied in the top right-hand corner of the envelope.
Your mail will not be accepted if the mark is smudged or unclear or it has been applied somewhere else on the envelope. If you are sending mail in a coloured package it is strongly advised you use a label to make sure the franked mark is clear and eligible.
- Red ink corresponding to the machines make and model should be used.
Red ink indicates franked mail whereas blue ink signifies a Smart Meter.
- Make sure the postage rates are up to date before you begin.
Automatic updates are common but if you are not sure whether or not yours is automatic it is always good to double check.
- Your franking machine must be inspected annually.
This inspection must be carried out by a Royal Mail approved engineer.
- Do not mix franked and unfranked mail.
Send any stamped or reply envelopes separately from your franked mail.
- Franked mail cannot be used for return envelopes.
You must use stamps or prepaid postage as franked mail can only be sent on the day it is franked.
- Mail can only be posted in the area indicated on the franked mark.
This is why it is important for your franking machine to be registered and licensed to your business and business address.
What Is Needed Before Mail Can Be Franked?
Your machine will need to be licensed and topped up with credit in order to be used. You can top up your postal credit either online, via the phone or through invoices. The way you top up will depend on the model, your preference and your contract with the provider. You may need to replace the ink cartridge after some use, the ink cartridge should be red in colour and keep in mind that some models only accept the manufacturers ink cartridges rather than generic ones, so make sure the cartridge you buy is compatible with your machine.
Bundling Franked Mail
Your franked mail has to be arranged in a certain way before it can be given to the Royal Mail to be sent. Items that are bundled together must be of the same size, type and class and should include only franked mail. Once the mail is bundled together and secured using an elastic band it can be organised into the corresponding trays, pouches or bags (these are supplied by Royal Mail).
Red signifies first class mail and green signifies second class mail. The trays, pouches or bags can be taken to the closest Post Office, Mail Centre or (for a fee) Royal Mail can collect your franked mail each day. Franked mail can only be posted in regular post boxes using special low volume envelopes, however there are also mailboxes specifically for franked mail but these tend to be found more around business districts.
We hope you agree that using a franking machine is a very straight forward process when you know how. Once it’s up and running you should experience very few problems, just remember to keep the credit and ink topped up. If you want to hear more about getting the most from your franking machine or you’re interested in buying or leasing a machine, do not hesitate to contact us as we are always happy to help.