Installing a Franking Machine
Once a business has made the decision to reduce their postage costs and increase their efficiency by investing in a franking machine, there are a number of steps involved in actually using it.
As for setting it up, many franking machines are self-install models, and can be set up reasonably quickly, though some will come with the option to be installed by a trained engineer.
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Firstly you will need to decide where the machine is to be placed. It requires a flat surface, close proximity to both a phone and a power socket and space to process the mail.
You will need to connect the feed deck and stacker (if you opt for one) to the main body of the machine.
The next step is to connect the cables, firstly the power cable, and then the cable which connects to the phone socket.
If you have chosen to have an art card, then this will need to be inserted, after which the power can be turned on, both at the socket and on the machine itself.
Following the initial installation, the machine will then need to be configured to ensure the postage rates are set correctly, and any logos or messages you want to include are set up.
Configuring a Franking Machine
The exact configuration process will depend on the model you are using, but the first step will be to update the machine with the correct postage rates for each different class of mail.
The control centre will display step by step instructions for setting up the machine, by simply pressing the required buttons.
At this time, you will also be able to load credit into your machine. This is usually done in units of £10 up a maximum limit which will be set by the franking machine company.
Often suppliers of these machines charge each time you re-credit, so it can be worthwhile loading a higher amount to avoid more charges than are necessary.
Installing the Ink & Calibrating
Once this is completed, you can install the ink cartridges into the machine. You will need to remove the protective tape prior to installation, and some models require two cartridges to be fitted on first use.
The ink cartridges will then need to be calibrated through an adjustment test, details of which will appear on the control panel. This test may need to be repeated a couple of times until the cartridges are correctly aligned.
Lastly, you can use the control panel to set any messages you wish to appear alongside your franking mark. It is possible for franking machines to hold several different messages allowing you to choose those that best suit the group you are mailing.
Franking the Mail
To use your franking machine you will need to have a supply of envelopes available, and it is advisable to do a test run so you can be sure you are confident at using the machine.
If the items you are sending are of a particularly heavy nature, then they will need to be placed on the weighing scale prior to franking.
If the scales are digital they will automatically enter the weight and if they are manual you will have to enter this information yourself. Likewise, if the items are more bulky than usual, then the machine may have to be altered using the thickness adjustment knob.
The user then selects the class of postage they wish to use and any special requirements e.g. airmail on the control panel. The logo and message you want to use can also be chosen at this point.
Once this is done, the letter is placed face upwards on to the feed deck, and depending on the machine you have chosen, the letters will be fed in automatically, or you may have to do it manually.
The letters will then appear at the other end of the machine to be held in a neat pile in the stacker until you are ready to send them to post. Some machines offer cost centre functions and password protection, which may require people to log in prior to franking any mail.
Posting Franked Mail
To post the items you have franked, there are a number of procedures set down by the Royal Mail that you must follow listed on the franked mail section of the Royal Mail website.
Any mail that is franked must be posted on the same day and in the area shown on the franking mark. If you miss the last post, then the mail must be re-franked with the next day's date.
For an item to be accepted by Royal Mail, the frank must be in the top right hand corner of the letter, in red ink, and be a clear legible print. If you ship goods in coloured packaging, then it is recommended than you frank onto a label that is then stuck onto the mail.
Franked mail has to be sorted into bundles of letters in the same class with the franking mark facing upwards. These bundles are then placed into special pouches which are supplied by the Royal Mail.
First class mail goes into red pouches and second class mail into green pouches. If you produce large volumes of mail daily, then the Royal Mail will supply your business with mail sacks or trays for you to place your post into. It is important you do not place any non-franked mail in with the franked mail bundles.
Where to Post Franked Mail?
When it comes to posting your franked mail a business will have a number of options. Mail can be posted in post boxes, which have a dedicated franked mail slot, so long as a low volume envelope has been used.
Alternatively, the items can be taken to any Post Office or mail sorting centre which can be found using the Royal Mail branch finder.
If you want the Royal Mail to collect the post from your business they do provide business post boxes, with fees starting from fourteen pounds for a one off collection to £1,700 plus VAT per year for a regular timed weekday collection.
If your business spends more than fifteen thousand pounds annually with the Royal Mail, then they offer a free weekday collection, with the collection time mutually agreed between the two parties. There are further charges if your business is not on the ground floor or if you are sending international mail.
On-going Use of a Franking Machine
Whether you choose to buy or rent your franking machine, you are will have to have a licence from the Royal Mail to use your machine.
This document can often be arranged by the machine's supplier. In addition, one of the conditions of ownership of a franking machine is that it is inspected annually to ensure it is working correctly.
If you do make mistakes while operating your franking machine, the Royal Mail offer refunds for incorrect prints. The amount refunded is the value of the frank less a 15 per cent administration charge.
Any refunds claimed need to be sent to the Royal Mail within six months of the print being made, and the total claim must be for more than ten pounds.
If your machine breaks down, the Royal Mail offers a machine breakdown service where they will frank the mail for you, for a fee of the postage plus 20 per cent. To use this service you have to contact the Royal Mail on 08457 950 950.