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How To Use a Franking Machine

How to Use a Franking Machine

The video above is a step by step run-down on how to use a franking machine. If you need a refresher on feed-deck mail stacking, managing your settings or how to use the tape strip option, then definitely give it a watch.

The Basic Rules of Posting Franked items

Before discussing how to use a franking machine, we should go over the basic rules for franking, as set by Royal Mail, and which need to be adhered to:

  • Items have to be posted on the same day they are franked.
  • Items must be posted in the area shown by the franking mark.
  • The item should show a clear and legible franking mark. Royal Mail recommends that envelopes and packets that are coloured or patterned have their franking marks printed onto special franking labels that are then adhered to the package.
  • Unless specified otherwise, the mark itself should be situated in the top right hand corner of the mail and must only be printed in red ink.
  • Franking impressions cannot be used in place of a stamp on a return envelope because the franked item needs to be posted on the same day as it is franked, and posted from the same area.
  • Once franked, the mail needs to be sorted into bundles according to class, letters or packets. It should be secured with an elastic band and each item in the bundle facing upwards with the franking mark to the right. Royal Mail will provide red pouches for bundled first class mail, green pouches for bundled second class mail, and will expect you to use a different coloured pouch for each specific envelope size. For larger amounts of mail, Royal Mail provides bags, and for the very largest volumes of mail, trays and containers are supplied. Regardless of whether bags, trays or pouches are used, the mail still needs to be sorted by class and service.
  • Anything that hasn't been franked (for example, business reply envelopes and stamped envelopes) should not be placed in with franked mail, but handed in separately. This also applied to anything with signed-for delivery.
  • The franked mail can be posted by a few different methods. Pouched mail can be taken to a Post Office or Royal Mail Enquiry Office, or a sorting office (Mail Centre). Trays and bags should be taken to the Mail Centre. Small amounts of franked mail can be posted at agreed post boxes, as long as Low Volume envelopes are used. Royal Mail can also provide Business Post Boxes and, for an annual fee (currently starting at £600) they will collect from the businesses' premises. Large volume users (spending over £15,000 per annum on Royal Mail services) can have collections for free.

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Franking Machine Basics

The franking machine will require a red ink cartridge corresponding to your make and model. The correct size envelopes should be used; machines are all designed to frank the most commonly used sizes of envelopes and packets but for anything larger, franking labels will have to be used and adhered to the package.

The franking machine will require a licence in order to be used; these are obtained through Royal Mail. It is then either topped up with credited postage paid for in advance, or postage is paid for in arrears by an invoice printed out through the machine. Payment methods may be through a modem, over the phone, via a website or through the post. Some of the companies who maintain this service for you may make a charge for the machine to be topped-up.

The franking machine will also require programming with the latest postal tariffs from Royal Mail. These tariffs are usually maintained through the company who provides the machine, and the company may make a charge for updating the tariff to the machine.

A yearly inspection of the machine is required by Royal Mail. This can be carried out by any engineer who has been approved by Royal Mail.

Any machine servicing and breakdown cover may not be supplied as part of the purchase or lease agreement and should be negotiated with the machines' supplier.

Franking Machine Extra Features

Some models of franking machine are designed to make the task of franking as fast and efficient as possible. These are usually designed for mid and large volumes of mail. The basic models for low volume use may lack some or many of these features, or be limited on the features.

Digital weigh scales are not always a standard feature of a franking machine. In some models they are an additional extra that can be connected to the machine, while in other models there may be no facility for directly weighing the items to be franked (requiring the purchase of a separate weigh scale).

Some franking machines come with the basic ability to add a company logo or a message, with greater features for the high volume models. The mid and high volume models may have an automatic letter feed but the low volume models usually require manual feeding of the items. Another feature that is useful for the larger business is the addition of cost centres which allow individuals and departments to send post from their own budgets.

Franking machines usually have a quoted number of items that they can frank in an hour. Mid volume machines can generally frank between 3,000-6,000 items per hour, allowing the franking process to be done in the fastest time. Virtually all franking machines are able to provide a basic statement of the franking usage and more detailed statements, invoices and receipts are supplied in the higher usage models.

Producing Franked Mail

The letter to be franked is placed onto the weigh scales. In the case of mechanical scales, the weight will need to be manually entered or selected from the user interface on the franking machine. Digital scales attached to the machine do not require this.

The class and type of item to be posted is selected from the franking machines user interface (e.g. first or second class, letter, large letter of packet). Many machines will calculate the charge from the weight but a few may require this to be selected from the tariff. Other details such as company logo, return address or message can also be selected for the franking process.

Once the correct details have been selected, the letter is fed through and into the machine, face upwards. Some machines have an automatic feeder function. The letter is franked and ready to be sorted and bundled for posting.

If the machine has a cost centre feature, it may require that the user logs in before using the machine. The user shouldn't forget to log out after completing their franking!

Next Steps

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