How to use a Franking Machine

Franking machines can be used to post many Royal Mail items such as 1st and 2nd class letters, special delivery items, recorded delivery items, mailsort, cleanmail, parcelforce (worldwide) and airmail/international items. Mailsort and cleanmail are both business services offered by Royal Mail. You can also use the business collections service.

Using a Pitney Bowes DM50

There are many different types of franking machines to choose from and you should think about your business needs and the volume of outgoing mail you will have each day to ensure you choose the right machine. Suppliers will advise you on different models.

The smaller, low volume franking machines are more simple in their design and are suitable for basic franking. Larger businesses with a higher output need a larger, automated machine which can determine the weight, size and thickness of your outgoing mail.

Before using the machine for the first time, you should make sure that the correct tariffs have been updated. When renting the machine, this update should be carried out by the supplier. Some cost centre digital franking machines require that you log in before using. When you have finished with all of your post, always remember to log out again.

Since 2006, postage has been determined by using the Pricing in Proportion guide to decide which category your mail falls into. This is done by the size of the envelope as well as its weight and thickness. Modern large franking machines may link to built in scales to determine weight, meaning that you do not have to work out correct tariffs for your mail because your machine will do it for you.

The smaller models are not likely to feature these scales as a built in option, so you will need to invest in separate postal scales in order to weigh items.

Simply place the letter or parcel onto the scales. The interface is easily used to determine whether you wish the letter or parcel to be sent 1st/2nd class, etc. The larger machines with built in scales will decide the price for you.

The letter is then fed into the machine, facing upwards, and will be automatically franked. Larger machines will feed the mail in bundles, automatically.

For larger packets, you print off a franking label to affix to the parcel, to avoid parcel printing being illegible or the parcel itself becoming creased or damaged.

Machines usually feature the number of letters and parcels that they can frank in an hour. The mid volume models may be able to manage between 3000 and 6000 items each hour, giving you an idea of how fast these machines are. Basic statements of usage are available from almost all models, and the higher volume franking machines will be able to offer statements that are more detailed as well as receipts and invoices.

Your franking machine will be connected to Royal Mail and you will be able to top up its credit by phone or online as regularly as you need to.

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Conditions of using a franking machine

Although using a franking machine is a simple and hassle-free way of processing mail, there are a few conditions that must be met in order for your franked mail to be delivered successfully.

Firstly, any item of franked mail must be sent on the same day that it has been franked. So franking mail in readiness for it to be sent out the following day is not permitted. This also means that you cannot frank an item that is being used as a return envelope. If you are enclosing return envelopes, they must either have a stamp or be prepaid. Also, you must post the mail in the area that is indicated on the franking mark. This mark has to be perfectly clear and legible. Unless otherwise specified, the mark should always be in the top right corner. If you are using special envelopes or parcels that are coloured or patterned in any way, it is advisable to print the franking mark on to labels that can then be attached to the mail in the correct position, as with larger packets.

When sending franked mail, it should always be bundled correctly. So, items of the same size, type and class should be grouped together and there shouldn’t be any non-franked items mixed in. Each bundle should be secured with an elastic band and put in the correct pouch, as supplied by Royal Mail: red pouches for first class and green pouches for second class. For larger items, Royal Mail supplies bags and, in some cases, trays. These pouches, bags or trays can then be taken to a Post Office, although for large items in bags or trays it may be necessary to take them to a Mail Centre, which used to be known as a sorting office.  

The basics

In order to use your franking machine, it will need to have a license from Royal Mail. This will most likely be arranged for you by your supplier, but check to make sure that the machine will be ready to use straightaway. Your supplier will also explain to you the options available for you to keep your machine topped up and in credit. Machines can be credited online, over the  phone or in arrears – the precise method(s) available to you will depend on the model and the nature of your contract with the supplier. Also, make sure that your machine will be automatically kept up to date with Royal Mail’s tariffs so that when there is a change to the postal rates, your machine will be franking at the correct prices.

Replacing ink cartridges

Franking machines use red ink cartridges that correspond to the make and type of the machine. Some machines can only accept cartridges made by the manufacturer of the machine itself. Other machines can accept cartridges that have been made by other suppliers, and these are often less expensive. When selecting a franking machine, it is a good idea to ask about the availability and price range of the ink cartridges it will require.

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