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. providers will advise you on different models.

The low volume franking machines are compact and simple in their design and ideal for handling up to 30 items of mail a day. Businesses with a higher output need a larger, automated machine that determines the weight, size and thickness of your outgoing mail.

In the past, it was necessary to make sure that the correct tariffs have been updated on your franking machine. The new breed of SMART franking machines use LAN connectivity to automatically update postal rates so you always pay the correct postage for your mail and will never incur surcharges. They also enable you to access the latest Royal Mail postal services.

Postage is determined by 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.

Current franking machines have integrated or linked scales to determine weight and automatically calculate the correct tariffs for your mail. You’ll enjoy substantial discounts when you chose franking over stamps and in 2014 the Royal Mail introduced Mailmark™ franking, its most cost-efficient tariff using a machine-readable 2D barcodes. 

Simple to use

Place your item onto the scales, select letter, large letter or parcel, UK or international and the class [1st or 2nd]. The high-volume franking machines with integrated scales will determine the price for you.

Feed the letter into the machine, facing upwards, and a franked mark is stamped onto the envelope, together with your company logo and a slogan or corporate message if you choose. High-capacity franking machines feed the mail in bundles automatically.

For larger packets, you print onto a self-adhesive franking label and affix to the parcel to avoid printing being illegible or the parcel being damaged.

Manufacturers will publish the volume of letters and parcels a franking machines can process; some mid-volume models handle up to 6,000 items an hour, which gives you an indication of the speed of these franking machines. SMART and digital franking machines will provide reporting features that enable you to record usage, spend by user, department and class of post as well as reclaim VAT for Royal Mail VATable products and services.

Conditions for 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, to a Mail Centre [formerly sorting offices] or collected by arrangement. 

The basics

In order to use your franking machine, it will need to have a license from Royal Mail. This is usually arranged by your provider and they’ll explain the options available for you to keep your machine topped up and in credit. Franking machines can be credited online via LAN or analogue telephone line, on the telephone or in arrears by invoice – the precise methods available to you will depend on the model and the nature of your contract with the provider. Make sure that your franking machine is 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 ink cartridges that correspond to the make and type of the franking machine [for example, blue ink indicates a Smart Meter and red ink denotes a standard franking machine]. Some franking machines can only accept cartridges made by the manufacturer, others accept “generic” cartridges made by other providers and these are often less expensive. When selecting a franking machine, it is a good idea to ask about the availability and price of the ink cartridges it will require.

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