The Daunting thought of Prevention & Cure
Franking machines are just that - machines. And as with any machine, they need a bit of TLC every now and then to keep them running smoothly. On the surface, franking machines may look complex, but there's a few simple ways that users can care for the devices to prevent sub-optimal performance and reduce the risk of breakdown.
Even if a breakdown does occur, it doesn't always mean fishing out the catalogue and handing over cash for a new machine. Franking machine maintenance doesn't have to be a challenge, users just need to know the appropriate steps to take. And if it does all seem a bit mission impossible, don't panic! There are plenty of help options available, ensuring users get the absolute best from their office technology.
One of the easiest ways to keep a franking machine running smoothly is to keep it free from everyday dust and dirt which could build up and clog the internals, specifically the rollers and ink sources. The outer casing should be cleaned weekly with a damp cloth and a little bit of liquid soap if there's any stubborn markings. When using water for cleaning, be sure to disconnect the machine from the power source first. The internals exposed from removal of the outer casing should be wiped with a clean and dry cloth.
If a franking machine has been leased on a contract basis, there may be a legal requirement to have the device serviced at regular intervals, usually annually. In terms of Royal Mail leases, franking machines will need to be inspected each year at the owner's premises to ensure all parts are working correctly.
How to Clean a Franking Machine?
Keeping your franking machine free of paper dust is important to maintain a good performance. Postal Manager Eleanor tell us how to clean a franking machine.
"All you have to do is get either a damp cloth or an air duster and spray it out. That's it. This is to prevent a build up of paper dust which could cause your machine to jam. The other thing you do want to keep clean is the part in the franking machine where the ink comes out. If you get a buildup of ink it's going to come out quite bumpy on your letters, which you don't want, and it does waste a lot of ink as well. But as long as you keep it clean, you should have no problems whatsoever."
When Things Go Wrong
If imprints are starting to look faded, are missing lines or are not showing up at all, the ink ribbon cassette may need replacing. Much like a traditional music or video cassette, ink cassettes only have so much ribbon, and when this comes to an end, it's time for a new one. Some franking machines have an automatic function that will tell users when it's time for a replacement.
Replacing the ink ribbon cassette is simple and is something that can be done by users themselves. Cassettes can be purchased from any dedicated stationers and the process simply involves removing the old cassette and inserting the new one. Users may wish to perform a few test prints before printing paid postage.
A common problem with franking machines, especially if the rollers have been allowed to build up with dust, is envelopes becoming jammed in the device. If this happens, don't start frantically tugging at the paper as this could cause tearing, making it even more difficult to remove all the pieces. Instead, unplug the machine from the power source and try to gently ease the envelope out from underneath the rollers. This method reduces the risk of damage to the device.
Who To Call
If a franking machine breaks down, or self maintenance is just a bit too daunting, there are endless companies out there who offer servicing contracts and breakdown cover for the devices. If a franking machine is leased, maintenance may already be built into the contract (although beware of any hidden costs, such as extra charges for repairs) but if the machine is bought outright, a standalone contract will need to be sourced.
Royal Mail and Pitney Bowes are two of the most popular suppliers of maintenance contracts for franking machines although their renowned reputation may mean prices are slightly more than lesser known companies. As a general rule, an annual contract should be roughly 5% - 10% of the original machine purchase price and include servicing annually at the very least, as well as breakdown cover, so take care not to enter into any expensive scams.