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Franking machines can vary somewhat in their size and functionality, but all of them have the same basic ability. They will produce a red franking mark on the postal item in place of a traditional stamp.
The basic franking marks contain information on the:
- Item price
- An identifier number
- The date, and
- Usually the place of posting
Additional information can be franked onto the item, such as:
- A greeting
- Company logo
- Came, and
- Return address
The machine is programmed with the Royal Mail tariffs, allowing the user to select the desired class, size and additional details such as next day delivery. It will then frank the correct price onto the item.
The machine is often pre-loaded with an amount of postage, but some systems will allow the business to pay via an invoice printed off the machine.
In either case, the amount of postage is not limitless, and top-ups or payments need to be maintained.
Where a machine is topped-up, this can be done through a phone line, and where invoiced there may be the option to pay through other methods.
In term of postage, the machine must be kept up to date with Royal Mail tariffs. These tariffs are at a special reduced rate to the usual adhesive stamps used, allowing the business to make postage savings, particularly if their mail volume is high.
The maintenance of up-to-date tariffs and payments is the responsibility of the company from whom the machine is bought or leased.
Companies are approved to do this by Royal Mail. To ensure that the franking machine is operating through Royal Mail regulations, all machines are issued with a licence for their use by Royal Mail, which stipulates the need for a yearly inspection by approved personnel.
Using the Machine
An essential requirement is weighing scales. Many machines are either equipped with digital scales or have the ability to plug digital scales in.
If the machine is not capable of this, mechanical scales can be used to determine the items weight.
The digital machine can either have the weight input via the user interface, or will display this information via the display when scales are attached. This then allows the user to select the required postage type.
Self-feeding machines require the item to be inserted but automatic machines are capable of taking several items at once, feeding them through automatically and franking to a predetermined set of parameters.
This allows batch franking to be carried out seamlessly and effortlessly.
In the case of very large items, the machine will simply print onto a label which can then be attached to the parcel.
Other features of the higher specification models will allow the franked mail to be stacked and even sealed, reducing the number of manual tasks required.
The final part of the franking process involves a simple sorting of the mail, allowing it to be posted quickly and efficiently at the mail or post office.
There is no further need to have the items weighed and stamped, as this has already been done.
Royal Mail supplies businesses that use franking machines with the necessary bags, pouches and trays for sorting the mail out. On its arrival at the Post Office it can be dealt with immediately.
Some larger businesses prefer to pay Royal Mail to collect their mail, rather than deliver it through to a Royal Mail office or premise themselves for collection by postal staff.
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