What is a Franking Machine?

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A franking machine enables your business to prepay the postage for your outgoing mail and, because of Royal Mail franking discounts, save money on your postage costs. For businesses with high volumes of outgoing mail it’s a far more efficient option.

  1. Each franking machine is linked to a unique business account with the Royal Mail which you would top up with funds to pay for your postage in advance.
  2. The machine will calculate the postage cost for each item based on the weight, size and destination.
  3. As you pass the item of mail through the machine it will be stamped (or labelled) with a date, the value of the postage paid and your company’s unique franking impression.
  4. It can then be posted via the appropriate method (as long as it is sent from within a pre-agreed district and on the same day it has been franked) or collected by the Royal Mail.

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The postage you pay for each item is discounted by the Royal Mail as franking machines enable them to keep post office queues to a minimum and saves them time in dealing with large quantities of business post.

The term ‘franking’ comes from the name of the Norwegian man who invented the first machine in 1884: Engle Frankmussler. The original versions operated using cranks and dies and were known as ‘Postage Stamp Affixing Machines’. They were created to improve both the security and efficiency of the postage payment system. Modern franking machines are digital and will print using inkjet technology rather than crank and dies!

Which Franking Machine is Right for your Business?

The functionality and size of a franking machine will vary considerably so it’s important to research all the options on the market and consider them against your business’ needs. To work out which franking machine you need, you should consider a few factors:

1. What volume of mail items do you need to post?

And is this figure likely to increase as your business grows? Franking machines are generally categorised into four volume levels:

Average Items of Mail (per day) Volume Level Category
30 or less Low volume
20-100 Mid volume
30 – 500 Mid / High volume
500 – 1000s High volume

2. What capabilities and functionality does your machine need to have?

Possible features of a franking machine include:

  • Integrated postal scales
  • Company logo printing
  • Automatic envelope sealing / feeding / stacking
  • PIN protection
  • Internet reporting
  • Label printing
  • Multiple user accounts
  • Multicolour printing
  • Barcode scanning
  • Touchscreen displays.

3. Research machines on the market

There are only four manufacturers which are officially approved by the Royal Mail, so make sure you’re choosing from amongst them! They are Pitney Bowes, Neopost, Frama or Francotyp Postalia (FP). All of them offer machines for every volume level with a range of prices and functionality to choose from including SMART franking machines which are connected to the internet. This means they can calculate VAT inclusive rates so each item you mail is accountable for tax purposes and you can reclaim the VAT. If your business uses a lot of VAT rated services this could be worth considering.

Some franking machines include an inbuilt weighing platform or the option to attach an external scale. Differential weighing enables a machine with an inbuilt scale to calculate and apply the correct postage to items of different weights automatically which speeds up the process. If your business sends parcels make sure to check what is the maximum amount of weight the scales can handle.

The speed of your machine is another factor to consider. This is referred to as the ‘cycles’ or ‘LPS’ (letters per second)’. This will give you an indication of how many items a machine can frank in a minute and can fall anywhere between 10 and 200 per minute.

In addition to manufacturers, the suppliers of the machine will also need to be Royal Mail approved. You can check the most up to date list of approved suppliers on the Royal Mail website.

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4. Calculate the Cost vs Budget Implications

You’ll need to make a choice between buying a franking machine outright or leasing it from an approved supplier. A franking machine could cost anything from £500 to over £20,000 to purchase and, depending on your budget, this may not be realistic as an upfront payment. Leasing a machine not only makes the costs more affordable but can also offer other benefits such as ongoing maintenance.

Once you’ve identified the franking machine your business needs in terms of volume and decided between rental or purchase, you should get multiple quotes from approved suppliers. Only then can you compare the prices and ensure you’re getting a competitive deal. There are also ongoing costs to consider when budgeting such as ink, labels, servicing and of course the postage fees themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What kind of mail can be franked?

The following services can be paid for by franking:

UK post: 1st class mail, 2nd class mail, Royal Mail Signed For and Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed.

International post: Airmail, Airsure and International Signed For post.

Where can I send my franked mail from?

Royal Mail stipulate that you can only post your franked mail from within a specified area which will be pre-agreed between you and them. It needs to be sent on the date that it has been franked.

If you have 30 items or less you can place these inside a special ‘low volume’ envelope and send from a standard post box. However, for greater volumes you will need to send from your local Post Office or Sorting Office or place in a franked mailbox (usually found in industrial areas with many businesses). Alternatively, you can arrange for the Royal Mail to collect your mail every day.

Do I need a license?

Yes, you will need a license from the Royal Mail. They have a strict policy regarding the manufacture, supply and servicing of franking machines. The licenses include certain terms and conditions including the need to have the franking machine inspected annually.

Is franked mail cheaper?

Yes you can save a significant amount of money by franking mail as Royal Mail applies discounts to the relevant services.

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