Facilities managers and business owners looking to buy or lease a franking machine need to evaluate a number of factors before going ahead with the acquisition. Listed below are a selection of these factors and some brief tips to facilitate the acquisition
Assess mailing volume
It is important to understand the exact mailing requirements to understand whether a franking machine is indeed needed by the business. Questions that will help understand the mailing requirements are:
- Number of mails sent daily on an average
- Cost of postage each month without using a postage meter
- Types of mails sent by the office
The answer to these questions will determine whether a simple franking machine will suffice or whether you should opt for an advanced model. Of course, it will be prudent to factor in future increase (or decrease) in mailing volume when evaluating the volume. If the average monthly spend on postage is less than £50, you may be better off considering other options offered by the Royal Mail.
Compare multiple vendors
After determining that there is indeed a need for a franking machine for the office, engage in comparison shopping to enjoy the best deals in the market. Check the best dealers and the services they offer. There may be free rentals offered by suppliers for top-end machines. For this we’ll put you in touch with trusted suppliers that can offer you what you need at a price that suits your budget.
Evaluate postage charges
Postage charges are an important part of the meter costing. The rates are fixed by the Royal Mail and are subject to change. You need to check if there are fixed annual fees offered by the Royal Mail for rate insurance such that you can receive freescale updates. Postage charges can also be updated via the internet.
The supplies required for the postage meter such as ink, sealing liquid, mailing tape etc can be sourced from suppliers other than the manufacturer and can be cheaper.
Service and support agreements
Choose a dealer who offers the most favourable service contract and offers service and support in the same area as your business. The experience that other users have had with the chosen supplier will be a good gauge of a vendor’s capability to offer the desired level of service and support.
Choosing the right machine
There are several types of franking machines available in the market today, differentiated mainly by the technology used and their capability. In terms of technology, there are franking machines that use very basic, elementary technology and those that use quite advanced technology. When we speak of capability, we are talking about the ability of a franking machine to cater to a certain volume of jobs on a scale of low to high volume franking. Postage scales play an important role in franking machines because the weight of the mail and class of posting (domestic, international, first, second) decide the cost of sending a particular piece of mail. Franking machines come with either a manual, mechanical or digital postage scales to decide the rate of postage required.
Manual postage meter
These mechanical franking machines feature a postage scale to weigh the mail and provide a reference table with the value of postage required for the corresponding weight. Human error in reading such scales (which is quite common) is one of the biggest problems with such postage meters. While these cost much less than an electronic franking machine, they are ideally suited for low volume mailing.
Electronic postage meter
Electronic franking machines brought about a drastic change in the appearance of a postage meter with electronic displays and telephone-like keypads. The cost of postage was accounted electronically and the postage was printed.
Digital postage meter
These franking machines have a pressure sensing microprocessor to provide a digital display corresponding to the weight of mail. The rate information can be programmed into the meter which helps in the computation and display of the exact rate of postage required to send the mail. Certain digital scales can also download the latest information pertaining to postage rates from the internet using a “rate update” feature. In addition, these models may boast features such as the ability to handle heavier mail and handle multiple carriers. Multiple carriers indicate different pricing. For example: DHL, FedEx and UPS may have different rates for a particular mail. The digital scale can compute the cost depending on the carrier you choose. A digital postage meter prints the postage according to cost indicated by the scale. It prints the IBI (Information Based Indicia) that captures important postal information through bar codes. Additional postage is now ordered over the phone or digitally compared with taking the meter to the Post Office for resetting which used to be the method.
Choosing the right supplier
Franking machines are frequently leased rather than purchased outright. As such the responsibility of the machine repairs falls to the supplier/ manufacturer. Therefore it is very important to have a workable service contract with the machine supplier or manufacturer. A favourable service agreement will:
- Keep the machine in operation at all times
- Prevent problems associated with use of the machine with regular checks
- Increase efficiency and reduce downtime
- Lower cost of maintenance for a machine in good condition.
Some aspects a buyer must consider with regard to choosing who to lease franking machines from are:
Availability of local technicians
If technicians are not available locally then one has to ship the machine to the supplier every time a repair or service is required. Also check whether the supplier offers pickup and delivery
Cost of the service contract
The supplier may charge additionally for an annual contract for maintenance, service and support. The service contracts are usually calculated as 5-10% of the base cost of the meter.
Contents of the service contract
Review the inclusions and exclusions mentioned in the service contract offered by the company before agreeing to the contract. It is important to assess the costs involved in repairing or servicing parts that are not covered under the service contract.
Accessibility for service and support
Opt for a dealer or supplier who can be accessed instantly through phone or online for any problems that may occur. Most suppliers also have customer call centers attending to customer complaints.
Check whether the supplier or dealer offers preventive maintenance by periodic checks to ensure the machine does not have a major problem in the long run.
Several franking machine suppliers also provide additional services and enhancements such as:
Cross border shipping
This is useful for companies that have offices in multiple locations and purchases are made from a centralized location. In such instances, the franking machine can facilitate delivery of the machine across borders taking into consideration all related procedures.
Installation and relocation services
These will ensure that the machine is installed with the help of an experienced and expert technician. Several vendors also provide relocation services wherein the help relocate the machine and install it.
Training tools such as mail management seminars and discussions help keep customers informed of new changes and help optimize the use of their current franking machine purchase. Most suppliers offer training to employees that will be operating the machine.
Franking machines vary in price depending on the type of postage meter. While a basic machine may cost a few hundred pounds, an advanced digital franking machine or postage meter can cost upwards of several thousand pounds. Of course, this is excluding any postage charges, which are set by the Royal Mail. These charges and the refills need to be taken into account as they are in addition to the cost of owning a franking machine.
A lease for a basic machine can be as little as £15 per month, while a high-volume machine with features such as complex-feeding or automated systems can increase the cost to about £100 per month. In most cases, the lease term is for a period of one to three years and the buyer [or lessee] has to evaluate the pros and cons of opting for a longer lease period.
It is in working out the terms of a lease agreement that a buyer can be really smart, since many vendors offer incentives such as free monthly rentals or a lower interest rate. Many companies base their rate on the usage of the franking machine. For example, a supplier calculates the next year’s rental charges depending on the average monthly postage of the previous year. Of course, this does not apply if rates decline with reduced usage. Rates are either kept the same or increased minimally but they seldom fall below the set level. On the other hand, some companies increase rates every year. Therefore, it is important to choose a supplier who offers transparent rental charges and terms of operation, over the entire duration of the lease period.
Another aspect to consider when looking at pricing of franking machines is that the base and scale are two different pieces of equipment and can also be bought separately to gain a cost advantage. The scales used to weigh envelopes cost upwards of £20. While usually there are no compatibility issues, it is better to check if a particular scale can work with the franking machine to avoid buying an incompatible scale.