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Alternative to having a Franking Machine for business Postage
You know how it is; you're trying to work out the postage to stick on your business letters and parcels and still having time to run your business, and then along comes a franking machine company such as Pitney Bowes and offers you a mechanised way of doing the whole postage task in one go. Well let's not be too hasty about this, because for one thing, I have seen staff bung things through a franking machine twice and that's not exactly saving money, and, franking machines do not save SPIT in the long run, as present-day stamp collectors have been known to curse and spit at the very mention of franking machines! The future of stamp collecting is not looking good if the alleged scourge of the dreaded franking machines spreads to eliminate those collectible postage tickets which have traditionally been gummed to postal items to signify payment for the delivery of the aforementioned consignments.
There has to be a way of keeping everyone happy, so you can run your business, get your parcels put in the post, and keep the future of philately in business! There should be a cunning way of getting the postage right, and yet at the same time continuing to contribute to the future history of collectibles! Ideally, the solution should include the extra functionality expected of franking machines where you can slip in an extra advertisement on the post, like a custom postmark, or some equivalent thereof.
The problem which sometimes convinces people in business to go for a franking machine rather than stamps, is the notion that you are paying your staff wages for the time it takes them to put the stamps on the mail. I'm not convinced of this myself, and I think a time and motion study needs doing to work out how long it actually takes a person to lick a stamp versus putting the letter through the jaws of the franking machine (preferably once, not multiple times). Time is money, and you can work out how much money the staff time wages come to for the postal task. Then, see if it's costing much to use stamps, and if so, whether it's worth it to keep in good books with the time-travelling ghosts of unborn future philatelists.
Alternative to Franking Machines
Clearly the design requires a method of weighing and measuring the postal items in question, so as to be able to work out how much postage is going on the item of mail. It's important to get the postal amount right, to save money and to avoid the embarrassment of sending things with underpaid postage. So, how about having a small weighing scale like they have in the Post Office?! Plus, a chart on the wall so it's easy to see if the parcel is above or below those critical sizes where the postage price breaks occur. (A CD is just slightly too fat for the lowest postal size in the UK, and a VHS videotape is just slightly too far for the mid range size!).
If you have had the wisdom to employ people who have some good sense about them, it will be easy for your staff to work out the actual postal price required for each item.
Next, deploying the correct value of STAMPS! The use of stamps is good, as it keeps the interest in collecting going, but to maximise the effect, it's best to have a set of particularly interesting stamps to put on the items to be posted. New stamps of a variety of interesting styles, types, and denominations, are available, and they cost no more than the basic cost of postage. So, you should order plenty of diverse future collectible stamps and have them within easy reach of the office weighing scales.
When buying postage stamps, it's worth seeing what interesting new issues are out. Often there are stamps depicting items of present day history which are specifically relevant to the time. Unusual stamps, with interesting pictures and odd values, all help to increase the future collectability. Large consignments of stamps are a business expense which is tax deductible.
Plus, to increase your company's long term advertising, you can have your own company stamp stuck on at the same time as the official postage required. Custom made company stamps can be mass-produced by the same companies that make company stationery, labels, business cards, etc. Just stick an extra stamp on! This increases future philatelic interest, advertises your company in a distinct way, and with a bit of luck the postman will put a postmark on it, creating a piece of history. (as far as is known, it's legal, provided your company stamp isn't designed to deceive anyone into thinking it is part of the actual postage value!)
Another handy device to have in this "alternative to franking machine" office, is a cumulative stopwatch timer. This consists of an inexpensive electric clock with its battery connector interrupted by a circuit going to a switch on the weighing machine. Over the month, this totals up how many staff minutes have been used up weighing parcels etc. At the end of the month you can work out how much time and therefore money you have donated to the future of collectibles. It won't be a heck of a lot. Think of it as a charitable donation to a good cause.
Update: Mk2 Alternative Franking Machine:
In this, the postal item is weighed and measured and then the correct postage is calculated automatically. Next, the correct stamps are dispensed from a chute. The machine is programmed to get the postage right and also to optimise the philatelic interestingness of the stamp combination. An additional commercial publicity stamp is also dispensed. Then the whole set of stamps dispensed can be gummed onto the item to be posted. Meanwhile, a time-and-motion clock adds up the amount of staff time that was used, and therefore the amount of money saved versus using a standard franking machine.
The result: Every item posted has the correct postage, made up of interesting stamps, and the time saved is worked out. The bottom line, improved business efficiency as well as improved collectability.
Then again if you'd rather be boring, get a franking machine