In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of automation technologies in various industries, with robotic process automation (RPA) being one of the most widely adopted forms. However, there is often confusion about whether RPA is the same as automation. While both terms are related to the idea of streamlining business processes and reducing manual efforts, there are some fundamental differences between the two.
So what is automation?
Automation is a broad term that encompasses any technology that helps reduce manual intervention in a task or process. It includes both physical automation (such as assembly line robots) and digital automation (such as workflow automation software). Digital automation is primarily focused on reducing repetitive manual tasks that can be easily replicated by a machine. It includes technologies such as business process automation (BPA), robotic process automation (RPA), and cognitive automation.
RPA, on the other hand, is a specific type of digital automation that involves using software robots to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks. These tasks typically involve transferring data between applications, copying and pasting information, filling out forms, and other similar activities. RPA software robots mimic human actions within a digital system, enabling them to perform tasks that would otherwise require manual intervention.
What’s the difference?
One of the key differences between RPA and other forms of automation is the level of complexity involved. RPA is generally simpler to implement and does not require significant changes to existing systems or processes. In contrast, other forms of automation, such as BPA or cognitive automation, may require significant changes to existing processes and systems. For example, BPA involves redesigning workflows and business processes to optimize them for automation, while cognitive automation uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to automate complex decision-making processes.
Another key difference between RPA and other forms of automation is the level of human involvement required. RPA is designed to automate repetitive tasks that would otherwise be performed by humans. As such, RPA software robots are typically designed to work alongside human workers, rather than replace them. In contrast, other forms of automation may be designed to replace human workers entirely, such as in the case of physical robots used in manufacturing or assembly line processes.
It is important to note that while RPA is often used as a standalone technology, it can also be integrated with other forms of automation. For example, RPA can be used to automate repetitive data entry tasks, while cognitive automation can be used to automate more complex decision-making processes. In this way, organizations can achieve end-to-end automation of their processes, from simple repetitive tasks to complex decision-making processes.
The bottom line
So, while both RPA and automation involve the use of technology to automate tasks, there are some fundamental differences between the two. RPA is a specific type of digital automation that involves using software robots to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks. It is simpler to implement than other forms of automation and is designed to work alongside human workers rather than replace them. However, RPA can also be integrated with other forms of automation to achieve end-to-end automation of business processes.