Business Intelligence Developer vs Data Engineer

RPA vs Machine Learning: Breaking Down the Differences


Robotic process automation and machine learning are two promising technologies that have the potential to transform how organizations operate. While both automate processes to increase operational efficiency, their features, purposes, and level of human involvement vary significantly.

Robotic process automation vs machine learning is a hotly debated topic in the world of automation and artificial intelligence. Both have the potential to revolutionize how organizations run, allowing them to streamline processes, boost efficiency, and drive business outcomes.

While RPA and ML share some similarities, they differ significantly when it comes to functionality, purpose and human intervention required. In this article we’ll examine these similarities and distinctions between RPA and ML as well as explore their potential use cases across various industries.

Definition and Purpose of RPA

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of software robots to automate rule-based business processes. RPA tools can be programmed to connect with various systems such as web applications, databases and desktop programs.

The goal is simply to eliminate manual intervention in mundane repetitive tasks by eliminating them from need for human oversight.

By automating routine processes with RPA organizations can improve operational efficiencies, cut costs and free up human resources for more complex assignments.

Microsoft Power BI Business Intelligence Tool Data Visualization

Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Some of the benefits of RPA

  • Cost Savings: By automating processes, organizations reduce the need for manual labor which ultimately results in cost savings.
  • Reducing Errors: RPA can help minimize errors and enhance data entry accuracy.
  • Improved Operational Efficient: RPA can automate routine tasks, saving organizations the time and energy it takes to finish them.
  • Ensuring Compliance: With RPA, processes are carried out consistently and in accordance with regulations.

Limitations of RPA

Here are some of the current raised limitations of RPA

  • Lack of Learning Capacity: RPA cannot draw upon past experiences to learn from mistakes or adapt to new circumstances without human assistance.
  • Limited cognitive capabilities: RPA can only perform tasks with clearly defined rules and procedures.
  • Limited scalability: RPA may not be able to handle large volumes of data or complex processes.

Examples of RPA and Use Cases

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is an innovative technology that has applications across industries and functions. Some common use cases and industries that have adopted RPA include:

  • Finance and Accounting: RPA can be utilized for tasks such as order processing, invoice processing, and payroll management.
  • Human Resources: RPA automates employee onboarding/offboarding processes as well as data entry.
  • Customer Service: RPA can be employed to automate customer support tasks such as responding to inquiries, handling complaints and processing refunds.
  • Healthcare: RPA is being employed for automating claims processing, appointment setting and medical record management.
  • Insurance: Robotic Process Automation is being employed to automate tasks such as claims processing, underwriting and policy administration.
  • Logistics and Manufacturing: RPA has applications in inventory management, order processing and production scheduling.

Is RPA Artificial Intelligence?

RPA is often seen as a form of artificial intelligence, yet it’s not an all-inclusive solution. RPA relies on preprogrammed rules and is only capable of automating mundane, repetitive tasks.

What is Machine Learning?

Machine learning (ML) is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows systems to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed for the task.

Machine learning can be broadly defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour.

What this means is that machine learning focuses on developing programs that can access data and use it to learn for themselves.

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.

The Role of Machine Learning in Process Automation

Machine learning (ML) is an application of artificial intelligence that enables machines to learn from data and improve their performance over time.

While RPA is useful for automating routine tasks, ML can be employed for more complex jobs requiring decision-making and problem-solving abilities.

Examples of how ML may be employed in process automation

  • Predictive Analytics: Machine learning algorithms (ML algorithms) can be employed to forecast future outcomes based on historical data, helping organizations make more informed decisions.
  • Natural language processing (NLP): Machine learning algorithms can be utilized to comprehend and interpret human language, enabling organizations to automate tasks such as customer support or document processing.
  • Image and speech recognition: Machine learning algorithms (ML algorithms) can be utilized to recognize images and speech, enabling organizations to automate tasks such as quality assurance or call center operations.

How to use Machine Learning?

Machine Learning algorithms can broadly be divided into three subtypes:

Supervised Learning

Uses pre-labeled data to train models. It means some data is already tagged with the correct answer. The machine has a “supervisor”, or a “teacher”, who gives the machine all the answers, like whether it’s a cat in the picture or a dog

Unsupervised Learning

You do not need to supervise the model; instead, the model will work on its own to discover information. Unsupervised learning means the machine is left on its own with, for example, a set of animal photos and a job to find out and categorize between the different animals

As you may have noticed, the main distinction between the supervised and unsupervised learning is the use of labeled datasets.

I really like this visualisation from machine learning for everyone that show the difference between supervised and unsupervised learning

And third and final, we have what is called

Reinforced Learning

To get the program to do what we want, the machine learning model gets either a reward or a penalty for the actions it performs. Its goal is to maximise the total reward. This means that reinforcement learning is reward-based learning which works on the system of feedback

Use Cases for Machine Learning: Examples of Applications

To give a short introduction with a few examples of some use cases for machine learning

Machine Learning in Finance

Finance is one of the most critical sectors in the world, and with the use of machine learning, companies can now quickly analyse financial related matters and make better decisions.

Machine Learning has a wide range of applications and use areas in the financial sector, to name a few:

  • Fraud Detection: With the help of machine learning algorithms, companies can analyse big data and detect anomalies with higher precision and speed. The machine learning application helps with fraud detection for safe transactions 
  • Algorithmic Trading: By implementing smart machine learning applications, financial institutions can get a better understanding and make better predictions on their algorithmic trading. The machine learning algorithm is learning to make better trades.
  • Process Automation: Machine Learning solutions allow finance companies to replace manual work by automating repetitive tasks through intelligent process automation. For example chatbots and paperwork automation are two examples of process automation in finance using machine learning. This application is of course useful in a wide range of industries, not only finance

Machine Learning in Healthcare

Machine Learning in healthcare is very beneficial as machine learning was developed to deal with large data sets, and patient files are exactly that as it includes many data points that need thorough analysis and organising.

Some examples of use cases for machine learning in healthcare are:

  • Computer Assisted Diagnosis (CAD): Machine learning algorithms can help to determine and label the kind of disease or medical case that the medical staff are dealing with
  • Make Recommendations: Machine learning algorithms can advise and give medical information without the need to actively search for it. In other words, the application recognises patterns and can give recommendations for a patient. The system uses the patient history and can produce multiple potential treatment options. 
  • Predictive Approach to Treatment: Machine learning in healthcare can be used to successfully predict diseases and give patients a chance of starting the treatment early, being predictive. For example, signs of diabetes can be predicted using a machine learning algorithm

Machine Learning for Online Sales and Marketing

The better you can understand your customers, the better you can meet their demands, and the more you will sell. In online marketing and e-commerce, marketers use machine learning to find patterns in user activities on a website.

Some examples of machine learning for marketing include:

  • Make personalised product recommendations: Popular eCommerce giants like Amazon and Netflix are using machine learning algorithms to achieve it. For example, if you scroll through Amazon you will notice that it can give you quite sophisticated recommendations on other products you might like. 
  • Forecast Targeting: Predictive forecasting machine learning makes forecasts using various data sources, including sales history, customer searches, economic indicators, and demographic data
  • Identifying Styles of Popular Products and Predicting Trends: Machine learning applications can support in identifying customer behaviour and shopping patterns. This is crucial as it helps marketers to understand what impacts consumers’ buying decisions

Machine Learning for Self-Driving Cars

Much of the technology behind self-driving cars is based on machine learning, deep learning in particular. The development of self-driving cars is one of the most trendy and popular directions in the world of machine learning.

Self-driving cars are made possible by machine learning algorithms as they make it possible for a vehicle to collect data from cameras and other sensors and then interpret it and decide the following actions to perform.

Robotic Process Automation Vs Machine Learning

Robotic process automation and machine learning are two trends in technology today that promise to automate various processes and boost operational efficiency. While both technologies share a similar purpose of automating various processes, their functionality and purpose differ significantly.

What is the difference in Functionality and Purpose for ML and RPA?

RPA and ML have distinct capabilities and purposes. RPA works best for repetitive, rule-based tasks that require high accuracy – like data entry, invoice processing, or report generation.

On the other hand, ML solves complex problems involving large amounts of data through predictive analysis; some examples include fraud detection, sentiment analysis, and customer behavior prediction.

What are the differences in technology for RPA and Machine Learning?

Both technologies used for RPA and ML differ. RPA uses a graphical user interface (GUI) to interact with applications and websites, while ML relies on algorithms and statistical models for data analysis.

RPA can easily integrate with legacy systems, while implementation for ML requires considerable data preparation and model training before deployment.

How is Adaptability and Scalability for Machine Learning and RPA?

RPA and ML models differ when it comes to scalability and adaptability. RPA is highly scalable, meaning it can be scaled up or down according to an organization’s needs without major modifications to its underlying systems or processes.

On the other hand, ML models require a large amount of computing power and specialized hardware; furthermore, any modifications in data may necessitate retraining the model from scratch.

What is the Level of Human Intervention Needed for RPA and Machine Learning?

One major distinction between RPA and ML is the amount of human involvement necessary. RPA automates repetitive tasks, so no human input is necessary; however, some level of oversight may still be needed to guarantee accuracy and quality output.

On the other hand, ML requires human involvement for data preparation, model selection, tuning, as well as assurance that predictions are accurate and unbiased.

RPA and Machine Learning (ML) are two distinct technologies designed for different tasks. RPA excels at automating repetitive tasks, while ML offers predictive analysis and complex problem solving.

How Can Machine Learning and RPA Be Used In Data Science?

Robotic process automation and machine learning have a profound effect on data science. These technologies automate various tasks, boost operational efficiency, and enhance decision-making based on data.

RPA can be employed to automate data entry and management activities, decreasing the risk of errors and improving data quality. It may also be employed for automating repetitive tasks in data preparation such as cleaning and formatting data.

Machine Learning can be employed for predictive analytics and insights generation, empowering organizations to make data-driven decisions. It has the capacity to detect patterns and anomalies in large datasets, classify data into categories, and make predictions based on historical patterns.

Examples of Using RPA and Machine Learning Together

RPA automates repetitive tasks, while ML enables machines to learn and adapt on their own. Together, these technologies offer unparalleled efficiency and intelligence.

Example 1 – Enhancing Customer Service

One of the key applications of RPA and ML working together is improving customer service. RPA can automate repetitive tasks like handling customer inquiries, while ML algorithms analyze customer interactions to better comprehend their needs. This combination results in faster response times, personalized assistance, and higher customer satisfaction rates.

Example 2 – Optimized Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management can be a complex endeavor, but combining RPA and machine learning makes the task simpler. RPA automates data entry and logistics tracking while ML algorithms forecast demand and optimize inventory levels.

This powerful combination reduces human errors, enhances decision-making, and ultimately lowers costs.

Example 3 – Simplified Document Processing

RPA and Machine Learning (ML) can revolutionize document processing by automating data extraction and analysis. RPA bots extract information from documents while ML-powered Optical Character Recognition (OCR) systems identify and classify text.

This collaboration speeds up document processing, reduces manual errors, and saves valuable time.

Example 4 – Enhancing Fraud Detection

Financial institutions can greatly benefit from the combined power of RPA and ML in detecting and preventing fraudulence. RPA can gather transaction data while ML algorithms analyze patterns to detect fraudulent activities.

By working together, these technologies improve fraud detection accuracy while shielding businesses from potential losses.

Which Industries are Using RPA and Machine Learning Together?

RPA and Machine Learning (ML) can have a tremendous effect when used together in certain industries.

Finance and Banking

Financial institutions use RPA and Machine Learning (ML) to automate processes, reduce errors, and enhance fraud detection. RPA automates data entry tasks while ML algorithms examine transaction data for anomalies. This collaboration increases accuracy, saves time, and enhances security.


In the healthcare sector, RPA and machine learning (ML) work together to optimize patient care and administrative tasks. RPA automates appointment scheduling and billing while ML algorithms analyze patient data to detect trends and personalize treatment plans. This collaboration results in improved patient outcomes as well as greater operational efficiency.

Retail and E-Commerce

RPA and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionizing retail and e-commerce by automating inventory management, demand forecasting, and customer service. RPA bots can monitor stock levels while ML models anticipate demand patterns. This combination ensures optimal stock levels, reduces waste production, and boosts customer satisfaction levels.


Manufacturers use RPA and Machine Learning (ML) to optimize production, minimize downtime, and enhance quality control. RPA automates data collection and equipment monitoring while ML algorithms forecast machine failures and analyze production data for insights. This integration results in increased productivity as well as cost savings.

Human Resources

Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionizing HR processes by automating repetitive tasks and streamlining talent acquisition. RPA can handle onboarding and payroll processing while ML algorithms analyze candidate data to speed recruitment. This collaboration saves time, reduces hiring biases, and boosts employee satisfaction levels.

How to Choose Between RPA and Machine Learning for a Data Science Project?

Before choosing either RPA or ML as the technology of choice for data-science projects, it is essential to evaluate the needs and objectives, technical infrastructure and available resources. Each has advantages and drawbacks; thus, selecting the appropriate technology for your endeavor is key.

When selecting between RPA or ML, there are several things to consider:

  • Accuracy requirements: RPA may provide high accuracy on repetitive tasks while ML can make more precise predictions when dealing with more intricate problems.
  • Complexity: RPA works best for straightforward rule-based tasks, while ML excels at more intricate data-driven challenges.
  • Data Volume: ML can handle larger, diverse data sets more efficiently than RPA.
  • Human Intervention: RPA works independently, while ML requires human supervision and intervention (e.g., model selection or data preparation).

RPA vs Machine Learning vs Artificial Intelligence

While they may seem interchangeable, each term represents a unique aspect of intelligent automation. In general, RPA automates repetitive tasks, ML enables machines to learn from data, and AI strives to replicate human intelligence.


  • Automating repetitive, rule-based tasks
  • Mimicking human actions to complete processes
  • Lacking any learning or adaptation capabilities
  • Examples: data entry, invoice processing and report generation

Machine Learning (ML):

  • A subset of AI that enables machines to learn from data
  • Machines use algorithms to recognize patterns, trends and relationships within datasets without explicit programming
  • This type of AI adapts and improves over time without additional input from the programmer.
  • Examples include demand forecasting, sentiment analysis and fraud detection.

Artificial Intelligence (AI):

  • A broader concept that encompasses ML and other intelligent technologies
  • Develops machines capable of simulating human intelligence
  • Involves problem-solving, learning, reasoning, and understanding natural language
  • Examples: chatbots, self-driving cars, and voice recognition systems

FAQ: Machine Learning vs Robot Processing Automation

What is the primary difference between RPA and Machine Learning?

RPA automates repetitive, rule-based tasks by simulating human actions, while Machine Learning enables machines to learn from data and improve over time by applying algorithms.

Can RPA and Machine Learning be Used Together?

Absolutely. RPA automates routine tasks while ML provides data-driven insights to inform decision making and optimize processes.

Which technology is more suitable for automating data entry tasks?

RPA is the better option here, as it excels at handling repetitive, rule-based processes without needing learning or adaptation capabilities.

Is Machine Learning a Type of RPA?

No, Machine Learning is distinct from RPA. Both technologies involve automation, but ML is an area within Artificial Intelligence which aims to give machines the capability to learn from data while RPA automates tasks by mimicking human actions.

When should I choose Machine Learning over RPA?

When you require data-driven insights, predictions or adaptation based on evolving patterns in data, Machine Learning should be your go-to option over RPA. ML tasks involve learning while RPA excels at routine, repetitive activities.

Eric J.
Eric J.

Meet Eric, the data "guru" behind Datarundown. When he's not crunching numbers, you can find him running marathons, playing video games, and trying to win the Fantasy Premier League using his predictions model (not going so well).

Eric passionate about helping businesses make sense of their data and turning it into actionable insights. Follow along on Datarundown for all the latest insights and analysis from the data world.