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Process automation is a tricky term. Your process might simply be data manipulation, transformation and visualization or it could require interacting with various applications to complete a certain business task. These two “Processes” are fundamentally different and may require a different approach to automate them.
TLDR: UiPath is better suited for automations both with applications having a Graphical User Interface and the ones which do not. Knime best suited for data analysis and data visualization than business process automation.
While Knime is a beast of a tool for data analysis and visualization it lacks far behind when it comes to automating business processes. Uipath on the other hand is dedicated to automating business procesess.
Knime offers an User Application called Knime Analytics Platform and a server environment called Knime Server dedicated for collaboration and automating data pipelines.
UiPath offers a developer studio + unattended and attended robots + a way to orchestrate the robots (Orchestrator). The orchestrator ensures that you can schedule your robots to run your various business processes as and when needed (provided you have a available robot license).
Idea of Queues
Knime has no feature for tracking singular cases. Knime works on tabular data and automatically performs the transformations and analysis to that data in a tabular fashion. There is no way of monitoring this progress (per row value) because it works on a Bulk Data inn, Bulk Data out concept.
A UiPath robot can be configured to use queues to fetch a given case and perform the business process on case.
Let us assume you are working on a process of assessing a customer loan application. Let us assume customer ID is unique. So using UiPath you can send this particular customer data to a queue (in Orchestrator) and the robot picks this case up when it is scheduled to run. Robot uses the ID in the queue to look for the same customer in a credit checking system fetches the credits score and based on the Banks policy allocates or rejects the loan application. While all this happens, you can monitor what the robot is doing for that given customer. This helps you identify, which customer application has been handled and which need processing.
Lets assume your work involves not only working with some Database but also another financial system which you need to interface with using GUI.
Knime has no support for this. On the other hand, UiPath can identify elements within a GUI application and read from and write to those elements. This makes it possible to automate processes which depend on interactions with other applications.
Taking the example above, The UiPath robot can read from the Database, then robot can navigate to the credit system which could be a GUI based system. Such interactions between multiple applications is not supported in Knime.
Both Knime and UiPath have a plethora of official or third-party extensions. Knime calls it “Node Repository” and UiPath calls it “Packages”. UiPath packages as said earlier allow for interaction in applications. For example, UiPath Word Activities allow you iteract easily with word files.
Data Science or Machine Learning
I have to go with Knime here for incredible amounts of Nodes dedicated to perform machine learning and data science tasks.
UiPath is still evolving and in the future may match the features offered by Knime through the UiPath Data services
Both offer interfacing with locally installed Python shell, but here too Knime takes the cake and offers access to much more python modules than UiPath.
UiPath offers an well organized training in form or Role based Learning-Paths in the UiPath Academy. UiPath Academy
Knime too offers free Role Based Learning on their website. KNIME Courses | KNIME
Knime is open-source: KNIME Open Source Story | KNIME. However, their Cloud Knime Server has a paid plan (Pay as you go).
Lets do a simple automation using both Knime and UiPath.
I have a simple excel file as input where we want to calculate the remaining balance for a given account. We would like to have a column added to this excel file but in a new sheet.
Using Knime: KnimeDemo.zip (17.0 KB)
Using UiPath: UiPathDemo.zip (10.2 KB)
In UiPath the developer has to specify that the new column has to be created and flow is a little longer. But there are other ways to make this whole flow a one liner using Linq queries.
If you are looking for an automation tool which will focus only on business process automation then UiPath is the way to go. UiPath offers excellent developer onboarding features, such as free community edition of Studio, Orchestrator Cloud, UiPath Academy to start learning the platform and all of this for no cost to you.
Blue Prism is my second priority and third is Power-Automate (Microsoft), but as of now it (Power-Automate) still lacks important features like using queues.
However, if you are looking to perform data analysis and visualization and simple automations, then I would suggest Knime as an open source alternative. Knime also offers free version of their software so very easy to start learning the platform Download KNIME Analytics Platform | KNIME. The con here is that when your colleagues start to ask you for more complex automations, you will not have all the extra features UiPath offers and what a successful RPA implementation needs.