LabVIEW is a powerful tool, but as with all powerful tools, there is tremendous depth to it, requiring lots of study and experience to reach the fluency you would from a LabVIEW Developer. Often, that is the justification for securing a contract LabVIEW Programmer. You need someone that has already climbed that learning curve and can “hit the ground running.”
A typical scenario is an employee that used LabVIEW to develop one or more programs for internal use. But, that LabVIEW programmer is no longer available, and now these programs need upgrades, features added, and bugs fixed. That is a perfect time to contract out that expertise. However, it is nearly always beneficial to bring in someone with more than just LabVIEW expertise. The LabVIEW program is usually part of a system, so ideally you would have a Systems Engineer to work on it.
Systems frequently include NI DAQ hardware, bench-top instruments, and one or more test fixtures. It is common for a system to include a variety of actuators and sensors, such as motors, load cells, hydraulics, valves, pressure, and flow sensors. Thus, having someone with more of a general engineering background adds value. So, while you need a LabVIEW Developer, ideally, that person would also be a Systems Engineer.
Besides being able to cover other aspects of engineering beyond just being a LabVIEW Programmer, having an overall systems perspective adds even more value. By understanding the entire system, and the sorts of considerations that could be crucial at that level, a Systems Engineer can take the context into account and develop a better user interface and a more reliable and robust system overall than a LabVIEW Developer with little systems-level background.
Whether you call the person you are looking for a LabVIEW Programmer or a LabVIEW Developer; the important thing is to check for someone with substantial systems-level understanding. We find that having a strong Physics background is a good foundation for systems engineering because they have the basic knowledge of every branch of engineering, and know to avoid most of the pitfalls in all engineering fields. That is why we look for strong physics and systems engineering backgrounds in any candidates we would hire. We discuss Systems Engineering in more depth in our Full System Integration with LabVIEW article.
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