Navigating Your Data in the Rental Equipment Industry: From Legacy to Modern Systems

The rental equipment industry, like many others, often grapples with the challenges of integrating modern technology with established legacy systems. As companies strive to enhance efficiency and streamline operations, the process of data mapping between new and old systems emerges as a critical task. This blog article delves into the complexities of the data mapping process, explores the role of custom middleware, and presents a technical example to illustrate the practical application.

Understanding Data Mapping Challenges

Data mapping is the process of creating data element mappings between two distinct systems that operate and handle data differently. In the context of the rental equipment industry, this often involves aligning data from newly adopted software (e.g., a best in class rental counter point of sale software, a mobile field service solution, asset management software, a new CRM for the sales team,  or a new ERP system for the Accounting team) with a legacy system that might have been in use for decades. Key challenges include:

Compatibility Issues

Legacy systems often use outdated data formats or storage methods incompatible with modern systems.  For example, many accounting systems developed before the year 2000 are based on flat file structures and do not translate cleanly to modern databases or APIs.  This disparity can lead to significant issues in building the desired SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and maintaining data integrity for users to trust the system and generated reports.

Data Quality and Integrity

Legacy systems might contain outdated, incomplete, or otherwise “dirty” data.  This could be due to lack of process to keep data up-to-date, lack of validation when back office enters data (for example type in anything you want for a VIN or a purchase date).  Even worse, some legacy systems are so hard to change that data fields have simply been repurposed to store a new attribute (for example putting deleted/do not use in any available field on your Customer file).  When migrating or integrating with a new system, ensuring the accuracy and completeness of this data is paramount.

Loss of Functionality

During integration, there is a risk that critical functionalities of the legacy system could be lost if the data mapping is not correctly planned and executed.  This risk increases with the number of systems or batch processes that feed data to a system or pull data from a system.

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination

The Role of Custom Middleware

Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) software solutions are available for just about any generic problem a company in 2024 can encounter, however, every business has unique needs and COTS software typically only provides an 80% solution, and adds the overhead of additional steps and process for those operating the new software.

Custom middleware acts as a bridge between the new and legacy systems, facilitating data transformation, mapping, and transfer processes. It allows businesses to tailor the integration process to their specific needs, addressing the unique challenges posed by their existing systems, getting closer to a 100% fit. Key functions include:

Data Transformation

Middleware can convert data from formats suitable for legacy systems into formats that are optimal for new systems, and vice versa.  This could be as simple as mapping alphanumeric numbers in one system to numeric only in the other system, or it could require additional lookup tables to map on multiple attributes.

Data Synchronization

It ensures that data remains consistent and up-to-date across both systems, which is crucial for operational accuracy and reliability.  The synchronization should be resilient, if one of the software systems is down, the synchronization should “catch up” hours or days later without human intervention.  We love the cloud, but even the biggest players have occasional downtime.  Solutions that offer an SLA of 99.9% availability still means that you could have data gaps for up to 9-hours per year, and that downtime could inconveniently happen during the busiest part of your season.

Data timing can be important as well, for example: a daily close process runs at 10pm creating thousands of financial records, and all invoice data must be recorded by midnight on the last day of the month for the legacy system to properly close the books.

Each data flow will be treated differently, based on the business object – including customer service needs, internal process, and regulatory reporting & compliance.  For example, Accounting must approve customer credit lines and create all new customers in the Legacy system, but the Rental Counter (Point of Sale) needs to create and sell to new walk-in cash & credit card customers.  This requires certain elements of customer data to flow 2-ways between two systems.

Other data flows may be one way, from the “master” system of record to any number of “clone” systems.  For example, a vehicle may be purchased in the Accounting system and pushed to the Rental system.

Interface Creation

Middleware can create a user-friendly interface that allows for easier monitoring and management of data flows between systems. Visibility into data flows running on schedule is needed, as well as the ability to investigate individual transactional records to determine errors in the integration.  For example, data could be pulled from a 3rd party POS system, then pushed to an AS/400 or Microsoft Great Plains enterprise system.  A software update could change the 3rd Party API, resulting in part of the data flowing through middleware and then erroring out before being closed out in all systems.

Middleware provides a platform where new User Interfaces can be built to customize processes to solve unique process gaps that arise when integrating COTS software.  Examples could be additional workflow or validation for Accounting to apply credits to contract balances, or sending an approval email or text to a manager to approve a transaction before it goes through, pulling facts and information from multiple source systems.


Middleware by nature has the data needed to link multiple systems and pull information together in one reporting solution for internal users and customers.  Middleware is designed to move data on a schedule to enforce data integrity across systems – moving data following critical timing steps to allow other processes to run.  These two factors result in middleware opening up the world of reporting so that companies get what they need, when they need it, and how they want to see it.

Data anomalies across systems will happen as long as human users are involved. Data quality reporting is needed to catch these anomalies and alert humans to intervene.  This type of reporting is designed to validate that integration rules were followed, validate that data landed in all systems, catch new rules that were not previously mapped, and catch the occasional human error of breaking the link between two systems (for example correcting a VIN on a vehicle in a safety system could break the link to the Accounting system.)

Use Cases in the Rental Equipment Industry

Use Case 1: Real-Time Inventory Updates

A rental company needs to maintain synchronized inventory levels between its e-commerce platform and its Point of Sale systems. Custom middleware can continuously update both systems as transactions occur, ensuring that inventory data is accurate and reliable across all sales channels.

Use Case 2: Customer Data Integration

Integrating new CRM software with an existing customer database can be challenging due to differing data structures. Middleware can map customer records from the legacy system to the new CRM, transforming and cleaning the data as needed to maintain high data quality. This allows the company to fully leverage its data by enabling modern CRM features and functionality and ultimately drive efficiency for repeat customers or enhance marketing efforts so equipment is not sitting idle.

Use Case 3: Financial Reporting

When financial data is scattered across different systems, middleware can consolidate this information into a single format suitable for new financial software, enabling comprehensive reporting and analysis. This is critical for saving time and money when closing out each month, quarter, and year. Visibility into financials and having numbers up to date will give leadership the transparency they need to make decisions.

Technical Example: Middleware for Data Mapping

Let’s consider a technical example where a rental equipment company integrates a new Rental Counter Point of Sale system with an existing inventory management system.


The legacy system stores Customers under a company and region hierarchy, and any customer number could be used multiple times in different regions.  The new 3rd party system requires a unique customer number to uniquely identify a customer, and the 3rd party system uses a different convention to handle company & region.  Neither system can change how they handle data and identifiers for companies, regions, and customers. However, the middleware integration is able to provide the mapping between the two systems.


Integrating new systems with legacy technology in the rental equipment industry can significantly enhance operational efficiency and data accuracy. Custom middleware plays a pivotal role in this process, offering tailored solutions to unique data mapping challenges. By carefully planning and implementing these integrations, companies can ensure a smooth transition and continued success in their operational endeavors.

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