Corporate Boards and the Age of Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

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We live in a world where rapid shifts in technology have become the norm. The ramifications of this technological upheaval pervade multiple aspects of our personal and professional lives. Examples confirming this sweeping transformation are abundant, from how we interact with others to how we manage our businesses. Entirely new schools of business management theory, such as those based on the work around disruptive innovation popularized by Clayton Christensen, have sprung up as a result of the influence technology has on the 21st century.

From a business perspective, few industries in the U.S. have experienced the impact of this digital transformation more than manufacturing, and the pace of technology-driven change in manufacturing shows no signs of abating. In fact, some industry observers cite this new age of digital transformation as the transition point for a new global industrial revolution―Industry 4.0.

Depending on the ability to effectively leverage technology to a competitive advantage, here are a few examples of the new technologies that are posing either promising opportunities or substantial threats to manufacturers.

Surrounded by a technology-driven upheaval, one would presume discussions concerning digital technologies would be occupying an increasing amount of attention in the corporate boardroom. However, recent studies indicate that adaptation to the new realities of the digital age has not resulted in a notable response in either membership or focus at the corporate board level.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, less than half of all corporate boards currently schedule at least one discussion focused on technology into their annual calendars. Only 17 percent of corporate boards include a discussion about technology as part of every meeting.1

Additionally, the study suggested that senior managers believe there is a significant shortcoming in the attention their corporate board gives toward emerging technology. For example, more than half of the respondents stated their boards should discuss forward-looking views of technology’s impact on their company’s industry. Of the respondents, fewer than 30 percent reported that their boards were actually engaging in discussions related to technology.2

While it appears many U.S manufacturing corporate boards may not be giving enough attention to the role and impact digital technologies will have on their businesses, some are moving to adapt to this seismic shift in the landscape. A study by the executive search firm Spencer Stuart reported 28 percent of the respondents, in a 2014 survey of U.S. companies, are actively looking for board members with a technology background, up from just 12 percent in 2013.3

Manufacturing in the U.S. has become increasingly more dependent upon digital technologies as a basis of competition in a globalized marketplace. As the pace of digital technology innovation continues to expand and accelerate, it is incumbent upon corporate boards to adapt their businesses, strategies and level of expertise to these shifts in the business ecosystem. Failing to adapt will be a disservice to the customers, employees and stakeholders that the corporate board serves.

Read More: With the emergence of the Internet of Things, it is now possible to reduce expenses incurred when running your auto-resupply system. Learn more in our blog post,How the Internet of Things can Enhance Your Breadman


This material has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as accounting, tax, or other professional advice. Please refer to your advisors for specific advice.


  1. Michael Bloch, Brad Brown, and Johnson Sikes; “Elevating Technology on the Boardroom Agenda”; McKinsey & Company; NY. NY; October, 2012.
  2. Michael Bloch, Brad Brown, and Johnson Sikes; “Elevating Technology on the Boardroom Agenda”; McKinsey & Company; October, NY, NY; 2012.
  3. Spencer Stuart: “Spencer Stuart Board Index 2014”; Chicago, IL; 2014
This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.


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