Ray Ziganto, fresh from visit to China, suggests technology, collaboration can turn trade battle into opportunity

CHICAGO - Ray Ziganto, a leading consultant to the tech and manufacturing industries, says the trade war intensifying between the United States and China should be seen as an opportunity for U.S. manufacturing companies, even though it’s created chaos in the marketplace.

“If you engage with the market, and I mean the global market,” Ziganto says, “if you engage with the support groups, of which there are many fantastic organizations, in and around Chicago, that can help companies large and small, then you need to step up and get out of the damn bunker and get out there and roll up your sleeves and compete. You’re still in the game.

“I’ve been in this space for 30-plus years and if there was ever a moment for manufacturers to start talking to each other, and start collaborating, now is that moment,” insists Ziganto, who returned this week from a trip to China.

Ziganto, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Linara International, is available for media interviews to offer expert analysis about how President Trump’s tariffs on goods from China, and the intensifying trade war between the two countries, will affect various industries, specifically American manufacturers.                         

Ziganto has risen to become a leader in the field of helping companies adapt to technological and other changes, particularly in modern manufacturing. As Ziganto says, “where others see chaos, I see patterns and trends that lead to opportunity.”

On July 6, the U.S. imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, including flash drives, remote controls and thermostats, from a list of $50 billion in products first proposed in April. China retaliated with tariffs on an equal value of U.S. goods, including soybeans, whiskey, cotton and automobiles.

The Trump administration also has unveiled a plan to add 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, including furniture, handbags, pet food, refrigerators, textiles and auto parts. These moves threaten to send up prices on consumer products and have created uncertainty in stock markets and elsewhere.

Yet, Ziganto says that while some companies have been caught off guard by the Trump Administration’s moves, others recognized these policy changes early on, and began preparing for them.

“This has been telegraphed for a while. The really progressive companies have been out there, they’ve been on the phone, working their networks and looking for alternatives. Why? Because you have to,” Ziganto says.

“There’s a history of companies playing their cards close to the vest and that’s a pretty sure recipe, in this environment, to run your company off the cliff. If you choose just to hunker down and think this will blow over and you won’t be impacted, you’re wrong.”

Ziganto conceded that anxiety and confusion is real, and it’s disrupting the traditional supply chain for everything from parts for medical devices to textiles to shoes to connectors. That’s driving up prices for U.S. consumers and diminishing the value of stolid publicly traded companies.

“And who are the investors in those companies? Everyone, really -- insurance companies, traditional investors, so many individuals,” Ziganto said. “So it’s in everybody’s best interest to find a way through this thing and make it an opportunity.”

Too many old-line, generational manufacturing companies have been slow to adjust to technological change and adapt to the modern, global market -- and the trade war might prompt a new way of thinking, Ziganto believes.

“The more companies can get their heads around, well, if maybe we do business a little differently, and maybe if we reach out and see what technology might be there to help us, maybe we can get it to another level,” Ziganto says. “Things ain’t always gonna look the same way as when grandpa started the company.”