Another recent assignment had us talking about straw-making machines. We tend to take for granted the availability of straws in just about any type of restaurant, convenience store, theme park or sporting event. But where do all these straws come from? Typical straw-making lines consist of an extruder, vacuum cooling tank, puller/cutter and packer along with a wrapping machine. Korea and Taiwan are the leading exporters of straw-making machinery. Warm weather and low labor cost markets such as S.E. Asia, the Middle East and N. Africa are seeing the highest demand growth for such machines though they tend to purchase lower cost equipment from China and India. North America and Europe rely on either imported straws or automated, high volume machinery, which minimizes labor costs but also come with hefty price tags. There are only about 6-10 N. American straw-making companies left and they face challenges that off-shore straw suppliers don’t – i.e. safety and environmental issues, which makes it tough to compete against cheaper imports.