The concept of "sideways competition"

In contrast to...

The predominant model of competition in the marketplace is price offered by various suppliers on identical products. One could call that the "commodity model" of competition.

A pernicious unintended consequence of the great effort to produce Standards, eg ISO's, for products is that they are seized-upon as the means to visualise everything which needs to be sourced as a commodity.
Driven by people whose only model is this "commodity model" of competition in the marketplace.
Epitomised by the exasperating moment when someone from the purchasing department walks in congratulating themselves in announcing saving a few hundred pounds contracting a cheaper source of nominally the same product - where the engineering team knows that the costs ahead from the deficiencies resulting in problems will run into millions of pounds.

"Sideways competition" - where everyone is the leader in what they do

In manufacturing, there is a natural tendency in time for each manufacturer to concentrate on a niche they evolve into for a range of circumstance and "happenstance" (it was simply chance that a range of abilities concentrate in one place and evolve forward in time).

Taken towards completion of the trend, each manufacturer will be the sole leading expert in a category of product they concentrate upon. In terms of the ability of the personnel they have and the equipment the organisation has.

There is still intense competition.

Visualise that, given everything which has gone before, that has created the legacy of skill and knowledge, but only the outer "surface" (visualise the surface of a sphere?) is the current economic active state. Each organisation inhabits an area of that surface.
The "boundaries" on this surface are between different organisations with different skills.
Those boundaries of economic activity will rarely be "sharp" and absolutely defined. They will be diffuse and somewhat shifting.
There will be some overlap, where expertise centred at one point of one organisation and another expertise centred at another point will spread so a commercial area of products is within the spread of ability of both organisations.

An organisation doing less well will lose market presence with products it would like to retain but which are further from its "centre". If that organisation is ailing, the competition will creep in sideways getting ever closer to its most central products.
Losing market share, turn-over and profit, it will become increasingly difficult to sustain the central "sole expert" expertise - and an organsisation can go extinct.

Equally valid in the complete view is that an organisation needs to know what it is good at, and avoid products it does not have an advantage in, as these would lead to losses competing with manufacturers for whom the product is in their "sweet zone".
The changing "base-line" resulting from overall technical advancement in time can require an astute evaluation that a line of product once valuable and remunerative needs to be withdrawn from. Equally, the advance of technology can make products which were previously unattainable now economic to make and a rightful new area to compete in
[example : for a small local independent steel fabrications company on a trading estate, accurate laser-cutting of steel to any shape combined with ready finite-element modelling enables highly-stress-bearing products for general products which previously would have been commercially infeasible outside the aircraft industry (if of interest : my detailed study )]

So, in summary - know who your are, what you do, and do it proudly with unwavering confidence.

From this exposition, I present the model of "sideways competition".

The model of "sideways competition" rejects the model of "commoditisation of everything".
Human endeavour and aspiration will always "leak" better products onto the market, contrary to the "commoditisation" model, which astute organisations in better-organised trading regions will benefit from, so "Darwinism" in commercial activity will result in the relative rise of that trading area and its organisations.

(R. Smith, 31Dec2017, 14Jan2018)